Kansas Appleseed Update: Legislative Wins & Ongoing Advocacy

Over the last few weeks, we have celebrated many great moments at Kansas Appleseed. We’ve seen several bills signed into law by Governor Kelly and we celebrated the settlement of our Progeny v. City of Wichita lawsuit over the Wichita Police Department’s use of a gang database. Whether it is in the Statehouse or in the courts, the Kansas Appleseed team’s commitment to creating a thriving, inclusive, and just Kansas is strong!

The Kansas Legislature has returned from their adjournment and will have some busy days ahead of them. Here’s what we’ve been paying attention to:

Celebrating Wins for Children in the Foster Care System

Governor Kelly signed SB 115 into law. This bill codifies the Office of the Child Advocate into law. Kansas Appleseed has been actively engaged in this work for years, and we were thrilled to see a strong bill become law. Our Deputy Director, Mike Fonkert, said in the governor’s press release: “We are very pleased to see the Office of the Child Advocate enshrined in statute. This important legislation will ensure that all Kansans, but especially our children and families, have an independent place to turn to when they encounter problems with our child welfare system. This marks over six years of effort to get this done, and we cannot be more grateful to the leaders that worked on this over these many years. We know that putting this office into law will help protect Kansas children today, tomorrow, and long into the future.”

Governor Kelly also signed HB 2536 into law. This bill creates the SOUL Family Legal Permanency Option, a new option for foster youth 16 or older that allows them to establish legal relationships with the supportive adults in their lives. Kansas is now the very first state in the nation to pass this important legislation into law, which is a very meaningful step towards supporting older foster youth.

Sustaining the Veto

Governor Laura Kelly vetoed HB 2614, yet another attempt by the legislature to suppress the vote. HB 2614 makes changes to advance voting, adding additional requirements for someone who delivers another voter’s ballot for them. The provisions would make it easier to enforce the state’s law banning anyone from delivering more than 10 advance ballots. We urge you to contact your legislator and tell them to sustain the veto on this bill.

Bills We Continue to Monitor

House Sub. for SB 420, providing that each juvenile offender case length limit extension shall not be for not longer than 90 days, remains in conference committee. No conference committee report has been made available nor been adopted by either chamber. We expect this bill to be taken up in conference committee and continue to hope that the important amendments that were added to this bill by the Senate when it was known as HB 2490 will be included during conference committee debates. Those provisions include requirements that kids who are eligible to have their cases extended are evaluated for their reading ability and educational needs to make sure that those factors aren’t responsible for their lack of program completion, and an overall limit of 120 days for total case length extensions. We urge legislators to support this bill.

The conference report for SB 500, providing restricted driver’s privileges for certain individuals, was adopted by the House but has not yet been adopted by the Senate, which we expect will happen fairly quickly. While the bill does not go as far as we’d like it to, especially in terms of adding uniform payment language, we urge the Senate to vote in favor of SB 500.

SB 14 would remove the three-day grace period for mail-in ballots, shorten the voter registration deadline, and change early voting deadlines. This is an unnecessary bill that aims to disenfranchise more Kansans under the guise of protecting our elections. This bill is in conference committee, and we urge you to contact your legislators and tell them to vote no on SB 14.

We continue to urge the Legislature to pass Medicaid Expansion. There is still an opportunity for the them to advance this legislation. There will be a vote in the Senate to bring the issue out of committee so that the full Senate can debate expansion. Contact your senator and tell them to vote in favor of bringing the debate to the Senate floor!

I fully expect the next few days will be intense, especially in light of Governor Kelly’s veto of Senate Sub. for HB 2036, the large-scale tax cut bill. While this will be an important debate, especially because we’ve seen the impact of aggressive tax cuts in our state, we will remain laser-focused on our issues so they don’t get lost in the legislative shuffle.

Stay tuned and stay vigilant as we work our way towards Sine Die!


My best,

Jami Reever

Executive Director of Kansas Appleseed