Capitol Update: Rep. Stogsdill says 2019 session could be labeled ‘The Do-Nothing Legislature’

Rep. Jerry Stogsdill of Prairie Village.

Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Jerry Stogsdill submits his update this week:

Many Kansans and media groups are labeling the 2019 session of the legislature as the “Do Nothing Legislature.” So far it has lived up to that billing. Here we are halfway through the 90 day allotment for the Legislature and under the direction of the ultra-conservative Republican leadership in both the House and Senate we have accomplished next to nothing.

Listed below are some of the most pressing issues that we should have wrapped up by now, but in most cases, have been stymied by the Republicans apparent desire to continue or return to the Brownback policies which nearly wrecked our economy, put our schools and the education of our children at risk, underfunded our universities, mismanaged the care of our foster children, refused to make the state’s required KPERS payments, took money out of our KDOT funds to cover General Fund shortages caused by fiscal mismanagement, denied decent health care to tens of thousands of Kansans and sullied the reputation of Kansas to the rest of the nation.

Some of the issues as yet to be addressed before the Kansas House of Representatives are:

School Finance

NO bills, NO discussion and missed the deadline of March 1, set by the Kansas Supreme Court that required the legislature to have made major progress on coming up with a constitutionally acceptable school finance plan that would provide adequate funding for our public schools.

Medicare expansion

Even after the Sam Brownback and the Republican legislature turned down the return of billions of our own federal tax dollars which could have been returned to Kansas to help cover healthcare costs for some of our most vulnerable citizens, the present Republican leadership in the House has allowed no bills and no discussion on this topic and has made it very clear they will fight any effort to expand Medicaid in Kansas.

Tax Policy

Senate Bill 22 which is making its way through the House is a blatant return to Brownback economic policies and puts over $200 million in the pockets of large multinational corporations in Kansas and into the pockets of wealthy individuals. That is money that should be going to benefit ALL the citizens of Kansas. Even if this passes the House and Senate the Governor will more than likely veto the bill and we should enough votes in the House to sustain her veto and demand a tax bill that brings tax FAIRNESS to ALL segments of the Kansas economy.

KPERS Funding

Republicans, after years of refusing to make adequate payments to KPERS have now gotten a bill through the House that would pay a missed KPERS payment from 2016, not the other 14 payments they missed just the payment from 2016. This is a mess THEY created and NOW, with a new Democratic Governor and public opinion running against them on this issue they are presenting themselves as the “supporters” of KPERS by making the payment THEY should have made in 2016 but DIDN’T. The hypocrisy there is thick enough to cut with knife! I voted in favor of this bill because it needed to be done and should have been done three years ago. The Republicans supported this bill looking for political cover!

The number of untouched issues still left to deal with are too numerous to list here but include a REASONABLE tax policy, the return of due process rights for teachers, a comprehensive transportation policy, the legalization of medical marijuana, infrastructure repair and constructions, sports betting, ethics reform, gun violence reduction, criminal justice reform, prison overcrowding and many more.

The Republican plan has been to wait until there is too little time and too few bills to address all these issues. After wasting practically the entire first half of the session they even had the audacity to send us home last Thursday on a “pro forma” day which means the legislature does not meet yet it is considered a “work day” and we all get paid.

My Democratic colleagues and I, and, to be fair, many moderate Republicans thought we should have been working last Thursday just like we should have actually been doing productive work for the previous seven weeks. This is not what our constituents expect from the legislative process in Topeka and I hope anyone who is as angry about this as I am will send a letter, or an e-mail or a text or make a phone call to the Republican leadership in the House and Senate and let them know that inactivity, delay and obstruction of discussion and the working of bills is completely unacceptable. Their contact information can be found at kslegislature.org.

As always, it is a privilege and an honor to represent the people of the 21st House District and I promise to continue to work for policies, funding and taxes that benefit my constituents and the future of the state of Kansas. If you have any questions or suggestions for me please don’t hesitate to get in touch. My contact information can be found at kslegislature.org.