Brown v. Board Mural Private Unveiling Comments
May 16, 2018
Brown v. Board Mural Private Unveiling Comments
May 16, 2018
Capitol Comments – February 8, 2018
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Today marks one month since the 2018 Legislative Session convened. This week also marked the last week for bill introductions, with a few exceptions. Committees continued holding hearings and passing bills out of committee, including one I co-sponsored with Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning that prohibits the privatization of operations of correctional facilities.
Governor Colyer delivered his version of the State of the State on Wednesday afternoon, almost a month after Brownback delivered his own message. Many say this change in leadership is the beginning of a new era. The reality is, it’s a new governor with the same thinking. Colyer loyally and silently stood by Brownback as their reckless economic policies destroyed our state.
The Kansas Legislature must continue to pursue the path we began in 2017 with a spirit of inclusion and bipartisanship to fully move our state beyond Brownback/Colyer. Our state will prosper when we invest in the people of Kansas and our shared priorities.
It is truly an honor to serve you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at 785-296-3245 or by email at Anthony.Hensley@senate.ks.gov. Or, stop by my legislative office located in room 318-E of the Statehouse. I also encourage you to follow me on Facebook.com/SenatorAnthonyHensley.
Thank you, again, for your continued support.
Senate Democratic Leader
In this issue:
Gov. Jeff Colyer delivered his own version of the State of the State message Wednesday to a joint session of the Kansas House and Senate. His speech made it clear that one of his main objectives is to distance himself from Sam Brownback as much as possible.
In his speech he highlighted the executive order he signed that requires annual sexual harassment training of all executive branch personnel. He also announced four additional executive orders that aim to increase transparency in state government. They include:
Transparency has been a hot topic this session after the Kansas City Star published a series discussing the secrecy in Kansas government. Earlier this session, Democrats announced a host of bills they’ve introduced to address issues discussed in the Star’s series.
Colyer also discussed the need to stop the raids on the highway fund, to meet obligations with KPERS, and to finally put an end to the ongoing school finance litigation. However, he outlined no specific policies for how to achieve these goals.
While Kansans want these shared priorities funded, it can’t be forgotten Colyer has loyally stood by over the past seven years while economic policies wrecked our state. He is only concerned with winning the primary in August.
As is tradition, the minority party outlined their own legislative priorities during an official response to the first State of the State. These priorities remain unchanged even with the new governor.
It took a strong bipartisan coalition in the 2017 Legislature to begin restoring fiscal stability; it will take that, again, this year to continue progress.
Democrats remain committed to finding bipartisan solutions that embrace our shared priorities, such as:
We also remain committed to being fiscally responsible and making sure everyone pays their fair share. Our state will prosper when we invest in the people of Kansas.
Legislative leaders on the State Finance Council approved last week a controversial 20-year, $362 million project with prison management company CoreCivic to build a new Lansing Correctional Facility. I did not support the agreement.
While Lansing Correctional Facility is 150 years-old and does need updating, the process by which the proposal came about is concerning. While this vote did not actually privatize the prison, I believe it was certainly the first step towards privatization. As a result, I co-sponsored Senate Bill 328 with Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning (R-Overland Park), which ensures management of our correctional facilities remains with the Kansas Department of Corrections.
This bill had a hearing this week. Sen. Denning and I offered testimony in support of the bill along with an amendment that allows services such as laundry and food to be outsourced. The committee supported the amended bill out and it now heads to the Senate for full consideration.
Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) and I introduced a bill this week that requires lobbyist registration to anyone attempting to influence an executive or judicial branch employee.
This bill addresses a serious flaw in our current law where individuals can lobby the executive branch without having to register as lobbyists. Taxpayers deserve to know who is involved and what role they’ve played in influencing action within each branch of state government. This is an opportunity to increase transparency and to make government work better for the people of Kansas.
The Kansas Department of Revenue announced last week that January revenue came in $165 million above estimates. This month marks the eighth consecutive month that revenues have exceeded estimates and puts the state up $249 million for the fiscal year. This is good news!
Federal tax changes contributed to this influx as more individuals paid state and local taxes before the end of 2017. However, the changes made at the state level by the 2017 Legislature have contributed to the stabilizing of the budget. There is still a long road of recovery ahead of us, but for now we can breathe just a little easier knowing our bipartisan, collaborative efforts have made great progress towards restoring fiscal sanity in the state.
