Voters Rights Networks of Wyandotte County
From the desk of Connie Brown, executive director of VRNWC.
Mike Taylor updated us on the final session before the break which included action on a number of bills:
HB 2338 - Transgender athletes, in which Gov. Kelly’s veto was overridden by one deciding vote, Rep. Marvin Robinson’s. It was enacted into law.
SB 228 and S Sub for HB 2138 - The first is a mental health bill that would put mentally ill individuals awaiting evaluation in county jails because there is no availability in mental health facilities. It provides for reimbursement to county jails for housing those individuals, and allows county sheriffs to make a determination about whether to place the individuals in male or female facilities. The second bill involves overnight accommodations on school trips using the same definitions of biological sex. Both went to the Gov’s desk.
SB 26 - Gender affirming care bill bans physicians from performing gender affirming care on trans youths and exposes the physicians to medical license revocation if they engage in treating these youth. Went to the Gov’s desk.
Additional LGBTQ+ Bills:
SB 180 - "Women’s Bill of Rights,” a bill that omits trans gender and non-binary individuals and narrowly defines biological sex, defining a female as "an individual whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova” and a male as “an individual whose biological reproductive system is developed to fertilize the ova of a female.” Went to the Gov’s desk.
HB 2313 - Born alive bill, provides "legal protections" for infants born alive; requires certain standards of care by healthcare providers for infants who are born alive; provides criminal penalties and civil liability for physicians violating the act. Went to the gov’s desk.
Additional Reproductive Rights:
HB 2264 - Requires healthcare providers to tell pregnant women about medication abortion reversal options. Changes the definition of abortion in multiple statutes to define it as: “the use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other means to terminate the pregnancy of a woman knowing that such termination will, with reasonable likelihood, result in the death of an unborn child.” It went to the Gov’s desk.
SB 8 - Gives tax credits to any non profit agency that counsels women on alternatives to abortion and urges them to use them. It went to the Gov’s desk.
Flat & Other Taxes:
Two flat tax proposals - A constitutional amendment for 4% and a bill for 5.15%, which passed and went to the governor’s desk.
H Sub for SB 169 - A mega tax bill that increases the amount a social security recipient can make from $75-thousand to $100-thousand before the income is taxed. Also decreases taxes for corporations, discontinues the food sales tax credit, and increases the residential property exemption from the statewide school levy. Went to the Gov’s desk.
Other Bills acted upon:
SB 209 - Abolishes the 3-day grace period currently allowing mail-in ballots to be counted if they arrive up to 3 days after an election. It went to the Gov’s desk.
H Sub for SB 83 - Education voucher bill which died in the Senate on the final day, however Senate President Ty Masterson stated that vouchers will be back during the Veto Session.
HB 2236 - A “Parents Bill of Rights” that establishes parents' right to direct the education, upbringing and moral or religious training of their children including the right to object to harmful and inappropriate educational materials. This bill could potentially ban public school teachings, books and materials containing information on so labeled-Critical Race Theory, Black history, the Civil Rights Movement, and information on other historically marginalized groups, including Jews in the Holocaust and LGBTQ+ issues, using religion as the basis for objections to these teaching materials. It went to the Gov’s desk.
DoE Budget - No action was taken on the Kansas Department Education’s proposed $6.4 billion budget prior to the first adjournment.
KS Appleseed’s Teresa Woody talked about the two recent voting rights court actions. The first, our WyCo case citing dilution of minority votes due to the legislature-drawn maps during redistricting, was denied a review by the U.S, Supreme Court. That ends the appeals process for redistricting in WyCo. She also reported on a more positive outcome in the KS Court of Appeals on the challenge to last year’s law passed on signature verification (signatures must match every advance ballot received on record), and the limitation of 10 ballots that could be collected and turned in. The KS Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, ruling that voting is a fundamental right under the KS Constitution, so any law that restricts voting must face strict scruitiny must be tailored as much as possible to preserve voting rights. Attorney General Kris Kobach immediately filed an appeal hoping to send it to the KS Supreme Court. His appeal stated that the Appeals Court was wrong, the KS Constitution does not say voting by mail is a fundamental right, or that collecting more than 10 ballots is a fundamental right. Teresa said that KS Appleseed will oppose the KS Supreme Court taking the case at this time, because the Court of Appeals ordered it sent back to the trial court to apply the new standard. Since the trial court was hostile the first time around, it could find that the law meets the strict scrutiny of the Appeals Court’s decision. KS Appleseed plans to vigorously defend any such actions.
The Sierra Club’s Ty Gorman said the purpose of the Moving Beyond Coal and Gas Campaign is to close all coal power plants and instead use solar power. He said solar power would allow customers to reduce their electricity bills. The Nearman Coal Plant costs more to run than any other part of the BPU infrastructure. It does not supply power to WyCo, but to the Southwest Power Pool and further, it pollutes the air and water causing health problems and deaths in WyCo communities nearby. He stated that the BPU should be investing in solar energy and passing laws so that customers have incentives to install solar panels in homes and businesses, and laws should additionally provide benefits to lower income communities. He reported that utilities tend to put up roadblocks to these resources. The BPU has put forth a proposal for a rate hike of 2.5% this year and 2.5% next year, which opens the door for community input into the process. Over the next 2 months, customers can comment on the increases and the BPU will respond to the comments. Any organization can intervene on behalf of customers and say that rates should be lowered, especially disconnection and reconnection fees which make WyCo one of the most fee-burdened utilities in area. The next BPU meeting for public comment is 4/19 at 6:00 p.m.
Donnavan Dillon discussed 1:1 meetings with legislators while they are on break. He shared a guide with suggestions and recommendations for meeting with legislators. He agreed to set up the meetings and send us the guide to help us prepare.
We also discussed the recent votes of Rep. Marvin Robinson and the thoughts about them that various members of the community have expressed. Also, shared was recent media coverage of Rep. Robinson and other legislators.
Next Meeting and Upcoming Event
Our next VRNWC meeting is Thursday 4/20 at 6:00 p.m. We hope to have a speaker on gender-affirming care, what it is, and the impacts of the bill that is on Gov Kelly’s desk. Agenda and Zoom link forthcoming.
VRNWC is hosting a Veto Session Community Convo on Saturday 4/22/23 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. at the main KCK Public Library, 625 Minnesota Ave., 66101. WyCo legislators will discuss the upcoming Veto Session, what it is and does, what bills might be at stake and how the community can play a part. Please mark your calendars and spread the word. E-mailable flyer is below.