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STATEHOUSE: League of Women Voters Weekly Report

Gov. Laura Kelly gave her state of the state address to members of the Kansas Legislature on Jan. 24, delayed by two weeks due to a false positive test for Covid.

Kelly urged lawmakers to implement meaningful water policy to address the impending water crisis in western Kansas. She once again urged lawmakers to expand eligibility for Medicaid and legalize medical marijuana.

Kelly urged lawmakers to invest state resources in mental health services and recommended the legislature provide relief to retirees by raising the income threshold for applying state income tax to Social Security benefits from $75,000 to $100,000 .

The governor’s budget included the repeal of the 4 percent sales tax on groceries and called for a reduction in the sales tax on diapers and feminine hygiene products. He has proposed a four-day back-to-school sales tax break each August for the purchase of school supplies.

The governor reminded lawmakers that the proposed budget fully funds Kansas schools for the fifth consecutive year and urged lawmakers to provide full funding for special education programs in K-12 schools. He also warned, “I will oppose any effort designed to turn parents against teachers … to turn communities against their schools … to push young people out of the teaching profession.”

The governor urged lawmakers to work with her despite their differences in political philosophy: “We haven’t always agreed, but the truth is, it’s only when we come together that we’ve made real progress. That’s why I’m asking you tonight to meet me again in the middle.

No bills were voted on last week. Among the bills submitted were HB 2181, which created the crime of unlawfully performing an abortion and unlawfully destroying a fertilized embryo; limiting the use of fetal tissue. Note that this bill was introduced despite the August primary election vote supporting the continuation of abortion in Kansas.

Violence using guns was in the national news; several bills have addressed this issue: SB 116, which standardizes firearm safety training programs in school districts; HB 2031, to increase criminal penalties for certain violations of felony possession of a firearm by a convicted felon involving firearms; and HB 2074, which allows courts to prohibit possession of a firearm in a temporary storage order under the Care and Treatment for the Mentally Ill Act.

Five competing resolutions were introduced. Three were introduced in the House: (1) HCR 5004, co-sponsored by Rep. Mark Schreiber of Emporia, urges the United States Congress to fully fund the federal government’s original funding promise under the Education of Persons with disabilities; (2) HCR 5005, which requests the United States Congress to convene a convention of the states to establish term limits for members of Congress; and (3) HCR 5006, which proposes a constitutional amendment to repeal a section of the Kansas constitution that requires marriage between individuals of the opposite sex.

Two competing resolutions were introduced in the Senate. SCR 1602, which objected to the designation of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species in Kansas by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, was adopted by voice vote. SCR 1603 urges the President of the United States to restore energy independence to the United States. Senator Longbine joined other Senate members in introducing both resolutions.

Prepared by Emporia League of Women Voters members Bob Grover, Gail Milton, Doug McGaw and Mary McGaw.

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