Kansas has the eighth highest sales tax rate in the nation and the highest sales tax rate on food in the nation, when combined with local sales tax rates. Sales tax is regressive and burdensome, especially on Kansans living on a fixed income. That is why during the 2017 Legislative Session, Senate Democrats introduced and supported legislation to reduce the sales tax rate on food.
The Senate Committee on Assessment and Taxation last week held a hearing on SCR 1604, which is a constitutional amendment that phases down the sales tax food rate to 2%, without factoring the local sales tax rate. The current rate, without local rates, is 6.5%. (Read more here.)
Since this is a constitutional amendment, it would require two-thirds majority vote from the House and the Senate. Then, it would be placed on a ballot for public vote.
Over the years Kansas Democrats have consistently demonstrated our commitment to transparency by holding open caucuses, cooperating with open record requests, signing the Open Kansas Transparency Pledge, and introducing and supporting bills that require state government to be more open and accessible. This year is no different.
Members of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses last week rolled out more than a dozen bills seeking to address this issue. Proposals include:
The following editorial is attributed to Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka:
As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, Kansas has a new governor and Sam Brownback has a new title. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer has become Governor Colyer while Sam Brownback heads to Washington D.C. to serve as the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
When he first became governor, Sam Brownback told Republican legislative leaders that he wanted to go down in history as the best Governor our state has ever seen, but here is what the Brownback/Colyer administration has accomplished:
With accomplishments like these, Sam Brownback will go down in history as the worst Governor our state has ever seen. All the while Jeff Colyer loyally and silently stood by.
With Brownback gone, some say this is the beginning of a new era. The reality is, it’s a new governor with the same thinking.
The following statement is attributed to Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley:
“Today’s decision once again validates what I have been saying throughout the school finance litigation. Kansas children are being left behind because Governor Brownback and Republican legislators have failed to pass an adequate and equitable school finance law.
“The Kansas Supreme Court has set an April 30 deadline, which three Supreme Court justices disagree with due to the last minute action on school finance by the 2017 Legislature. We cannot wait until the 2018 session to remedy these constitutional violations.
“Accordingly, I call upon the Legislative Coordinating Council to appoint a special committee to begin work now on resolving the flaws in Senate Bill 19, many of which I outlined in my Constitutional Protest back in June.”
2017 DemoFest Luncheon Speech
Delivered by Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley
September 30, 2017
Have you heard the good news?
Sam Brownback is leaving Kansas. Next Wednesday will be his Senate confirmation hearing and in the very near future he will no longer be governor.
When he first became governor, Sam told Republican legislative leaders that he wanted to go down in history as the best Governor our state has ever seen.
That didn’t work out so well. So, here’s the bad news. Here’s some of what he’s accomplished as Governor:
A self-inflicted budget crisis that resulted in a $700 million shortfall in one year, or $100 million more than in the three years our state suffered through the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression;
Not one, not two, but three credit downgrades;
Turning a billion dollar surplus into a billion dollar shortfall;
Increasing our state’s sales tax to where Kansans now pay the highest sales tax on food in the nation, when combined with local sales taxes;
Borrowing and bonding at all-time record levels;
Using our state’s retirement system like a credit card;
Depleting our state’s highway fund by $2.7 billion and, as a result, deteriorating our infrastructure;
Funding K-12 schools inadequately and unfairly;
Stripping teachers of their due process rights;
Subsidizing private schools with public dollars;
Cutting $24 million from higher education;
Recurring record levels of poverty, especially for children;
Refusing to expanding Medicaid while 150,000 Kansans remain uninsured;
Children sleeping in the offices of Kansas foster care contractors;
Working men and women facing stagnant wages, no job growth, and unsafe workplaces;
Asking state employees to sacrifice their civil service protections in exchange for pay increases;
Rioting in our prisons while corrections officers are being forced to work 18-hour shifts;
Shutting down the Joan Finney office building in Wichita and moving state agencies to less secure office space, which resulted in the recent shooting of a Revenue employee.
With accomplishments like these, Sam Brownback will go down in history as the worst Governor our state has ever seen.
When I heard the news that Sam was taking a position in the Trump administration, this was my statement to the news media:
“Sam Brownback will be remembered for becoming the most unpopular governor in America. His tax experiment failed to grow the economy as he promised. Instead, his policies have bankrupted our state and led to destroying nearly every agency of state government as well as his own political career.
He is moving on not because of anything he accomplished in Kansas but because of who he knows in Washington, D.C.”
Last year at Demofest, I told you that the people of Kansas need and deserve a new and different Legislature.
