Government & Politics

Porn, abortion, school funding and Medicaid on lawmakers’ minds

As Kansas lawmakers continue to seek solutions to projected budget shortfalls of roughly $1 billion through June 2019, the House took a break this week to debate a nonbinding resolution against pornography.
As Kansas lawmakers continue to seek solutions to projected budget shortfalls of roughly $1 billion through June 2019, the House took a break this week to debate a nonbinding resolution against pornography.


PUBLIC HEALTH HAZARD: Lawmakers in Kansas voted almost unanimously this week to condemn porn as a public health hazard, but not before a 20-minute debate on the House floor on pornography’s definition, what it looks like, and what it does and doesn’t do.

The resolution says pornography can lead to public health issues and societal harms, and contributes to erectile dysfunction in young men.

But that belief was disputed by a 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that found porn “does not seem to be a significant risk factor for younger men’s desire, erectile, or orgasmic difficulties.”

The resolution, which makes no change to state law, came as lawmakers continued to seek solutions to projected budget shortfalls of roughly $1 billion through June 2019.

“When a person consumes pornography, it’s like consuming cocaine or opioids,” said Rep. Chuck Weber, a Wichita Republican. “... It messes up the wiring in our brains.”

The House vote was 123-1. The “no” vote belonged to Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat.

Carmichael questioned whether, under the resolution, works of art and literature such as Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” could be considered pornography.

“Shakespeare would never be considered pornography using the old Kansas common-sense test,” Weber said.

That failed to sway Carmichael. “(My vote) is not meant as an encouragement to violent, graphic depictions,” he said, “but rather it is in defense of freedom, liberty and the First Amendment, despite the fact that the price of freedom is high.”

ABORTION INFORMATION: Kansas doctors will soon have to give more information, in a specific font and type size, to patients before an abortion if a House bill continues to advance.

The House approved House Bill 2319 on Thursday, 87-37.

If it passes the Senate and is signed into law, patients would get the additional information at least a day before an abortion. It would be printed on paper in 12-point Times New Roman. The ink would be black.

The information would include the year a doctor got their medical degree; whether they have malpractice insurance; and details about any disciplinary action against them.

Rep. Elizabeth Bishop, a Wichita Democrat, criticized the bill while saying she recognized that abortion is a serious issue. “I think the approach is nonserious,” she said.

But Rep. Shelee Brim, a Shawnee Republican, said women need the information the bill would require before making “a life-changing decision.”

“I just think once you are pregnant and you have that baby inside you, you’re speaking for that baby as well,” Brim said.


BUDGET CLEARS HOUSE COMMITTEE: The House Budget Committee this week signed off on the state’s $27 billion budget.

House Budget Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, a Shell Knob Republican, pointed to the fact that the House budget proposal would fully fund K-12 public schools and hike funding for the public defender’s office by $2 million.

Most of the state’s universities and community colleges would see a 6.5 percent budget reduction; the University of Missouri System would see a 9 percent reduction.

To restore $56 million in cuts proposed by Gov. Eric Greitens for in-home health care for elderly and disabled Missourians, the House budget relies on legislation eliminating a property tax credit for seniors who rent their home. That legislation still needs Senate approval.

House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, a Kansas City Democrat, said Thursday that her party was relatively pleased with the Budget Committee’s work.

“It’s a testament that the budget chair did work with Democrats on a lot of things,” she said.

The full House will take up the budget next week, with the Senate to follow.

MEDICAID EXPANSION: As Kansas lawmakers weigh whether to override Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a bill expanding eligibility for Medicaid, the Missouri House overwhelmingly rejected a similar proposal.

The House voted 102-41 against an amendment offered by Democratic Rep. Kip Kendrick of Columbia.

Earlier in the week, Greitens said he would not support Medicaid expansion. Broadening eligibility for Medicaid is a key tenant of the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

“We’re not going to expand Obamacare here in Missouri,” Greitens said.

It’s been estimated that Medicaid expansion would allow roughly 300,000 uninsured Missourians to get coverage.

GREITENS APPOINTMENTS: The Missouri Senate has delayed confirming the governor’s picks to serve on the University of Missouri Board of Curators.

An expected vote on Thursday never took place, and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican, said he and his fellow GOP lawmakers wanted to meet with the governor to resolve some issues before voting to confirm.

Richard did not specify what the issues were, but The Missouri Times reports that it likely is tied to the governor’s decision to extend paid family leave to some executive branch employees.

The Senate also delayed taking action on appointees to the Missouri State University Board of Governors and the Clean Water Commission.

Earlier this year, Richard delayed a committee vote on the governor’s appointments to lead several state agencies. The move was seen at the time as retribution for the governor publicly attacking two GOP senators over a proposed legislative pay raise, although Richard said the delay was simply to give senators more time to ask questions about the governor’s appointments.

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw