The Kansas Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution that may place a question on the August primary election ballot about changing the Kansas Constitution.

The proposed amendment, which arrived in the House on Thursday, would give the Legislature authority to regulate abortion consistent with federal court decisions. Anti-abortion groups and lawmakers fear that without a constitutional change, the Kansas Supreme Court will strike down a raft of restrictions that would or have withstood federal court challenges, according to The Associated Press.

The amendment is modeled on one that Tennessee voters approved in 2014. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly spoke strongly against adding the amendment. If approved by voters, the amendment would overturn a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court decision declaring access to abortion a fundamental right under the state’s Bill of Rights.

Sen. Dan Goddard, a Parsons Republican, was one of 28 senators voting for the constitutional amendment on Wednesday. Twelve senators voted no. The measure is called the Value Them Both Amendment and is Senate Concurrent Resolution 1613.

Goddard said the resolution would not ban abortion, a point many Republicans are making. It restores the right to regulate abortion through elected officials as opposed to the Kansas Supreme Court. He said most of the phone calls and emails he’s received on the matter are from constituents who support the amendment.

In the House a constitutional amendment requires 84 or more votes to pass. If the House gets that many yes votes, the question would be added to the August ballot.

“I really don’t know what’s going to happen in the House. I feel it’s going to be a very close vote. But I can’t predict whether the amendment’s going to pass or not,” Goddard said.

Rep. Richard Proehl, a Parsons Republican, also didn’t know if the House had enough votes to pass the amendment. The House has 84 Republicans. 

“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be really hard,” Proehl said.

“But the governor is really weighing in heavily on this, so I don’t know how that will turn out.”

He thinks the resolution will be debated on Wednesday or Thursday. 

Proehl supports the amendment and thinks this is the best opportunity to pass it this session.

“Let’s let the people vote on it. Then that’s what we’ll live with,” Proehl said.

 

Measures relating to the next 10-year transportation plan were introduced in both houses this week. The measures appeared in the Ways and Means Committee in the Senate and the Appropriations Committee in the House. Goddard and Proehl serve on those committees.

Bill numbers haven’t been assigned yet.

Proehl thinks the transportation topic will be discussed in the coming weeks.

The new plan will allow for completion of the projects that were not finished in the last 10-year plan because money for them was transferred to other agency budgets.

One project in Southeast Kansas that needs to be completed is improving U.S. 75 at Caney, Goddard said.

The senator said the new transportation plan will be more flexible than T-Works, which had projects “racked and stacked.” 

“There will be a periodic review of projects to consider any changes that might have come along or any needs that might have come along. … This time, there could be some changes every couple of years depending on how situations change,” Goddard said.

Proehl said contractors want another bill introduced that would be tied to the transportation plan and increasing the fuel tax to help fund it. The bill would serve as a trigger that would be pulled if the Legislature or governor rob money meant for the transportation projects. Proehl said he has some concerns about this idea, but he wants to study it once the bill is written and introduced before making his decision.

The fuel tax in Kansas is higher than it is in Oklahoma and Missouri. And Missouri last year voted down a fuel tax increase.

Proehl said the trigger would be tied to the money pulled from the transportation plan. If the Legislature or governor pulled $150 million from the plan the trigger legislation would increase the fuel tax 10 cents per gallon, which would generate an estimated $150 million.

 

Medicaid expansion remains in the Senate health committee and may remain there until after a vote on the constitutional amendment, Proehl said.

Goddard said three amendments are being considered for the expansion bill. He didn’t know if they would be proposed in the committee or on the Senate floor. 

 

In the Senate, the tax committee will have a hearing on Senate Bill 294 on Wednesday. The bill would require notification to the public and a public hearing prior to a government body approving an increase over a certified tax rate. Goddard is one of 15 senators who sponsored the bill. Counties and cities are already under a tax lid law, which restricts budget increases from year to year above a certain percentage.

SB 294 would require governing bodies to calculate a certified tax rate each year by July 1.

According to the bill: “The certified tax rate is the tax rate for the current year that would generate the same property tax revenue as levied the previous year using the current year’s total assessed valuation. The purpose of the certified tax rate is to promote truth in taxation.”

The purpose is to promote transparency in government. If the government must exceed the money generated from the certified tax rate, they must publish a notice informing the public of this and send out a letter to every property owner impacted.

Labette County commissioners discussed the bill briefly on Friday. While they supported transparency, they didn’t support the bill as written.

Goddard said the bill would not replace the property tax lid law but may lead to its repeal in the future.

“I don’t know if that’s going to happen this year or not,” he said.

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