Loud Light Kansas political recap: our drunk senator, budget problems, and guns
The Pitch has partnered with a local political awareness organization called Loud Light. Their goal is to engage and empower individuals from underrepresented populations to build community power. And impact decision-makers. Each week of the year that the Kansas statehouse is in session, they release a short video recapping what the legislature is up to.
Knowing the nitty-gritty of what’s happening with your representatives is the only way to stay involved with the way local government affects your life. You can donate to support Loud Light’s work by clicking here.
Here is this week’s video transcription:
Hey I’m Davis Hammet with Loud Light. Here’s what happened in the 13th week of the Kansas legislative session.
Budget Problem [State Budget (HB2007) School Budget (SB175)]
Legislators ended the regular session on Friday by passing a budget that doesn’t have any funding for schools. Republican leaders had attempted to pass the budget in 2 separate parts. One part was an education budget that included proposals to shift public tax dollars into private schools, but that effort failed in a 20-20 Senate tie. The everything-else budget passed and involves significant changes from the Governor’s budget. There are a lot of financial unknowns related to pandemic policies and tax cuts, but the current estimate is that the budget the legislature passed will make the state go broke by July of next year.
The police affidavit on Republican Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop was released. It states that Suellentrop nearly hit several cars as he drunkenly sped the wrong way down the interstate with police in pursuit. He struggled to walk and speak, refused a breathalyzer, mocked the officer calling him “donut boy,” and taunted him to fight. A blood test was taken 3 hours after the arrest and showed a 0.17 blood alcohol level which is more than twice the legal limit. After a month of no action, the Republcian Senate Caucus met in secret after adjourning on Friday to remove Suellentrop from Majority Leader, but did not begin the process of expelling him. So unless Suellentrop resigns he will remain a State Senator.
Voter Suppression (HB2183 & HB2332)
An election bill stuffed with several provisions passed that would make it a crime to assist more than 10 voters in returning advance ballots, and includes a vaguely written provision that could result in felony charges of impersonating an election official for basic acts like helping someone register to vote. Another election mega-bill passed that would block the executive and judicial branches from “modifying” election laws. The attempt to consolidate all election power into the legislature and block judicial review may be an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. Legislators added severability clauses to both bills in anticipation that parts of them could be struck down as unconstitutional.
Trans Girls Sports (SB55)
The bill banning transgender girls from playing sports was inserted into another bill and passed both chambers. It received some bipartisan opposition based on a variety of concerns including further isolating vulnerable children, state government overreach, loss of future sporting events, and significant legal liability. If Gov. Kelly (D) chooses to veto the bill her veto would likely be sustained since all House Democrats and 6 Republicans voted no.
Teen Guns (HB2058) & NRA Program (HB2089)
A bill passed lowering the age to conceal carry to 18 which would allow teenagers in public places and on college campuses to carry hidden loaded guns. Additionally, the legislature passed a bill mandating that if an elementary school teaches gun safety it must use the NRA’s Eddie the Eagle program which is not evidence-based and has never been shown to be effective.
The regular legislative session is now over and the Governor has about a week to decide if she will sign or veto bills. Legislators return May 3rd for 2 weeks where they’d normally just tweak the budget and consider overriding vetoes, but now they have to figure out an education budget and they may still work on topics like medical marijuana. Thanks for all of your support during this bizarre legislative session. I’ll see you in May. Stay tuned, stay engaged, and until next time, thank you so much Kansas!