Capitol Update: Rep. Holscher says ‘leftovers’ from Brownback era hampered progress on popular bills

Jay Senter - May 6, 2019 11:00 am
Rep. Cindy Holscher.

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. Cindy Holscher, Rep. Jan Kessinger and Sen. Jim Denning were scheduled to send updates this week. Here’s Rep. Holscher’s filing:

When you go to any restaurant and place your order for a meal, there is one thing you are not expecting to be served – leftovers. Similarly, in 2018 with the election of Governor Laura Kelly, citizens felt a renewed sense of optimism that our state would be able to move in a more stable direction and adopt policies supported by the people (i.e. Medicaid Expansion). One thing they were not anticipating however, were the leftovers.

Specifically, the Brownback leftovers. Unfortunately, there is an abundance of them in the Legislature, to the extent that they control the House and Senate, and occupy nearly all the leadership positions. That is why it has been so difficult to make real progress with expansion of Medicaid and bringing financial stability to our state. These obstructionists have worked to prevent good policy, thwarting the will of the people.

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Most notably, these extremist Brownback Leftovers in leadership (Senate President Susan Wagle, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, House Speaker Ron Ryckman and Majority Leader Dan Hawkins) worked forcefully to prevent Medicaid Expansion. Despite being supported by over 75% of Kansans, these obstructionists wouldn’t allow hearings on the bill, and in the end issued a combination of threats and promises to prevent it from moving forward. But that’s not the only example of a bill that would have helped Kansans that was left behind. Here are a few more that were either never given a hearing or “left to die” in committee as directed by these extremists:

  • Enacting a food sales tax refund (HB 2302)
  • Setting penalties related to operating a child care facility without a license (HB 2228)
  • The Kansas Safe Access Act to allow medicinal cannabis (HB 2303)
  • Protection from Spousal Sexual Battery (HB 2079)
  • Establishing a joint committee on child welfare system oversight (HB 2403)
  • Changing eligibility requirements and lifting severe restrictions that have been in place on public assistance programs for needy families (HB 2157)
  • Election day registration (HB 2092)
  • LGBTQ non-discrimination act (HB 2130)
  • Establishment of the Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Advisor Council (HB 2347)
  • Establishment of the Kansas senior services task force (HB 2344)

Conversely, there have been a number of bills that have been championed by extremists. Some of these were given hearings, then voted down by the body at large. A couple were abandoned only after public outcry. In a few cases, certain bills passed after leadership coerced members. Here are just a few examples of these extremist supported bills:

  • The K-12 “school funding” bill — rather than addressing the school funding issue per the Supreme Court case, the extremist leadership crafted a bill that contained unnecessary, unsupported provisions. For instance, it contained a voucher program to divert money AWAY from public schools. Additionally, the bill actually reduced funding to our public schools that was part of the plan adopted last year (HB 2395)
  • Partial restart of the Brownback Experiment which would have given close to $200 million in tax breaks to multi-national corporations (SB 22)
  • The Marriage Restoration Act which would prohibit the state from enforcing policies that respect same sex couples and the entire LGBTQ community (HB 2320)
  • The Farm Bureau Insurance bill which allows the organization to offer unregulated alternatives to health insurance without having to offer coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions
  • The “Elevated Marriage” Act which would allow straight couples to have an elevated designation of their union, while defining same sex unions as “parody marriages” (HB 2321)

Honestly, the only way we have been able to get ANY good policy to move forward in the Legislature has been accomplished by outmaneuvering the obstacles thrown in our way. Unfortunately, we are very limited in our ability to do this as the rules of House proceedings have been set up in favor of the extremists. Needless to say it’s not a very democratic process.

As long as we have an abundance of these Brownback leftovers in the Legislature, implementing the will of the people will continue to be difficult. So, how can we fix this? Here are a few ideas:

  • VOTE and encourage your friends/neighbors to vote!!! More importantly, be an informed voter, especially when it comes to elections to the State House and Senate in 2020
  • Support candidates (by volunteering or donating) that support public schools, Medicaid Expansion and other issues important to the people
  • Check the voting record of incumbents; while they may say they support the issues that matter to you, sometimes their voting record will tell a different story. Bipartisan organizations like Mainstream Coalition provide a “voting scorecard” with this type of information in an easy to understand format.

While there have been some small victories this past session, there is so much left to do to address the problems facing our state as the result of the Brownback experiment. However, our work in this regard can’t be accomplished with the large number of Brownback leftovers in the Legislature continually working against us, obstructing issues important to the people. Kansans deserve leaders with vision who truly represent them, not the same re-heated ideas of the failed Brownback years. Similarly, when you go to a restaurant and order your dinner, you should be served something fresh and appetizing.

You shouldn’t get stuck with leftovers.

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