Loud Light Kansas political recap: veto overrides, school funding, and medical marijuana

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:


VIDEO SCRIPT

Hey, I’m Davis Hammet with Loud Light. Here’s what happened in the 14th and final week of the Kansas legislative session.

Veto Overrides
The Republican supermajority began the wrap-up session with a major rally to override the Governor’s vetoes. Mostly by a single vote, they succeeded in forcing into law bills allowing 18-year-olds to conceal carry in public places and college campuses (HB2058), making a specialty license plate that bears the design of a slave trader to raise money for the state rifle association (HB2166), restricting voter access including making it a crime to assist more than 10 voters (HB2183), and blocking courts from modifying election laws (HB2332). The bill banning transgender girls from sports was the only veto to come up for an override vote but be sustained as 3 Republicans broke ranks to block the bill (SB55). The legislature did not attempt to override the vetoes of a civics test requirement (HB2039) and a mandate to use NRA gun curriculum in elementary schools (HB2089).

Budget / Tax Cuts (SB50)
The state revenue estimates were revised showing that Kansas will raise $320 million more than expected this year; however, most of that money is a one-time bump from delayed 2020 tax payments. The state will also save $190 million this year from the federal government covering more of the state’s share of Medicaid and other programs during the pandemic. This unexpected money essentially bailed legislators out of their budget that was set to make Kansas go broke within a year. Republican legislators used the good news to override the Governor’s veto and give multinational corporations and wealthy individuals a permanent tax break costing roughly $140 million per year.

Medical Marijuana (SB158)
Nearly half of House Republicans and all House  Democrats voted to pass a restricted version of medical marijuana, but Senate leaders did not bring the bill up for a vote effectively killing it for this year.

STLD Insurance (SB29)
A bill passed the House and Senate to expand the use of short-term limited-duration insurance policies. Such policies are illegal in several states as they discriminate based on pre-existing conditions and don’t have to meet basic coverage standards. The bill is headed to the Governor’s desk.

School Funding (HB2134)
After an effort to divert potentially hundreds of millions of dollars from public to private schools failed, legislators reached a compromise to expand eligibility for a private school voucher tax credit in exchange for maintaining the state’s legal obligation to increase public education funding. The state is finishing year 3 of a 5-year plan to reach constitutionally adequate school funding.

Special Tax Break / School Finance (HB2313)
A private gym club owner donated over $42,000 to Kansas Republican Statehouse candidates last year and has been pushing for legislators to make his gyms exempt from property tax so that he could avoid $2.5 million a year in taxes. In a last-minute maneuver, the special tax exemption was inserted into a must-pass school finance bill, but the move was met with immediate outrage and only 11 Senators voted for it. The provision was then removed and a relatively clean version of the school finance bill passed.

Convention of States (SCR1611)
A conservative push to call a convention of states to overhaul the U.S. Constitution has failed for years because the resolution doesn’t have the 2/3rd support required in the Kansas Constitution, but Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) advised legislators that they can ignore the state’s Constitution and set whatever vote threshold they want. Republican Senators split in half on the issue and the resolution was sent back to committee.

Higher Education (SB159)
The federal government mandated that states keep higher education funding at pre-pandemic levels as a condition of getting billions in COVID-19 aid, but Kansas is shorting colleges about $100 million this year. Legislators decided to restore only half of the funding shortfall and are asking the feds for a waiver for trying.

Coming Up
The legislature will come back May 26th for the ceremonial end of session, but all of their work for the year should be done. Thanks for liking, sharing, and commenting. Please sign up to be a Loud Light monthly donor. Your support is the only reason we’ve been shining a light on what happens every week in the Statehouse for 5 years now, and your support makes possible our year-round civic engagement and voter registration programs. Stay tuned, stay engaged, and until next time, thank you so much Kansas!

Categories: Politics