Topeka, Cannes. ( Associated Press) — Kansas is full of cash, with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican lawmakers eager to cut taxes, but the annual legislative session, which opens Monday, is also full of rediscovery, election-year politics and COVID-19.
The GOP’s supremacy in both houses means lawmakers are expected to consider tightening election laws during their 90 designated days in session. What is taught about race and American history in public schools is also debated on tap.
And legislators are likely to debate legalizing marijuana for medical use — something Kelly and other Democrats support — as some Republicans heat up. At least for the idea of allowing a highly regulated version.
Here’s a look at some of the key issues:
Push for revenue surplus fuel tax cut
Kelly wants to eliminate the state’s 6.5% sales tax on groceries So that a family that buys $200 worth of groceries a week can save $676 a year. There is bipartisan support for reducing or eliminating the tax, but lawmakers may consider alternatives such as reducing taxes on all consumer goods.
The governor has also proposed a one-time exemption of $250. For Kansas residents who filed a state income tax return last year. GOP leaders have said they prioritize the ongoing income tax cut.
Caryn Tyson, a Parker Republican, chair of the Senate Tax Committee, said other ideas are also on the table, including lowering taxes on retirees’ Social Security benefits.
Kansas is in a strong position financially, with nearly $3 billion in cash reserves on pace by the end of June after months of surplus tax collections.
Critical race theory argument heats up
Tyson wants teachers to post lesson plans online that list reading material. She said her goal is to enable parents to research those materials to give them a chance to voice any objections.
He and other Republicans also anticipate a debate on banning the critical race theory in public schools. They say many parents became concerned when they oversaw online classes earlier in the pandemic.
critical race theory Arguments that racism is systemic in America and that its institutions perpetuate the dominance of white people. However, the term has come to cover the broader diversity initiative that conservatives oppose.
The state school board said last year that critical race theory is not part of Kansas’ educational standards. Kelly has called the issue “Nothing Burger” and told The Associated Press that it has been “conjured up” by people who have a track record of being “anti-public education”.
Rabbi Moti Riber, executive director of Kansas Interfaith Action, said he worries lawmakers will enable “the most racist parents” to harass teachers and administrators.
Governor’s race, other competitions shape policy
Kelly sells herself as a bipartisan problem solver and she is almost certain of a big legislative victory later this year to appeal to the liberal GOP and independent voters to win another term. he faces a tough race With three-term Attorney General Derek Schmidt as the presumptive Republican nominee.
The election gives Republicans an incentive to pass the GOP instead of rejecting Kelly’s proposals and raising questions about their effectiveness.
Meanwhile, all 125 Kansas House seats are to be voted in November.
Can legislators survive another redistribution impasse?
Election-year politics intensify as the state’s political boundaries are drawn once again in a decade. Kansas must account for changes in population and making the districts as equal in population as possible.
The redistribution has national implications as Republicans seek to secure a majority in the US House, with the only Kansas Democrat in Congress, Rep. Putting a spotlight on the Kansas City-area district hosted by Sharis Davids. Her district is overpopulated and Democrats fear Republicans will set out to politically hurt Democratic neighborhoods in Kansas City, Kansas.
But to reshape David’s district, Republicans must avoid the internal conflict they saw 10 years ago in the new legislative districts. The debate became so controversial that no redistribution plan was approved by the legislature. Three federal judges all drew boundaries; The state had to push back its June candidate filing deadline, and there were far more current-in-the-race than lawmakers allowed.
Republicans are considering tougher election laws
Last year, GOP lawmakers in Kansas joined counterparts in other states in toughening election laws.
Republican Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab said he would push for legislation this year that aims to make it easier to remove inactive voters from the registration list. Counties cannot remove people from registration lists unless they have failed to vote in two federal elections.
And legislation to tighten voting laws has been implemented since last year’s annual session, including a bill to shorten the deadline for returning mail-in ballots.
GOP continues to push for vaccines, virus mandates
The days leading up to the session’s opening saw a surge in new COVID-19 cases in Kansas and hospitals reeling.
Kelly declares a new emergency Thursday issued more executive orders that eased state licensing rules to make it easier for hospitals and nursing homes to quickly add staff. MPs have to decide whether to keep it in force in the last 15 days or not.
But the biggest pandemic issue for GOP lawmakers was adhering to a law enacted during November’s special session. To make it easier for workers to refuse to follow vaccine orders. Some conservatives want to bar private employers from enforcing the mandate, but others believe the issue is tougher because they have argued for less government regulation of businesses in general.
Some conservatives also want to strip the state health department of its power to require new vaccines for school attendance without going through the Legislature.
Abortion takes place on many minds
Abortion is usually a major issue facing lawmakers, but not this year. Anti-abortion anti-abortion awaits statewide vote on Aug. 2 on proposed anti-abortion amendments in the state constitution that would allow legislators to prohibit abortion As much as the Federal Court allows.
Andy Tsubasa Field is a core member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. report for america is a non-profit national service program that hires journalists in local newsrooms to report on secret issues.