Kansas Legislature rushes to finalize budget, tax cuts, bill of parental rights and trans ban

TOPEKA — Kansas lawmakers worked Friday to finalize last-minute deals on the state budget, tax cuts, a bill of parental rights, a ban on transgender athletes and a wide range of other laws before adjourning for a three-week break.

The rush to the finish line – complicated by revelations of an ethics investigation and accusations of a “pay-to-play policy” – included an attempt to oust the state ethics commissioner and extend the Medicaid contracts. Friday was the scheduled last day of the regular session and lawmakers planned to work after midnight.

Lawmakers were still working late Friday to finalize the sports betting deals and a state food sales tax cut.

Republicans have agreed to a shortened version of a bill of rights that ensures parents of public school children can inspect educational materials and remove their children from any material that interferes with a parent’s values. . The legislation also allows parents to challenge any book in a school library and have it removed from the school.

“Our children do not belong to the state, to educators, to teachers’ unions, or to the village,” said Rep. Patrick Penn, R-Wichita. “Our children belong to their parents.

House Democrats have engaged Republicans in a heated debate over legislation banning transgender athletes from participating in school sports. At one point, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, D-Overland Park, appeared to challenge the men in the bedroom to a fight.

“A previous speaker indicated that men were physically stronger than women,” Clayton said. “Any man who believes that is welcome to meet me outside as soon as we have our next recess, and I’ll prove you wrong.”

The model legislation was promoted by faith groups across the country and declared unconstitutional by federal courts. Governor Laura Kelly vetoed the same proposal a year ago.

“Stop trying to bully kids so far into the closet that they’re afraid to tell the rest of the world who they are,” said Rep. Brandon Woodard, a Lenexa Democrat and member of the LGBTQ community.

Democrats also raised concerns about subpoenas issued by the ethics commission as Republicans pursue a rule change that would require the ethics commissioner to be a licensed attorney, effectively disqualifying the current executive director Mark Skoglund to pursue any investigation.

Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, said he was troubled by the ‘stench’ of pay-per-play policy evident in the subpoenas and an attempt by Republicans to offer contract extensions without an appeal. offerings to managed care organizations.

“We don’t want to live in this Capitol or in this state under the power of pay-to-play politics,” Carmichael said.

Lawmakers reached a bipartisan agreement on a spending plan that includes a 5% increase for state employees and preserves an $895 million surplus, and they made progress on legislation to legalize sports games of chance in person and online.

Republicans planned to draw up a plan without the support of Democrats to phase out the state’s 6.5% sales tax on food, rather than eliminating it immediately as the Democratic governor has proposed. Republicans have questioned whether the state can afford the $402 million cut in annual state revenue after it passed a massive tax incentive package for a mystery business project and planned to inject more d $1 Billion in the State Retirement System.

Kelly announced that state tax revenue for March exceeded estimates by $80.2 million.

“Due to the state sales tax on groceries and pandemic-induced inflation, Kansans continue to pay some of the highest grocery prices in the country,” Kelly said. “These collection numbers demonstrate the ability to remove the food tax, eliminating the state sales tax on groceries on July 1, providing immediate relief to all Kansans.”

A separate tax bill, which consolidates 29 pieces of legislation into one, provides tax relief for property damaged by wildfires, teachers buying school supplies, workers moving to rural areas of the state and railway infrastructures of local interest. The total package is expected to reduce state revenue by $90.9 million to $119.6 million annually over the next three years.

Lawmakers sent the governor legislation that grants broad legal immunity to medical providers, as well as sets of laws addressing the privacy of nonprofit supporters, drunk robbery and child abuse. children.

They also voted to place on the November general election ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would require counties to elect a sheriff. The proposal is a reaction to conversations in Johnson County about moving to a commission-appointed sheriff.

House and Senate negotiators also reached agreement on legislation designating the Sandhill plum as an official state fruit, and another bill banning the use of meat terms on the labels of meat-based foods. plants.

Meanwhile, Kelly signed into law a dozen bills passed earlier in the session. They include legislation authorizing a memorial for the Kansas Gold Star families on the grounds of the Statehouse.

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