Posted by Jami Reever, Executive Director of Kansas Appleseed.

Legislative Update: Sine Die

It was a short return to Topeka for the legislature, and to our pleasant surprise, we saw success on several of our issues with some opportunities for continued work on youth and adult justice issues.

Supporting Justice-Involved Youth

House Sub. for SB 420 was taken up in conference committee meetings this week, but was altered substantially. Provisions regarding youth case length limits were removed entirely, leaving only language about allowing for work-release type options for young people housed in the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex. We support that language as it can increase the readiness for our young people to re-enter society, but were disappointed that the legislature did not pass language defining the length of case extensions. This means that kids will continue to encounter disparate case length extensions across the state that could be influenced by bias and that Kansas will continue to fall outside of nationally accepted best practices regarding case length extensions. We will continue to support legislation in 2025 to firmly define case lengths and any possible extensions while working to ensure that young people are supported in their ability to meet the terms of their adjudications.

Getting Kansans Back to Work

The conference report for SB 500, providing restricted driver’s privileges for certain individuals, which had previously been adopted by the House was also adopted by the Senate. While the bill does not go as far as we’d like it to, especially in terms of adding uniform payment language, we believe it is a big step forward on dealing with the huge number of driver’s license suspensions that impact Kansans who are unable to afford the high costs of traffic fines, fees and court costs. SB 500 was sent to Gov. Kelly’s desk on April 30th.

Reducing Hunger in Kansas

Sometimes, wins during the Kansas legislative session come from fighting back harmful legislation. That is certainly the case this year for our food access work! What is most heartening to us is seeing so many of you speak out against these harmful policies. Together, we stopped dangerous legislation that certainly would have harmed Kansas families. This year, the following bills were defeated:

HB 2674: Prohibiting Kansas from participating in the Summer EBT for children program.

HB 2673: Disallowing SNAP recipients from using EBT cards to buy sugary drinks and candy.

HB 2627: Organizing requirements for public assistance program sections within the statute.

SB 488: Expanding the powers of the Kansas inspector general to investigate all cash, food, or health assistance programs.

Fighting Voter Suppression Bills

We are pleased to report that the voter suppression bills we were most worried about will not become law.

SB 14: removing the three-day grace period for mail-in ballots, shortening the voter registration deadline, and changing early voting deadlines did not advance out of the conference committee.

HB 2614: making changes to advance voting and adding additional requirements for someone who delivers another voter’s ballot for them, was vetoed by Governor Kelly. The veto was sustained.

HB 2618: requiring specific intent as an element of the crime of false representation of an election official and preventing Kansas from accepting federal emergency aid for elections, was vetoed by Governor Kelly, and the legislature failed to override the veto.

For now, we are celebrating the forward progress we made on several issues and the defeat of some really harmful bills. We have so much to be proud of. Lives are changed because of your advocacy and support of our work.

So, what’s next? We’re all paying attention to the possibility of a special session. If one is called by Governor Kelly, we’ll keep you informed of what that looks like and how it might impact the issues we are working on. Starting in June, we’ll move to a monthly newsletter format. There is no offseason in advocacy; as we say at Appleseed, the new legislative session starts the day after Sine Day.

Thank you for your incredible advocacy during this legislative session!