by Murrel Bland
Conservative and moderate forces are at odds in the Kansas Legislature this session. At least that is the way Mike Taylor, the lobbyist for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, sees it.
Taylor discussed the issue at the monthly meeting of the Legislative Committee at the Chamber of Commerce office Friday morning, Feb. 14.
Earlier this year, after very extensive negotiations, Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, and Sen. Jim Denning, a moderate Republican from Overland Park, worked out a compromise that would allow Medicaid expansion for as many as 150,000 poor Kansans.
Supporters of the proposed legislation, including Democrats, explain expanded Medicaid would help struggling rural Kansas hospitals. Conservatives opposing the legislation argued that the proposal did not require abled-bodied persons receiving the service to work. A substantial number of persons from Wyandotte County would be covered by the proposed legislation.
Another issue being promoted by conservative anti-abortion supporters is a proposed state constitutional amendment. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last April that the Kansas Constitution protects access of abortion as a fundamental right. The anti-abortion supporters want to amend the Kansas Constitution by placing the issue on the August 2020 primary election ballot.
Taylor said conservatives believe there will be a better chance of passing the anti-abortion amendment during the primary election. But the conservatives will have to find a few more legislators who would support the anti-abortion amendment. They need 84 votes among Kansas House members to place the issue on the ballot. Maybe conservatives will work a swap—support of the anti-abortion amendment for the Medicaid expansion.
There are other political reasons why conservative legislators favor a primary vote on the anti-abortion issue; that would attract a strong conservative turnout and also help assure their election success, Taylor said.
Sen. Susan Wagle, the president of the Kansas Senate and an ultra-conservative Republican, is playing hardball politics. She opposes Medicaid expansion. She recently pulled some 13 bills from the Senate floor that could have been used for Medicaid expansion. She said there will be no discussion on Medicaid expansion until the anti-abortion amendment is passed.
Sen. Wagle is running for the U.S. Senate, hoping to succeed Sen. Pat Roberts.
Taylor said he is concerned about the renewal of Star bonds (sales tax revenue bonds) legislation. Star bonds were key to the success of development in Village West including the Legends Outlet. With Star bonds, sales tax money that would otherwise go to state and local government is used to pay infrastructure costs.
Although Star bonds were used correctly and successfully in Wyandotte County, there were reports of abuse in other locations. Taylor said although Star bonds have been approved for the American Royal complex in Village West, if the program is discontinued, there would be no mechanism to administer the bonds. That would kill the American Royal project, Taylor said.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is executive director of Business West.