Loud Light Kansas political recap: voter suppression and vaccinations
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 11th week of the Kansas legislative session.
Voter Suppression (SB307, S Sub HB2183, S Sub HB2332 *at the time of video release these bills were not yet updated on the legislative website)
A Kansas Senate committee combined and amended several bills in a bizarre process that made them stop in confusion at several points. The slate of bills would massively overhaul advance voting and impact a variety of election procedures. They would give voters less time to receive their ballots by forcing counties to send them out later, and give voters less time to return their ballots by removing the grace period that protects votes from being thrown out due to mail delays. They would make it harder to physically turn in an advance ballot by preventing advance ballots from being counted if they are turned in at a polling place on Election Day, and making it a felony crime if someone helps more than 5 people return their ballot. When taken all together, the proposed bills would make advance voting more confusing, less accessible, and less reliable. Based on data provided by the Kansas Secretary of State, one of the proposals, Senate Bill 307, would have thrown out 32,367 properly cast votes last election. Democratic members of the committee condemned the policies as voter suppression, and the only Republican to vote NO on Senate Bill 307 was Sen. Dietrich (R) who cited concerns about the impact on disabled and elderly Kansans who rely on advance voting by mail. All of these bills are now headed to the Senate floor.
For the 2nd year in a row, Sen. President Ty Masterson (R) won the Golden Fork award for the politician that lobbyists spent the most money wining and dining, but Majority Leader Sen. Gene Suellentrop (R) was a close second place.
On Friday, Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay received the results of an investigation into the late night arrest of Republican Majority Leader Sen. Suellentrop. The DA immediately filed charges against Suellentrop alleging the toxicology report shows Suellentrop was drunk as he drove for 10 minutes in the wrong lane of the interstate, going 90 miles per hour, dodging police roadblocks and tire deflation devices, causing a vehicle accident and property damage, and fleeing from the police. Sen. Suellentrop turned himself in on Friday, but immediately posted his $5,000 bond and walked back to the Statehouse. Some Republican Senators have become increasingly outspoken that Suellentrop should step down from his leadership position and there is some public pressure for him to resign, but unless he voluntarily steps down or resigns, he will be deciding what bills Senators can debate next week.
Gov. Kelly (D) announced that starting Monday Kansas will be one of the first 10 states to enter the final phase of vaccine prioritization making it so that all Kansas adults will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. You can visit vaccinefinder.org to find the nearest available vaccine.
Next week a House committee will be working on a medical marijuana bill (HB2184), and the entire House and Senate will be holding floor debates each day. Debate will include bills to increase criminal penalties for some protests (SB172), several tax cuts, a variety of proposals related to legal immunity and COVID-19, and much much more. Thanks for liking, sharing, and donating. Stay tuned, stay engaged, and until next time, thank you so much Kansas!