I told you that the only way we can stop Sam Brownback’s reckless tax experiment, his anti-public education and anti-labor agenda, was to defeat those Republican legislators who have rubber-stamped that agenda.
Well, what do you know?
Voters ousted more than a dozen Brownback rubber stampers in the 2016 primary elections and elected more moderates and Democrats in the general elections.
In my statement following the primary elections, I said, “It is time to move beyond Brownback and elect candidates who will chart a new roadmap for Kansas in a positive, productive, and bi-partisan direction.”
The 2017 session of the Kansas Legislature did exactly that. We took the first bi-partisan steps to restoring our state from the reckless Brownback agenda.
We put an end to the failed Brownback tax experiment, allowing Kansas to begin down a path to a solid financial future for the first time since 2012.
We restored fairness to the tax code and eliminated Brownback’s “glide path to zero” income tax.
We restored three income tax brackets that are still at lower rates than the tax brackets prior to 2012.
We restored the Child Care Tax Credit to help Kansas families with small children.
We restored the mortgage interest, property tax, and medical expense temized deductions, which will help homeowners and those living on fixed incomes.
We put us back on a path to stabilize the budget, restore funding cuts made to K-12 schools, Regents institutions, the state highway fund, KPERS, and other important services that have had to bear the brunt of Sam Brownback’s disastrous policies.
Less than 24 hours after overriding Brownback’s veto on our new tax plan, Moody’s Investor Services adjusted our credit rating from negative to stable.
This credit rating change is further proof that the 2017 Kansas Legislature took the right step in overriding Brownback’ veto.
I want to commend our ranking Democrats on the House and Senate tax committees for their leadership on the tax bill – Tom Sawyer and Tom Holland.
After the veto override, we passed a budget that provided state employees a pay raise – the first time many had received a raise in nearly a decade.
Our budget began restoring cuts to Home and Community based services by approving a 7% rate increase over the next two years, and we provided funding for additional beds at Osawatomie State Hospital.
We also passed a bill to expand Medicaid. And, while Brownback vetoed the bill, we will not be deterred. We will expand Medicaid this next session.
And, we passed a law to keep guns out of hospitals, mental health facilities, and adult care homes.
While all of this was a major step in the right direction, it is just the first step.
There is still more work to be done.
K-12 schools continue to face inadequate funding, rural hospitals risk closure without Medicaid expansion, and our sales tax on food remains the highest in the nation.
State agencies, including the Kansas Highway Patrol, the KBI, the Department of Corrections, and our state hospitals are understaffed and their employees are overworked and underpaid.
We also need to extend the prohibition of guns to our college campuses.
The damage caused by Brownback and his allies did not happen overnight. It will take time to fully recover, and it will take a continued bi-partisan coalition to undo the damage.
But, while a bi-partisan coalition is important, electing more Democrats to the Kansas House in 2018 is even more important.
You can’t always depend on moderate Republicans to do the right thing.
But, the people of Kansas can always count on House and Senate Democrats to continue the fight to reverse the Brownback agenda.
They can always count on us to be a strong voice for common sense policies that strengthen our state by investing in our people.
They can always count on us to stand up for equality and social justice; to stand up for fundamental human rights, like the right to marry who you love or to make your own health care decisions.
They can always count on us to protect the dignity of a hard day’s work for a livable wage, and to provide government services that help those most in need.
Or, as Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”
Yes, and above nearly all else, the people of Kansas can count on the House and Senate Democrats to maintain a fair, sustainable tax system and invest those tax dollars to improve the quality of public education and our state’s infrastructure.
We must work hard to protect the seats we won in 2016, and fight together in 2018 to win more in the Kansas House of Representatives.
And, we must roll up our sleeves, put our differences aside, and work together to elect Democrats to statewide offices and to send Democrats to Washington D.C.
Because the last thing this country needs is for Sam Brownback’s failed tax experiment to go national.
In the 41 years I’ve held elective office, I have staked my reputation and my public service on working for and with the Kansas Democratic Party. Through the years, we have celebrated election night victories and endured painful election night defeats.
One such election night defeat I shall always remember was in 1986. That was the night Tom Docking lost his race for Governor. And, even though he was not able to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather or his father, Tom Docking never lost his purpose and passion for life.
He never lost his involvement in the Kansas Democratic Party nor his commitment to the Wichita community and to our state.
So, as we enter yet another election cycle in 2018, let us follow the example set by that great Democrat, Tom Docking.
Let us never lose our purpose and passion as Democrats.
And, let us never lose our commitment to the Kansas Democratic Party and, more importantly, our commitment to the people of Kansas.