Women’s Caucus Played Pivotal Role In Restoring Sanity To Kansas Statehouse
The Kansas Statehouse is one of the most ornate in the country. For a while, wherever my family traveled – New Hampshire, Tennessee, Massachusetts, New Mexico – we made a point of visiting capitol buildings to see how they compared with ours.
Kansas is a parsimonious state, where the legislature is not given to investing in public beauty, and yet legislators okayed the $325 million restoration project. One day recently, 109 schoolchildren from Gardner, Kansas, on a field trip, found places to stand or sit on the ground-floor marble map of Kansas with all 105 counties depicted. The Statehouse truly belongs to all the state’s residents.
I live a mile and a half from the Kansas Capitol in an historic central Topeka neighborhood. In early February, on an uncharacteristically warm Sunday, I was raking leaves out of the gutter when my Democratic state senator and neighbor, Laura Kelly, walked by. I asked her about the legislative session.
She observed that the moderate Republicans who were elected in November 2016 were more progressive than the moderates who lost their seats to conservatives in 2012. She said she was having fun and working harder because legislators were collaborating.
And yet by the time the legislature took their adjournment April 7, that collaboration had collapsed. The House had passed a tax reform bill with a veto-proof margin, but the Senate was three votes short. Similarly, the legislature was unable to override Governor Sam Brownback’s veto of expanded Medicaid coverage.
With this stubborn ideologue still in the governor’s office in our stately capitol, someone more invested in his red-state experiment than in pragmatic politics, even with 55 freshman lawmakers, progress seemed stuck.
Shortly after Memorial weekend, on a visit to the Capitol during the veto session, I met Rep. Cindy Holscher, a freshman Democrat from Overland Park. I asked […]