Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle legislature

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle

This is Kansas, so there must be a slew of conservative-leaning bills, most of which we won’t discuss here. However one such bill that’s getting lots of attention is an abortion bill, that if approved would allow Kansas voters to amend the Kansas Constitution to say it is not a right of women in Kansas to have an abortion.

Last year, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the State Constitution protects an individual’s right to have an abortion. This could protect efforts to outlaw abortions in Kansas, if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that protect abortion rights across the country.

Since the court decision is about a constitutional right, getting rid of the right would require amending the Kansas Constitution, which must be done by a vote of the citizens of the state. A vote by the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot requires the bill to pass both houses of the Legislature with a two-thirds vote. Earlier this year, the bill failed in the Kansas House by just four votes.

MEDICAID EXPANSION

Now, Susan Wagle, (D - Wichita) president of the Kansas Senate, has threatened to hold up some BILLS that are equally as important to others, until she gets what she wants. The first bill she went after was Medicaid Expansion.

With a compromise worked out by committee during the fall, after years of trying, it looked as though Medicaid Expansion would pass. Thanks to the power of a majority leader, who’s determined to get her way, SB 252, Medicaid (KanCare) Expansion may not get approved again this year.

EDUCATION

With a constitutional plan for funding schools finally agreed upon last year, you would probably think education wouldn’t be much of an issue this year, but fans of school choice have introduced a bill a couple of bills. HB 2465 would amend the existing tax credit scholarship program to include more students a more schools. The program currently gives individuals tax credits for donating money to be used for scholarship funds to pay the tuition for low-income students to attend approved private and religious-based schools.

HB2465 would expand the program to include more students and more schools. A similar bill HB 2552, would establish the “Creating the Kansas Reading Readiness Act,” a program that would use taxpayer funds to enroll students in private schools if they fall below certain reading levels.

CITIZENSHIP KNOWLEDGE

Attorney General Derek Schmidt introduced H.B. 2573 to require all students enrolled in Kansas accredited high school to pass an examination on the principles of American civics before graduating.

FOX WATCHING THE HEN HOUSE

HB 2508, which received a hearing in early February, is a bill to prevent Kansas Secretaries of State from overseeing elections in which they themselves are running for office. It would make the position, and its election, non-partisan, and require they resign before running for office. In 2018, Kris Kobach oversaw the election as Secretary of State while also running for Governor.

SPOUSAL EXEMPTION FOR SEXUAL BATTERY

On a vote of 105-15, a bill passed the House removing the spousal exemption for sexual battery, meaning, spouses would no longer be protected under the law if they battered their partners. HB 2467 also requires a person convicted of a first offense to undergo a domestic violence offender assessment conducted by a certified batterer intervention program and follow all recommendations made by such program. The bill now comes to the Senate.

SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS

SB 357 is a consumer protection bill that eliminates surprise charges when an insurance company doesn’t cover certain charges for services. The proposed legislation would require the insurer and the biller to negotiate terms without sending bills to the patient. 28 states have already enacted similar laws. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Financial Institutions and Insurance.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Bills in both the House and Senate have been introduced that expand unemployment benefits from 16 weeks to 26 weeks. The bills are SB 394 and HB 2642. They have been introduced in response to the recent layoffs in Wichita. The exam would consist of 100 questions that are substantially similar to the questions administered by the federal government to applicants for U.S. citizenship through naturalization.

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