Legislature deflects Democrats’ maneuvering on clergy reporting mandate, food sales tax

GOP majorities reject attempts to pull reform measures out of committee

By: and - April 26, 2022 8:05 am
Sen.Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, failed to convince enough Senate colleagues to support his motion to pull from committee a proposed constitutional amendment making religious leaders required reporters of child abuse. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Sen.Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, failed to convince enough Senate colleagues to support his motion to pull from committee a proposed constitutional amendment making religious leaders required reporters of child abuse. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Democratic Sen. Tom Holland found little support for a motion Tuesday to bring to the full Senate a resolution stuck in committee that would require religious leaders in Kansas to become mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse or neglect.

Holland, of Baldwin City, found no interest among the Republican supermajority to overrule GOP Senate leadership’s view that the “Stop Protecting Pedophile Priests Amendment” didn’t merit consideration. Holland’s motion, which required 24 votes for approval, failed 10-24.

“For far, far too long the Kansas Legislature has looked the other way while pedophile priests, pastors and other religious leaders of faith sexually assaulted Kansas children,” Holland said.

His proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution would make ordained ministers of religion mandatory reporters along with educators, law enforcement officers and others. His amendment contained no exclusion for communications with individuals during a religious confession of sinfulness.

Holland’s proposal in Senate Concurrent Resolution 1624 was introduced in March, but the Senate Judiciary Committee had taken no action on the measure.

If his motion had drawn support from 24 of the 40 senators, the underlying amendment would have become available for consideration by the full Senate. To make it to statewide ballots, two-thirds of Senate members and two-thirds of House members would have had to vote for it.

In the House, Rep. Jim Gartner, D-Topeka, was author of a comparable unsuccessful motion that would have brought to the House floor a bill repealing the state’s 6.5% sales tax on groceries. Kansas has the nation’s second-highest food sales tax in the nation, and pressure has been building to devote a portion of the state’s tax revenue surplus to reducing or eliminating the food sales tax on groceries.

Gartner invoked a rule triggering the vote on his motion to withdraw House Bill 2487 from the House Taxation Committee. He needed 70 votes to pull it off. The motion was rejected 48-74, with 10 Republicans joining all 38 Democrats in support of Gartner’s idea of breathing life into the bill.

“The majority party struck down direct, immediate tax relief to families,” said House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat. “We will work with them to keep pressing for a 0% state food tax. We can afford it, Kansans need it, and it’s our job. We’re not finished trying to axe the food tax yet.”

Rep. Dave Baker, a Council Grove Republican who voted for the motion, said the higher food sales tax in Kansas was incentive for shoppers to go to grocery stores in Missouri, where the food sales tax is 1.2%.

“I’m telling you they’re getting crushed in Kansas City,” he said. “It has turned into a weekend adventure for all those people to go over there and shop in Missouri.”

GOP leaders in the Legislature have weighed the possibility of phasing out state portion of food sales tax over three years, but have been cool to giving Kelly a policy victory amid her campaign for re-election.

During a House Republican caucus prior to voting on Gartner’s motion, House Speaker Ron Ryckman of Olathe said this procedural move was an attempt to divide the party.

Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, warned colleagues not to burn through excess cash on hand because when the money evaporated the requests for more spending would remain.

“You’re not gonna want to cut these budgets. What do you think your schools are gonna say?” Landwher said. “I have never and I will not under any circumstances vote for a tax increase because you act irresponsibly.”

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.

Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.