Kansas City Star. April 13, 2021.

Editorial: KS lawmakers neglect schools, health care to focus on trans athletes, license plates

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly was exasperated, and rightly so.

“When you’ve got 125 grown-ups talking about girls’ sports participation,” she said, “and they’re not dealing with the issues that are real important to Kansans … you’ve got a problem.”

Kelly was referring to last week’s legislative rush to pass a bill banning transgender students from participating in school-sponsored sports. The measure will prompt lawsuits unless the governor vetoes it, as we hope and expect she will.

That bill, if it became law, might also lose Kansas money in other ways: On Monday, the NCAA announced that states with laws that discriminate against trans athletes might lose the opportunity to host championship tournaments: “When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected,” said the statement. “We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”

But our concerns aren’t limited to that one wedge issue, and neither are Kelly’s. The Legislature, the governor told The Star Editorial Board Friday, has been engaged in a regrettable session-long effort to focus on culture issues as a distraction from the state’s most pressing problems.

“There’s been just an incredible amount of, ‘Look at this shiny object over here,’“ she told us. “Let me distract you with this social issue so that you don’t notice what I’m doing to voting laws, that you don’t notice what I’m doing to the budget, that you don’t notice what I’m trying to do to schools.”

The mistaken focus of GOP lawmakers should anger everyone who cares about the future of the state. With only a May veto session left, many poor workers in Kansas still lack insurance, the schools aren’t budgeted, medicinal cannabis is still prohibited, but by God five transgender kids will be banned from playing for the girls’ team.

Lawmakers also worked tirelessly this session to limit the governor’s ability to mitigate the danger of the coronavirus. They put lives at risk to make a political point. The result? Legal cases and acrimony across the state.

The Kansas Senate also decided the state should set up a school curriculum for gun safety, based on a course designed by the National Rifle Association, which is in bankruptcy court. Actual gun safety measures are less popular with lawmakers.

Thanks to their dedication, Kansas could soon have a “don’t tread on me” license plate.

Students may have to pass a civics test to graduate.

Lawmakers have tinkered with the state’s voting laws, an unnecessary answer to a nonexistent problem. (The governor’s vetoes are needed here, too.) The state Senate has wrestled with needless tax cuts.

What Kansas doesn’t have is expanded Medicaid for 165,000 people who need help.

Its reckless $20 billion budget doesn’t include any school spending, while legislators skate dangerously close to reopening the school finance case.

Patients suffering from chronic diseases and pain won’t get relief from medical marijuana. Maybe later, we’re told.

Much of the above hurts Kansas when it comes to attracting the new businesses and residents lawmakers seem to think care only about taxes.

“We have been working like the devil, and successfully, to attract businesses to Kansas,” the governor said. “The stuff that they’re doing in the Legislature right now will work to undo all of that.”

Her candor is welcome. In fact, Kelly should consider taking her case to the people, and let legislators defend the foolishness of their focus.

Unless they hear from the people they represent about the results of their neglect, they won’t come back to Topeka on May 3 any more ready to govern than before their three-week break.


Topeka Capital-Journal. April 16, 2021.

Editorial: Here are the bills the Kansas Legislature should — and shouldn’t — have spent its time on this session

Oh, Kansas Legislature.

Each year, we want to praise you for putting the people of Kansas first. And each year, it’s honestly a bit of a struggle. You all spend so much time doing nonsensical things, while ignoring the very real struggles of many in our state.

So without further ado, then, here’s what the Legislature should have worked on this session. And what they shouldn’t have bothered with.

Should have: Medicaid expansion

We know that expanding the KanCare program will help rural hospitals. We know it will help thousands upon thousands upon thousands of uninsured Kansans. What makes this worse is that we suspect the House and Senate would pass the bill, but leadership has spent this year and last actively blocking consideration. Now that the American Rescue Plan is offering additional federal funds, the lack of action looks even more foolish.

Shouldn’t have: Banning transgender women in school sports

We wrote about this before, and our words still stand. Legislators addressed a nonexistent problem. They singled out a tiny number of youths for further persecution. They should be ashamed.

Should have: Medical marijuana

With Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri offering medical marijuana options (and even more in the first case), it’s long overdue for Kansas to pass medical marijuana legislation. We all know that prohibition hasn’t worked in the past, and it doesn’t work now. Every year the Legislature doesn’t take action, we’re further behind our neighboring states.

Shouldn’t have: Adults under 21 can conceal carry guns

This one is simple. If we won’t sell alcohol to those under 21 because we’re concerned about the quality of their decision making, why should they be allowed to conceal carry deadly weapons?

Should have: Sports betting

We know that sports betting will happen eventually, and there’s a way to offer it legally. Unfortunately, this appears to be an issue of state casinos wanting the full pie, so legislation keeps facing obstacles. Allowing wagering in a broader array of locations would give rural bowling alleys and the like a tool to bring customers to their venues.

Shouldn’t have: Voter-suppression bills

Although negotiations between the House and Senate made these proposals less bad, they’re still unnecessary. Kansas had no real problems in the 2020 election. The same is true of our nation as a whole. Joe Biden won and Donald Trump lost. These are simple, inarguable facts that have been too often ignored or propagating a big lie. Kansas lawmakers should be smart enough to understand that.

Lawmakers aren’t done, of course. Gov. Laura Kelly has the opportunity to veto these bad bills, and a legislative veto session is scheduled for next month. Let’s hope some worthwhile legislation makes it through before the 2021 session comes to an end.