Friday news roundup: Four things you need to know


Good morning everyone:

Lots of stuff happening around the Capitol even if we seem to be running in place with lawmakers now at an impasse over abortion and Medicaid expansion.

There are hearings over bills that may be headed nowhere while other hearings seem to replay the same issue over and over even as other significant bills are moving out of committee without much attention.

Let’s take a look at four things you may have missed but need to know from Thursday in Kansas politics.

Kessinger challenger

This was not unexpected, but Republican state Rep. Jan Kessinger drew a primary challenge from Jane Dirks, a Republican precinct committeewoman in Overland Park.

Jane Dirks

Dirks immediately pounced on Kessinger’s vote last week against a constitutional amendment reversing a state Supreme Court decision that found the right to an abortion is protected by the state constitution.

“The Value Them Both Amendment would allow Kansans to vote on whether even the most basic life-saving limits on abortion should remain in place,” Dirks said in a statement.

“Sadly, my opponent was one of only four Republicans to vote against the amendment despite the fact most Kansans support common sense regulations such as parental notification and a ban on taxpayer funding of abortion.

“My opponent clearly does not,” Dirks said.

She added, “My opponent ran as a Republican but has a voting record which consistently sides with the Democrats on almost every major issue.”‘

Jan Kessinger

Dirks listed her priorities as “lowering the tax burden on families and healthcare access and affordability.”

Kessinger, now finishing his second term in the Kansas House,  said his voting record is more consistent with Republicans.

“However, I vote according to the issues and for all the people in District 20, not just one party,” Kessinger said in a statement.

“Our district wants legislators who think, not do just as told by extremist organizations.”

Kessinger said voters in House District 20 “have a clear choice this election cycle.”

“During my service, I have repeatedly said no to partisan politics and policies that have proven harmful to our community,” Kessinger said.

“I offer experience, leadership and strong support for public education,” he said.

“I look forward to continuing the conversation with voters about what’s right for our schools, our families and our community.”

The district went for Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly in 2018, Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, former Gov. Sam Brownback in 2014 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

Kessinger raised $18,640 last year and had about $21,500 on hand at the end of the year.

The winner of the GOP primary faces Democrat Mari-Lynn Poskin in the general election.

Vaccination hearing

An overflow crowd packed into a committee room Thursday as the House Education Committee took testimony on a bill giving the Legislature the power to require certain vaccinations in schools and day care facilities. The power is now within the purview of the Kansas health department.

No telling how far this legislation will advance since the committee chair left open the possibility he wouldn’t work the bill. But the hearing did generate a lot of buzz at the Capitol.

Here’s coverage from the Capital-Journal, McClatchy Fox 4 Kansas City, and KSNT-TV in Topeka.

Vaping hearing

Lawmakers Thursday heard testimony on a bill that would raise the age for purchasing tobacco products to 21.

The bill also would ban the sale of flavored vaping products, except menthol. It also would ban the sale of cigarettes in vending machines.

While most of the coverage was focused on flavored vaping products, it’s worth noting that Kansas can’t enforce the new federal law raising the tobacco age to 21 without a state law.

Enforcement would be left to local governments with laws setting the age at 21 or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which rarely uses its full enforcement powers to crack down on violators.

Here’s coverage of Thursday’s hearing from the Capital-Journal, Kansas News Service, KWCH television in Wichita and KSNT television in Topeka.

Attorney general vs. revenue secretary

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt faced off Thursday with Revenue Secretary Mark Burghart over whether Kansas needs a minimum threshold for collecting internet sales taxes from out-of-state retailers.

In what amounted to be a mild-mannered debate before the House tax committee, Schmidt and Burghart made their cases on setting a minimum threshold for collecting internet sales taxes from out-of-state businesses.

Burghart doesn’t believe a threshold is required after a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision cleared the way for sales tax collections from out-of-state businesses.

Schmidt believes a threshold similar to one upheld by the U.S.  Supreme Court in South Dakota would be most easily defended in court.