Legislators offer insight into new session

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By Travis Mounts
TSnews

TOPEKA – Three local legislators took a few minutes this weekend to share their thoughts on the new legislative session. It got underway last week, starting with Gov. Laura Kelly’s State of the State address.
TSnews reached out to all our local senators and members of the House. Rep. Joe Seiwert (R-Pretty Prairie) of the 101st House District, and Rep. Kyle Hoffman (R-Coldwater) of the 116th House District responded, as did Sen. Dan Kerschen (R-Garden Plain) of the 26th District.
Hoffman listed three items as his top priorities: Passing the “Value Them Both” constitutional amendment, making changes to the Emergency Management Act, and balancing the budget without raising taxes. Kerschen also said the amendment was a top priority.
The Constitutional amendment would put in front of voters the option to change the Kansas Constitution, overturning a 2019 State Supreme Court ruling that found the Constitution gives women the right to an abortion. If approved, any changes would still be limited by the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe V. Wade.
Conservatives hope that the larger majority on the U.S. Supreme Court will result in overturning Roe V. Wade, which would return abortion regulations to the states, where a number of state legislatures would likely move to ban or severely restriction abortion.
The amendment did not receive enough votes in 2020 to be placed on the ballot.
Seiwert listed his top priorities as balancing the budget, COVID-19 vaccinations, getting small businesses back in business, and getting the parties to work together.
Expanding Medicaid under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act continues to be one of Gov. Kelly’s top priorities. The measure passed in 2017 but was vetoed by Gov. Sam Brownback.
The effort appeared to have enough votes to pass in 2020, but then-Senate president Susan Wagle tied Medicaid expansion to the constitutional amendment, which failed.
With conservatives now holding a super majority in both chambers, the chances for expanding Medicaid seem to be less than the chances for approving the amendment.
“I have alway supported healthcare for people that are not covered under circumstances beyond their control,” Seiwert said, adding that he would support that expansion with several amendments. Those include limiting Medicaid to legal citizens, and that drug testing be utilized. He also would like to see a minimum of 20 hours of work per week, depending on circumstances, for able-bodied residents under 30. If somebody is able to work, he also would favor to see a monthly co-pay in the neighborhood of $20.
Hoffman would not be one of the votes in favor of Medicaid.
“I have consistently voiced my opposition to Medicaid expansion over the last few years.”
Hoffman said his focus in committee work is on balancing the state’s next budget, in both the Appropriations and K-12 Budget committees. He also is working on a bill to put more oversight in internet technology projects.
Kerschen did not state how he would vote on Medicaid expansion, but said it was not likely to pass this year.
Colorado and Nebraska already have expanded their Medicaid programs, and Oklahoma and Missouri will expand their programs in 2021 after having approved expansion last year. That leaves Kansas among just 12 states that have not approved Medicaid expansion.
Seiwert said he is working on the renewal of the energy bill, as well as energy efficiency, taxes and electric car charging stations. Shutting down carbon energy power plants and high-speed broadband technology also are subjects he is working on.
“I cosponsored a Senate tax bill that gives transparency to citizens and requires a vote to allow taxes to be increased,” Kerschen said. He also has sponsored a bill dealing with school bus safety penalties.
Finally, given the recent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, TSnews asked legislators what they are doing to promote unity between Americans, Kansans and parties.
Kerschen: “Quit watching the news on TV.”
Hoffman: “I will continue to work on issues with anyone where we agree and can make progress and will respectfully disagree on the issues we differ on without making it personal.”
Siewert: “Promote factual news reporting, not one-sided political agendas.
“I tried to run a bill on factual reporting last year and they say the media and political campaign ads are exempt from truth in advertising laws.”