Capitol Update: Rep. Heather Meyer criticizes out-of-state interest groups for driving ‘culture war’ bills

"Unfortunately, very little of the legislation we heard will make the lives of everyday Kansans any better, and that’s because so much of what comes out of committees and onto the floor is brought to us by out-of-state, dark money interest groups," Rep. Heather Meyer writes in this week's Capitol Update.

Each week during the 2022 Kansas legislative session, we will provide all Shawnee Mission area legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol.

Below is this week’s submission from Democratic Rep. Heather Meyer of Kansas House District 29, which covers a segment of Overland Park. 

Democratic Rep. Dan Osman, Republican Rep. Owen Donohoe and Democratic Sen. Cindy Holscher were also offered the chance to submit columns this week.

The views expressed in each Capitol Update are solely those of the lawmaker and are not reflective of the Post’s position on any matter discussed.

The last few weeks of the legislative session have been tumultuous. From passing new legislative maps and the budget, to debating an anti-trans kids in sports bill, and the “parental bill of rights,” we had quite a lot to address.

Unfortunately, very little of the legislation we heard will make the lives of everyday Kansans any better, and that’s because so much of what comes out of committees and onto the floor is brought to us by out-of-state, dark money interest groups and “bill mills” that provide cut and paste, ready-made legislation to your representatives.

Now, I’m fairly new to the Kansas House, so I won’t pretend to know exactly how this legislation comes to our members, but I can tell you that it seems very commonplace. That said, it’s one thing to attend conferences and workshops with state legislators from other parts of the country to share ideas, offer model legislation and learn about what has worked for others across the U.S., but it’s an entirely different thing to have special interest groups and ghostwriters provide ready-made bills to us which may not even apply to our communities, like with the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” and “Fairness in Women’s Sports” act.

Both of those bills were crafted by groups outside of Kansas: the Family Policy Alliance, the Heritage Foundation, along with the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council, both of which have been designated hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The aforementioned groups are often in the news for their influence on lawmakers across the U.S., but to watch their “model” legislation travel through the different committees and chambers, is highly concerning, especially when it is so damaging to the communities it will impact.

For example, SB 496, known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” only had three supporters provide testimony on behalf of the bill: Kansas Family Voice, Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Policy Institute. These are all extremist think tanks that regularly support bills that target moderate, sensible legislation and values.

I’ve heard from hundreds of my constituents who echo my experience: as parents of school-aged children, we have never felt as though we did not have easily accessible and understandable ways to gather information on what our children were being taught in the classroom or discuss any concerns or issues we may have with the content.

Even as a working mother, I made the time to regularly communicate with my children’s teachers and was very involved in the PTA, and the majority of parents in Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission share this experience, as well. Overall, our communities trust our educators to continue to do the good work of providing an award-winning education to our children and don’t see the need for legislation that insults and demonizes our hard-working educators.

Simply put, these bills were introduced only to further divide us as a community and help folks gain support for their campaigns by taking on a social issue, versus doing the work of the people.

Personally, I’d prefer to work on bills that address real problems in the state, rather than engage in a culture war. So I’m urging you to pay attention to where these bills come from, and if they’re designed to address a real issues facing our communities, or are just another way for out of touch representatives to bolster their careers.

It is an honor to serve the people of the 29th District, and I will continue to fight for our values and priorities.