Loud Light Kansas political recap: taxes breaks, voter suppression, and criminalizing protests
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 12th week of the Kansas legislative session.
COVID-19 Hearing (SB40)
A controversial provision added onto a bill that extended the state of emergency allows any student, parent, or employee to object to any school board COVID-19 mitigation measure such as requiring masks. The local school board is then required to hold a hearing within 3 days and if the objector doesn’t like the result they can file a civil lawsuit against the school district where the COVID-19 measure is treated like a violation of the constitution and faces the highest level of court scrutiny. Nearly all Kansas schools have finally reopened, but now they’re facing a wave of objections under the new law by parents who oppose masks and some districts are concerned this may begin diverting resources from the classroom to the courtroom.
Tax Cuts (SB50)
The legislature passed a major tax cut package that would give roughly $140 million per year in tax cuts mostly to multinational corporations and wealthy individuals. It would be partially offset by closing part of the internet sales tax loophole, but will reduce the state’s general fund by over $100 million per year.
Kansas businesses have received over $5 billion in PPP COVID-19 loans. The loans are forgiven meaning they are free money, they are not counted as income meaning they are tax exempt, and in December the federal government adopted a provision to make the money also tax deductible. In effect this gives businesses a tax cut for taking tax-free money. Unless the legislature changes state law, businesses will be able to deduct this against state taxes too. The same day the legislature was passing the tax cuts package, they were informed by the Department of Revenue that this unplanned deduction will cost the state roughly $360 million over 3 years. When added to the tax cuts bill the state is looking at more than $600 million in revenue losses.
Protest Criminalization (SB172)
A bill being pushed by ALEC which represents a variety of corporate interests including petrochemical companies and private prisons cleared the legislature Tuesday. The bill is part of a national push to respond to the Standing Rock Water Protector protests by creating enhanced felony criminal charges for protests done against the oil & gas industry. A similar Louisiana law was used against peaceful protestors and a journalist 8 days after becoming law in 2018 and is currently being challenged as unconstitutional under the 1st amendment. The Kansas version of the law ran into some bipartisan opposition in the House which made it pass shy of a super-majority.
Voter Suppression (HB2183, HB2332, SB307)
The Kansas Senate passed a slate of bills that do not address any particular concern in Kansas and are not based on any evidence, but rather come as part of a national wave of voter suppression policies being pushed in state legislatures. They would criminalize common election practices including making it a felony crime for someone to help more than 5 voters return their ballots. The policies raise particular concerns for disabled and elderly voters who may rely on advance voting and assistance. Additionally, the Senate is working to pass a bill to remove the 3 day safety period that prevents voters from being disenfranchised due to mail delays. That proposal alone would have disenfranchised over 32,000 Kansans in 2020. The slate of election bills may all be combined into one mega bill this coming week.
The legislature will be off Monday then have an intense few days before adjourning on Friday for a 3 week break. Thanks for liking, sharing, and donating. Stay tuned, stay engaged, and until next time, thank you so much Kansas!