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Bills to watch in the Kansas legislature this session

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KCUR
C'Awna Ford-Johnson, a teacher at Blue Valley Northwest High School, spoke at a recent town hall aimed at addressing some of the legislation facing Kansas schools.

Proposed bills would impact Kansas’ criminal justice system, the public schools, the way the state conducts elections and the ability of transgender athletes to participate in sports.

This 2022 Kansas legislative session is shaping up to be different from others of the past.

Jim McLean, political correspondent for the Kansas News Service, believes part of the reason is Republican efforts to thwart Governor Kelly.

"KanCare is the state's Medicaid program and the contracts for the managed care companies that administrated the program are up for negotiation and renewal," he says, "and there's a bill that's making its way through this legislature that would literally prohibit the governor from making any changes to the Medicaid program including negotiating new contracts practices."

Education is a pressing topic in this year's legislature. One of the more controversial pieces of legislation being proposed is a parents' bill of rights. Not all teachers or parents are on board.

Suzanne Perez, education journalist at KMUW, explains that the controversy over Critical Race Theory evolved into "these transparency measures or parents' bills of rights... to give parents the right to direct the education and healthcare of their children."

Focusing on a different issue is Stefania Lugli, reporter at the Wichita Beacon. She looked at bill HB2215 and its impact on poor Kansans. HB 2215 would allow people with felony drug convictions to receive benefits under the supplemental nutrition assistance program.

The bill was taken off the calendar and will not be up for a vote, surprising a number of people. In speaking with her sources and advocates for the bill, Lugli says, "the bill didn't have any vocal opposition during testimonies and there is no fiscal impact on our current criminal funds."

Lugli also is following a bill to clarify the practice of no-knock warrants that would require officers to announce themselves and be in uniform in order to execute a search warrant. The League of Kansas Municipalities is opposed to this, according to Lugli, because it "could actually increase the threat of harm to them and would actually give a chance for any suspect to flee the scene."

Senate Bill 321 would prohibit the use of restraints during juvenile hearings. This follows the death of Cedric Lofton, a 17-year-old who died at a Wichita hospital after being placed in restraints and on the floor in a prone position at the Sedgwick County Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center following an altercation.

People were asking "why was he put into such a potentially suffocating position," says Lugli, when it was known that the teen was having a mental health crisis.

Senate Bill 321 did not make it out of committee, and as McLean notes, "it's clear that wasn't a priority for the majority in the Senate."

Stay Connected
When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz
Reginald David is an assistant producer with Up To Date. You can reach him at reginalddavid@kcur.org.