The Pitch has partnered with a local political advocacy organization called hard light. Their objective is to engage and empower individuals from under-represented populations to strengthen community power. And impact decision-makers. Every week of the year that the Kansas Statehouse is in session, they publish a short recap video what the legislature does.
Knowing the details of what’s going on with your representatives is the only way to stay involved in how local government affects your life. You can donate to support Loud Light’s work by clicking here.
Here is the video transcript from this week:
Hey, I’m Davis Hammet with Loud Light. Here’s what happened in Week 12 of the Kansas Legislative Session.
COVID-19 hearing (SB40)
A controversial provision added to a bill extending the state of emergency allows any student, parent or employee to oppose any school board COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as the requirement for masks. The local school board is then required to hold a hearing within 3 days and if the objector does not like the outcome, they can bring a civil action against the school district where the COVID-19 measure is treated as a violation of the constitution and faces the highest level of judicial review. Almost all of Kansas’ schools have finally reopened, but now they face a wave of objections under the new law from parents who oppose masks and some districts fear it will start to divert resources. from the classroom to the courtroom.
Tax reductions (SB50)
The legislature passed a major tax cut program that would give about $ 140 million a year in tax cuts, mostly to multinational corporations and high net worth individuals. It would be partially offset by closing part of the Internet sales tax loophole, but reducing the general state fund by more than $ 100 million per year.
Planned non-PPP deduction
Kansas businesses have received more than $ 5 billion in COVID-19 PPP loans. The loans are forgiven which means they are free money, they are not counted as income which means they are tax free, and in December the federal government passed a provision to make the money also tax deductible. In fact, it gives businesses a tax cut for taking tax-free money. Unless the legislature changes state law, businesses will also be able to deduct it from state taxes. The very day the legislature passed the tax cut package, they were told by the Revenue Department that this unplanned deduction would cost the state around $ 360 million over 3 years. When added to the tax cuts bill, the state envisions more than $ 600 million in lost revenue.
Criminalization of protests (SB172)
A bill pushed by ALEC that represents a variety of corporate interests, including petrochemical companies and private prisons, was cleared by the legislature on Tuesday. The bill is part of a national effort to respond to the Standing Rock Water Protector protests by creating enhanced criminal charges for protests against the oil and gas industry. A similar Louisiana law was used against peaceful protesters and a reporter 8 days after it came into effect in 2018 and is currently being challenged as unconstitutional under the 1st Amendment. Kansas’ version of the law encountered bipartisan opposition in the House, which pushed it out of the way of a super-majority.
Elimination of voters (HB2183, HB2332, SB307)
The Kansas Senate has passed a series of bills that do not address any particular Kansas concerns and are not based on any evidence, but instead are part of a national wave of voter suppression policies being pushed into state legislatures. They would criminalize common electoral practices, including making it a crime for someone to help more than 5 voters return their ballots. The policies raise particular concerns for disabled and elderly voters who can rely on advance polls and assistance. In addition, the Senate is working to pass a bill to remove the 3-day security period that prevents voters from being disenfranchised due to mail delays. This proposal alone would have stripped over 32,000 Kansans of their rights in 2020. The list of electoral bills could all be combined into one mega-bill next week.
To come up
The legislature will be free on Monday and then have a few intense days before adjourning on Friday for a 3-week break. Thank you for loving, sharing and giving. Stay tuned, stay engaged and until next time, thank you very much Kansas!