The Kansas Legislature has just passed turnaround, the halfway mark in its annual session, and the omens aren’t good.
After a promising beginning to the year, when legislators acted quickly to unveil an impressive Medicaid expansion compromise, the session has ground to a halt in the face of an intractable Senate president and abortion politics. Given that most legislation dies when turnaround hits — unless it has been passed by one chamber or another — that means that many worthwhile efforts have been vaporized.
Perhaps lawmakers should take a moment to realize why they’re in Topeka, and why they take the time to run for office in the first place. They’re present to represent the people of Kansas.
They’re not there to represent just the people who voted for them, or their donors. They’re in office to do the best for every single person in their districts.
That means the kind of grandstanding we’ve seen from Senate President Susan Wagle, coupled with the huffing and puffing of those who support her obstruct at all costs strategy, isn’t just wrong. It is, and we’ve said so many times.
What’s even worse is that it’s unrepresentative. It’s not what is best for the people of Kansas, and it’s not what they want. Abundant research shows that Medicaid expansion improves health. Polling shows that Kansans support it. Some 150,000 residents — our friends and neighbors — would stand to benefit.
A path forward exists, of course. A path forward always exists.
The clear compromise on an amendment saying the state constitution doesn’t guarantee abortion rights is allowing the public vote in November, rather than August. Advocates have been clear they don’t want that, but otherwise they may not have a vote at all.
The clear compromise on Medicaid expansion has already been reached by Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning and Gov. Laura Kelly. While it doesn’t include the work requirements championed by conservatives, such requirements have also been repeatedly struck down in court.
The question, as always, is whether legislators and their leaders are actually willing to walk that path. It won’t always be comfortable or free from political brickbats. But it’s the best option for the people of our state.
That’s why legislators went to Topeka. To do good. To make Kansas better.
And at this halfway mark, they should take a hard look in the mirror and ask if they’re actually accomplishing that.