Senate president: GOP won’t accept folly of governor’s regime of ‘mandates, edicts’

Masterson wants liberty to guide abortion, tax, COVID-19 reform

Senate President Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, said in a broadcast speech Tuesday public policy on abortion, taxes and education must be framed by respect for constitutional liberties and individual freedoms. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Senate President Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, said in a broadcast speech Tuesday public policy on abortion, taxes and education must be framed by respect for constitutional liberties and individual freedoms. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson said the Republican vision of Kansas’ future on key issues of taxes, abortion, education and COVID-19 was anchored in freedom of choice.

Masterson, a conservative who ascended to the role of president after 15 years in the Legislature, said the GOP’s philosophy of government put Kansans first and forbid surrender to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s instinct to interfere in lives of her constituents. Policies enacted in Topeka must preserve constitutional rights and respect the premise people — not government — know what is best for themselves and their families, he said.

“We will not support the governor’s regime of unconstitutional mandates and edicts,” he said in a prerecorded rebuttal to Kelly’s State of the State speech Tuesday night.

He said it was essential the 2021 Legislature achieve two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate to place on statewide ballots an amendment to the Kansas Constitution that declares no right to abortion exists in the state’s Bill of Rights. In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court issued an expansive decision that said abortion would remain legal in Kansas even if the Roe v. Wade precedent was reversed in the federal courts.

Anti-abortion forces in the Senate passed the constitutional amendment in 2020, but fell short of two-thirds in the House. A version of the amendment introduced Tuesday at the Capitol would put the question to voters in 2022.

“We trust you to have a voice in our government, to ensure a culture of life can flourish in our great state,” Masterson said. “That’s why we believe it’s essential the Legislature adopt the Value Them Both constitutional amendment, which will give every Kansan a voice in whether laws prohibiting the taxpayer funding of abortion and simple things like requiring parental notification can remain on the books.”

Masterson said the Republican majority in the statehouse would push bills to reduce the tax burden on individuals and businesses. Since taking office in 2019, Kelly has used veto authority to resist tax legislation that depleted the revenue stream to state government.

“Kansas currently ranks in the bottom five states in the overall state and local tax burden on families and this has to change. Kansas taxpayers should also be allowed the opportunity to take advantage of the federal tax cuts and we must work to enact meaningful property tax reform to allow seniors and families to stay in their homes,” the Senate’s president said.

The state needs a student-focused approach to education that emphasizes local control of schools, he said.

He’s prepared to resist calls to expand eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It’s among Kelly’s top legislative priorities. Advocates of expansion say the program could reach as many as 150,000 uninsured or underinsured people in Kansas.

“We trust you to make your own health care choices and we will work to give you and your family flexibility to obtain affordable coverage that best meets your needs,” Masterson said.

He said the 125 representatives, 40 senators and governor should seek common ground and remain respectful when differences arise. He urged Democrats to put partisan politics aside for the benefit of Kansas families.

Masterson said bureaucrats shouldn’t be allowed to decide during the pandemic which businesses were essential and could stay open and which companies were non-essential and had to close.

“From our front-line health care workers fighting the pandemic to struggling small businesses working to keep our economy going, to parents who have navigated the challenges of school closures as well as blended virtual and in-person learning, the credit belongs to you — the people of Kansas,” Masterson said.