Rep. Winn calls bill ‘racist’ and nine House members file complaint against her

Rep. Val Winn
Rep. Val Winn

Nine Kansas House members have filed a complaint against State Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-34th Dist., about remarks she made March 19 when discussing a bill repealing in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants who live in Kansas but were not citizens.

The complaint filed on March 31 alleged Rep. Winn, when discussing the bill in the House Education Committee, used “inflammatory language and inferences toward the committee or anyone who would support such a bill.”

“This is a racist, sexist, fear-mongering bill,” Rep. Winn was quoted as saying in the committee meeting. “I want to apologize to the students and their parents whose lives are being hijacked by the racist bigots who support this bill.”

“But this is an example of institutional racism, not individual racist, institutional racism because it deals with societal structural changes,” she said in her remarks to the committee.

Rep. Winn said it was her intention to make her remarks about institutional racism in a historical context and not about any individual members of the Legislature. However, she also said at the committee discussion that anyone who supported the bill was a “racist bigot,” and some of the committee members took it personally.

Rep. Winn said she did not mention any persons by name as she made her remarks, but one representative interrupted her remarks to say he objected. In an exchange of words with him, she added “if the shoe fits.” Rep. Winn added that she had the floor when she was making her remarks, she was not the one who was interrupting with remarks, and she was interrupted by the legislator who called out that he was objecting.

Then she proceeded to discuss the facts about the legislation, she said. She said she believes it stifles Kansas growth, cutting off the future of these students.

“I know this is a discriminatory piece of legislation,” Rep. Winn said Wednesday. “I used the term ‘racist’ because it by definition attacks a specific select group of minorities,” Rep. Winn said.

It also is another attack on education, she said. In-state tuition for this group is supported by the universities, she added.

“What is so disturbing to me, what brought out the frustrations, is this bill has been operating successfully for 10 years,” Rep. Winn said.

It was challenged in court by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the challenge was found to have no standing.

Under the current system, students have to establish three years of residence in Kansas. They have gone to a Kansas high school and were on the path to citizenship, she said.

Rep. Winn said the students are paying tuition, and get no financial aid. They do not receive any money from the state, she said. Other students coming from out of state only have to establish one year of residence in Kansas to be eligible for in-state tuition, she added.

On March 19, the in-state tuition repeal bill discussion was tabled in the committee after the discussion.

The House has appointed a select investigative committee in response to the complaint against Rep. Winn, according to the House Journal for March 31. It will investigate the complaint.

The nine members of the committee who filed the complaint are all Republican men, Rep. Winn said. None of the women on the committee signed the complaint.

“I address and advocate for my constituents, educational opportunities for all, and you seek to intimidate me?” Rep. Winn asked. “I did not advocate for mass murder.”

Rep. Winn recalled that one legislator, a Republican, in 2011 made a comment about shooting immigrants from helicopters like they were feral hogs, and that the Legislature did not take any action against him. Another comment was made in 2012 by the former Kansas House speaker, also a Republican, in an email that quoted a Bible verse stating, may the president’s “days be few in number.” No action was taken by the Legislature about this comment either, Rep. Winn said.

Rep. Winn said she had received messages of support from across the state, from Wyandotte County and other parts of the country, as well.

The House investigatory committee met this afternoon to distribute the complaint, establish rules and schedule the next meeting, and House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs, D-33rd Dist., stated:

“The Democratic Caucus fully supports Rep. Winn in this matter,” Rep. Burroughs stated. “This investigation is nothing but an attempt by the majority party to silence a minority voice that dared to speak up in opposition to discrimination. She has a constitutionally protected right to voice her opinion on this or any other issue, as do all Kansans.”

“There are a lot of people who want you to stand up for justice,” Rep. Winn said. “I do feel I’m doing the right thing. I have no fear because I stand to fight for justice.”

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