We had five major legislative focuses this year: KanCare expansion, gunsense legislation, citizen voting rights, distributed generation and energy efficiency, and towards the end, the adoption bill.
First, the good news:
- HB 2042 would have lowered the concealed carry age in Kansas to 18. It went through the whole process and there was a conference committee report but it was never brought to floor of either chamber. Speculation was that leadership didn't think there were the votes to pass it, which is fantastic news.
- HB 2145 passed handily earlier in the session; it prohibits gun possession by convicted domestic abusers and by domestic abusers who are subject to active protection orders and was a major priority of Moms Demand Action – Kansas this year.
- The ill-advised tax cut bill that was proposed in the Senate basically at the last minute didn't pass the House – barely (it failed on a tie vote, which is as close as it can get). You would think Kansas would have learned the lesson of ill-thought-out tax cuts but many of the legislators and well-funded lobbyists who thought Brownback's tax experiment were a good idea are still around.
- And the KanCare 2.0 delay provision was inserted into the budget as an amendment. It requires legislative approval before the governor implements any eligibility changes, such as work requirements. Amazingly, the Trump Administration rejected Kansas' application to put lifetime limits on Medicaid coverage, and you know a policy has to be pretty bad if the Trump Administration says it goes too far.
And that's about it for the good news.
The Kansas legislature's veto session begins tomorrow. They will be in session until May 4, and during that time they will be working on bills that are in various stages of the process. We have positions on the following bills, and encourage our supporters to take the actions indicated in each section:
HB 2042 – conceal carry reciprocity and lowering the conceal carry age to 18.
Our watchword for this kind of legislation this session has been “stop the insanity.” This bill would also introduce a lot more guns onto our state college campuses – including into dorms.
Action: This bill is coming out of conference committee and will have to go before both chambers. So please call both your senator and your representative and ask them to vote NO! on HB 2042.Read more
We're pleased to announce KIFA's 2018 Honorees. Awards will be given out at our Annual Dinner on May 9, 2018.
Faith Into Action Award - Given to a congregation or individual in the KIFA network who have been there consistently throughout the course of the year or a particular campaign
Awarded to the Vitality Committee of First Congregational Church, Manhattan, KS, for their work on racism dialogues in Manhattan, as well as “Stand with Muslim Neighbors” activities and their Underground Railroad Tour.
Beloved Community Award – Given to an organization or individual that has done stellar work in an area in which KIFA is active
Two Awardees: LaTonya Boyd of Moms Demand Action, for her work on gun violence prevention, and her dedication to making a difference on this issue in the aftermath of the tragic loss of her daughter.
Davis Hammet of Loud Light, for his tireless work in the state legislature as well as his voter registration and youth organizing work, and his involvement in Kansas People’s Agenda.
A new award this year:
Justice Hero Award - given to a person who has made a significant, largely unrecognized difference on an important issue
Awarded to Rev. Cynthia Meyer, of the United Church of Christ, for standing up for her personal authenticity and for justice for LGBT people in the United Methodist Church, at great personal cost.
Legislator of the Year: A legislator who has consistently championed the causes for which KIFA advocates
Awarded to Sen. Barbara Bollier, for her work on Medicaid expansion as well her dedicated efforts on the issue of gun violence.
Please come celebrate these folks with us at our event on May 9! To purchase tickets click here.
As you know, today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His legacy has undergone a lot of reinterpretation since he left us, but we believe that his authentic, radical legacy is coming back to the fore. And that's a good thing.
KIFA adopted our mission statement from what Dr. King called the triple threat of racism, poverty and war, along with the fourth threat of human-caused climate change. It is our strong belief that Dr. King not only had the diagnosis for what ailed - and still ails - this country, but that he had the prescription as well: the application of direct, nonviolent pressure on the levers of power.
Yesterday, as part of the rally to Expand KanCare in the state capitol, about 25 clergy-members associated with KIFA attempted to see the leadership of our state senate, which is obstructing the bill that would expand Kansas' Medicaid program. We wanted to impress upon them both the moral and the policy imperative of expanding access to healthcare for working poor people. They wouldn't see us, so we sang and spoke our witness at the entrance to the (empty) Senate chamber. We didn't choose to get arrested - this time. But we all felt the power that we had just by gathering together and bearing this witness. And we know we're just getting started.
For his first appointment to the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) - Kansas' public utilities regulator - Gov. Colyer has nominated Dwight Keen, who owns a small oil and gas company and is the former chairman of the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association (KIOGA). We have two major concerns about this appointment: first, that it is "regulatory capture", where the regulated industry controls the regulator. Mr. Keen has promised to divest himself of his holdings and recuse himself from decisions concerning his company, but there's no way a KCC commissioner could recuse himself from everything having to do with the oil and gas industry - nor is he offering to do so. He's too invested (literally and figuratively) in oil and gas to do what he needs to do fairly and effectively.
Our second major concern is in the area of climate change. I haven't found any record of statements by Mr. Keen on this specific topic, but it's worth noting that the current president of KIOGA, Ed Cross, is a climate change denier. But Mr. Keen calls himself an "all of the above energy guy," which isn't the way we're going to be able to address the increasing consequences of global climate change - largely caused by the very industry where Mr. Keen has made his living, and which he will now be "regulating."
The KCC has been very reluctant, to the point of obstruction, to use its regulatory authority to encourage development of strategies that would mitigate climate change. In particular, they've allowed utilities to put unfair costs on distributed solar generation, and have done literally nothing about energy efficiency in the state. How putting an oil-and-gas man on the commission will address any of these concerns is beyond us. Therefore, we oppose this nomination.
It's been a little while since we've written an update, so we wanted to bring you up to date on the gun bills we've been tracking. There are two: HB 2145, which would limit the ability of domestic abuse violators to access firearms, and HB 2042, reciprocity of conceal carry permits across state lines.
HB 2145 has been the highest priority of gunsense groups such as Mom's Demand Action in this session. It passed out of the House unanimously and without amendments (“clean”, in the jargon). The Senate committee put a couple of amendments on it, but not enough to sink it. The Senate passed it with the amendments and the House voted not to concur – that is, not to accept the Senate's amended version. So now it goes to conference committee, which will meet next week.
HB 2042 passed out of the House with two amendments: one that would lower the conceal carry age in Kansas to 18, and another that would require anyone, of any age, wishing to conceal carry on state campuses to have training and a permit. The Senate committee stripped both of these amendments out of their version.Read more
Muslim Advocacy Day:
Top L: Participants with Rep. Pam Curtis (KCK)
Top R: The "lobby team" held meetings with House and Senate leadership throughout the day
Bottom L: A group of participants ready to advocate!
Bottom R: Sen. Barbara Bollier (Mission) recognized us (quite movingly!) from the Senate floor
We are greatly heartened by the activism of the young survivors of the Parkland massacre and the energizing effect it is having on "gunsense" efforts throughout the country -- although of course angered and saddened by the fact that it takes endless numbers of these (preventable!) tragedies to get the needle moving on this issue at all.
On this coming Saturday, March 24, many "March for Our Lives" events will be held throughout the country, including a big one in Washington, DC, and several here in Kansas. We want to make sure you're aware of these.
A couple of hearings coming up in Senate Utilities:
SB 347 will establish goals for energy efficiency in Kansas. It's been an endless source of frustration for climate activists that Kansas still does not have meaningful energy efficiency policies. The state consistently ranks in the very bottom of state rankings in energy efficiency. We have often said, “the cheapest watt and the cleanest watt is the watt you don't use” and this bill is our latest attempt to get this idea put into legislation.Read more