The Kansas Statehouse is set off with New Year’s fireworks from Sydney, Australia. Legislators will soon gather in Topeka for the 2022 session. (Clay Wirestone illustration/Kansas Reflector, foreground Noah Tabora/Kansas Reflector, background Wikimedia Commons)
For our special, year-end edition of the Kansas Reflector podcast, editor in chief Sherman Smith invited senior reporter Tim Carpenter and myself to discuss six big topics from 2021. To accompany that podcast, I looked through the opinion section archives for columns tackling those subjects. Some of these pieces echo our exchanges, while others take them in new directions altogether.
Listen to the podcast, browse the columns and prepare yourself for another big year of Kansas news in 2022. I encourage you to get some rest before the annual legislative session starts up Jan. 10.
My illustrious predecessor in the opinion editor chair, C.J. Janovy, writes: “Kansas might be frozen, but it’s not yet a cold enough day in tax-cut hell for some Republicans to repent.
“Last Tuesday, as temperatures outside fell to cattle-threatening single digits, a majority of Republicans in the Kansas Senate barreled toward sanity-threatening triple digits, passing a package of tax cuts that could cost the state $600 million. On Thursday, they rang up another $10 million by deciding to spend public money to help more kids go to private religious schools.”
From yours truly: “Opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates doesn’t mean you’re opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s been the talking point from conservative leaders. Former president Trump even said you wouldn’t need mandates if he was president because of his sales skills.
“With the Kansas Legislature’s special anti-mandate session beginning today, I thought I’d put that talking point to the test. I reached out to the 11 members of the 2021 Special Committee on Government Overreach and the Impact of COVID-19 Mandates, which paved the way for the session, to ask two questions.”
Aarushi Pore writes: “In the land that promises liberty and justice for all, the constitutional rights of many are being revoked. Texas has banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — before most people know they are pregnant — with no exceptions for rape or incest.
“The law also places a bounty, quite literally, on individuals seeking abortions and allows private citizens to track them. This infringes upon the basic human right of access to health care and creates a dangerous environment. Those in need could put their lives at risk simply to receive basic health care.
“Kansans should be concerned that their state Legislature is about to do the same. Anti-choice and anti-Constitution politicians in Topeka have made it extremely clear that laws like these are what they want to pass here in Kansas.”
Critical race theory
Rachel Showstack writes: “The Kansas State Board of Education released a statement in July clarifying that CRT is not a part of Kansas’s academic standards. However, the board’s statement does not speak to the real problem: in much of the public discourse on this matter, CRT is being conflated with other teaching approaches related to social equity.
“When an institution that oversees K-12 education boldly denies that its faculty teach CRT, we have a recipe for widespread censorship.”
Grey Endres writes: “Kansas children and families served by the child welfare system deserve accountability, transparency and a truly independent Office of the Child Advocate to provide oversight of our state’s foster care system.
“The Office of the Child Advocate is a best practice model that has been effective in other states. Its role is to step in on behalf of children and families who are experiencing unfair treatment as well as issue recommendations for improving policies and practices for the system. By establishing transparent, neutral oversight, this office can also prevent unnecessary removals that in turn will reduce the traumatic impact of poorly managed child welfare.”
Paul Samberg writes: “Kansans of all political preferences celebrated earlier this month when the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill in favor of medical marijuana.
“While HB 158 passed with a 79-42 vote, indicating progress on the marijuana front, it still faces opposition in the Senate.
“And even though one chamber passed this bill, it is long overdue. Of all 50 states, 36 have legalized medical marijuana.
“It’s also well past the time for Kansas lawmakers to legalize not just medicinal use but also recreational use of marijuana.”
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