Opinion

Take a look at these six hot topics from Kansas’ 2021, with opinion pieces to match

January 3, 2022 3:33 am

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.


 

The Kansas Department of Revenue reported the state of Kansas took in $758 million more in state tax revenue than anticipated in the fiscal year stretching from July 1, 2020, to June 30. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
The Kansas Department of Revenue reported the state of Kansas took in $758 million more in state tax revenue than anticipated in the fiscal year stretching from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Taxes

A veteran of Kansas’ disastrous tax-cutting era says Republicans have taken ‘several steps backwards’ (Feb. 15)

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.”

Kansas Republicans claim they want to cut the food sales tax. So why haven’t they? (Nov. 11)

 

Rep. Brenda Landwehr (left) speaks with Senate President Ty Masterson in November. Landwehr has been vaccinated against COVID-19; Masterson didn’t answer the question. (Clay Wirestone illustration/Kansas Reflector, legislator image by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector, vaccines by Getty Images)

COVID-19

Kansas mandate panel heard anti-vax propaganda, but did members get their shots? I decided to ask. (Nov. 22)

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.”

The Kansas Legislature has subjected school boards to ludicrous anti-mask political theater (April 15)

Kansas Legislature throws two-day anti-vax rager, extremists welcome (Nov. 2)

 

Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, and Rep. Susan Humphries, R-Wichita, made the case for passage of an amendment to the Kansas Constitution declaring no fundamental right to abortion existed in the state. The Kansas Supreme Court issued a decision in 2019 declaring otherwise. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)
In January, Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, and Rep. Susan Humphries, R-Wichita, made the case for passage of an amendment to the Kansas Constitution declaring no fundamental right to abortion existed in the state. The Kansas Supreme Court issued a decision in 2019 declaring otherwise. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

Abortion 

Anti-abortion amendment vote next year will decide Kansas women’s rights (Nov. 10)

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.”

‘Mission critical’: Four numbers show why abortion rights in Kansas face an urgent test (Sept. 22)

 

Rep. Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, says lawmakers are tired of hearing the academic definition of critical race theory. (Screen capture from Legislature live video)

Critical race theory

Critical Race Theory and the encroaching silence (Oct. 11)

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.”

What the Kansas attorney general needs to know about critical race theory (June 8)

The latest fear for Kansas schools: CRT is turning our children gay (Dec. 7)

 

Aaron Carter, a 6-year-old boy with autism, died in February after he was placed with new parents in Wichita. Tina and Jamie Miller, who previously provided foster care for Aaron, believe his death could have been avoided. (Jeff Tuttle for Kansas Reflector)

Foster care 

How long do Kansas foster children have to wait for truly independent accountability? (June 29)

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.”

‘Everybody’ is to blame for Kansas’ foster care problems, says lawmaker who’s been trying to help (June 2)

How to strengthen Kansas foster care and help children and families thrive (Sept. 13)

 

A sign advertises a marijuana dispensary at Salida, Colorado, in 2014, a few months after recreational marijuana became legal in the state. (Max McCoy/Kansas Reflector)

Marijuana

Kansas lawmakers should just go ahead and legalize recreational use of marijuana (May 21)

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.”

From alcohol to pain-relieving pot, Prohibition runs deep in Kansas (Sept. 19)

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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Most recently, Clay spent nearly four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics, and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.

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