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 and transcription:
I’m Davis Hammet with Loud Light! Here’s what happened in the 10th week of the 2023 Kansas legislative session.
The Kansas Appeals Court unanimously ruled that a lawsuit brought by Loud Light and other civic organizations that challenges voter restrictions passed in 2021 was wrongfully dismissed by a Brownback appointed District Judge. The ruling found that the right to vote within the Kansas Constitution is a fundamental right and any law infringing on that right is subject to the highest levels of legal scrutiny. The Appeals Court did not strike down any law, but rather set a standard that the state must be able to prove that any voter restriction is necessary and does not unduly infringe on Kansans right to vote and have their vote counted. Attorney General Kris Kobach has indicated he plans to appeal the ruling to argue that Kansans don’t have a fundamental right to vote.
Medical Marijuana Dies (SB135)
This week the Senate held a hearing on medical marijuana after allowing opponents two extra days the previous week. Immediately after the hearing Republican Sen. Alicia Straub said the committee needed to protect children and made a motion to table the bill which likely killed medical marijuana for the year with Chairman Mike Thompson saying it will not be brought up again. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly responded by saying she was disappointed that the legislators had effectively turned their back on veterans and those suffering from chronic pain and seizure disorders. The Governor went farther urging Kansans to contact their legislators to tell them to legalize medical marijuana this year.
Trans Sports Veto (HB2238)
For the third year in a row, Republican legislators have passed and Democratic Gov. Kelly has vetoed a bill banning transgender girls from playing sports. The bill targets an estimated 2 children in the state, but could expose up to half the state’s K-12 athletes to invasive genital inspections. Republican leaders plan to attempt to override the Governor’s veto and force the bill into law. The House has 30 days to attempt an override.
Defining Women (SB180)
A Senate bill dubbed the “women’s bill of rights” seeks to erase any recognition that transgender people exist by defining women as those who produce ova. A House Committee briefly confronted the complex problems with the definition including that not all women produce ova and there are a variety of conditions that cause babies to be born outside of a clear sex binary. The House added an amendment to dodge these realities by saying anyone outside the binary will be considered disabled and given accommodations. The Attorney General’s office said if enacted the bill would likely be challenged as unconstitutional resulting in unknown legal costs.
Tension over a bill that holds special education funding as ransom in exchange for vouchers for unregulated private schools continues to divide legislators. The bill was debated on the House floor where several amendments were added despite legislators being unable to explain the amendments. At first it was set to fail, but the Speaker left voter rolls open until enough votes were flipped to pass by a tiny margin. It then went to the Senate which disagreed with the amendments sending the bill to a conference committee for House-Senate negotiations next week.
This coming week is the final week for most committees to meet as the traditional pathway for a bill to become a law gets smaller by the day, but the reality is anything can pass at any time if Republican House Speaker Hawkins and Senate President Masterson want it to pass. Thanks for liking, commenting, and sharing. Stay tuned, stay engaged, and until next time, thank you so much Kansas!
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