The 2022 Kansas legislative session will begin on Jan. 10. Here’s a look at some of the issues expected to be debated during the upcoming session.
SB 317- Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau pre-filed a bill that would authorize specific individuals with revoked licenses to be eligible for restricted driving privileges. A person whose driv- ing privileges were revoked for failure to comply with a traffic citation may submit a written request to the divi- sion of vehicles for restricted driving privileges.
The law expands eligibility for revoked driving privileges that allow people to drive back and forth from work and school and provides a pay- ment plan on fines spread over 12 months.
Sen. Faust-Goudeau also plans to introduce a bill to address the delay in time for bodycam footage requests from juvenile detention centers. The legislation comes after a strong push from citizens to see reform after the tragic passing of CJ Lofton in a JIAC facility.
“The family requested the body cam video from the juvenile facility, but there was no sense of urgency because as the law currently stands, it doesn’t
specify when juvenile officers must turn in the footage,” said Sen. Faust- Goudeau.
State Rep. Vic Miller pre-filed House Bill 2461, which attempts to eliminate the sales tax on all hygiene products like toothpaste, diapers, cleaning supplies, and more, which would significantly benefit lower- income families.
After Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announ fee her “Axe the Tax” initiative to eliminate sales taxes on food, some state leaders are saying more needs to be done.
When the South Central Kansas legislative delegation met on Tuesday night, long-time health and fitness advocate Jane Byrnes suggested that Kansans be given a limited food tax break.
“Kansans will be educated if we remove the tax on healthful foods,” she said.
Some legislators applauded Byrnes’ proposal, saying they wanted to remove the tax on essential food but not junk food. Rep. Bill Rhiley, a Wellington Republican, told Byrnes, “I am right on with what you’re saying.”
The forum was dominated by Wichita residents expressing concerns about the need for funding to address mental health problems in the state. Increased funding could help address the shortage of mental health professionals in the state, more may be needed.
Mary Jones, the CEO of the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas, said currently, there is only one behavioral health provider for every 510 people in Kansas. With the growing demand, therapists and mental health providers said they need lawmakers’ help.
Kansas lawmakers also plan to revisit SB 42, a bill sponsored by the Committee on Federal and State Affairs to study and investigate the reasons for maternal deaths in Kansas and to make recommendations for decreasing maternal deaths. Maternal deaths are those that require while a woman is pregnant or within one year of giving birth.
According to the Kansas Maternal Mortality Review Committee, case reviews of maternal deaths in the state between 2016 and 2018, homicide was the second leading cause of maternal deaths. According to the report, substance abuse or mental health issues were responsible for more than half of pregnancy-related deaths.
Furthermore, African American women accounted for 14% of pregnancy-related deaths but only 7.1% of Kansas births.
CRITICAL RACE THEORY
In November, school board elections across Kansas were dominated by discussions about how race and history are taught in local school districts. Lawmakers have confirmed that they will discuss Critical Race Theory during the upcoming legislative session.
Some legislators have already said they plan to introduce legislation to limit what can be taught about race and history, while others favor more inclusive teachings of history. At this point, the exact nature of the bills to “ban” CRT remains unclear.
Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, and chair of the Senate Education Committee, said she agreed with this position that school districts should dictate curriculum but noted that statewide action was not out of the question.
Senator David Haley a member of the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission, said the commission plans to bring several issues to the Senate floor in 2022. The commission was created by the Legislature in 2019 to review all aspects of the criminal justice system and make recommendations to the appropriate governing body.
Senator Haley said expect a recommendation for the state to adopt a requirement for law enforcement agencies to collect data related to the race of citizens with whom they have contact. Although it appears African Americans are disproportionately stopped for traffic violations, without this data, it’s difficult to prove.
Senator Haley expects the commission to look deeper at the various policing techniques, like the chokehold, or the no-knock warrant to determine whether or not these tactics are appropriate. He strongly wants the Kansas legislature to be at the forefront of proper policing.
As the ranking minority member of the Ethics, Elections, and Local Government Committee, Senator Haley says he is very aware of efforts made
by the Kansas Legislator to marginalize communities of color through the redistricting process and says he is committed to fighting for a fair and true democracy.
“ The redrawing of the (district) lines through redistricting, means so much not to just communities of color, but for progressive districts across Kansas, and the attempts to redraw the districts to dilute voices is diabolical and immoral,” said Haley.
The Republican-controlled Legislature is expected to lean toward adopting congressional district boundaries that favor Republican candidates in each of the state’s four congressional districts. The GOP controls the 1st, 2nd, and 4th congressional districts, winning all three seats by wide margins in 2020. Map makers are targeting Sharice Davids, a Democrat who was elected in the 3rd District, which encompasses the Kansas City area.