You’d think a legislative session resulting in record tax increases would be drama enough for one summer.
But not for the Kansas Legislature, apparently.
A special committee has said it will meet Friday to consider a complaint brought by nine Republicans against Democratic Rep. Valdenia Winn of Kansas City, Kan. The GOP lawmakers were offended because Winn referred to a particular bill and people who support it as racist.
Republicans should drop this matter. The 2015 legislative session is all but over. Lawmakers will convene Friday for the ceremonial adjournment and to consider fixing a bungled bill. After that, they should cut their losses and go home.
The only outcome likely to result from a disciplinary hearing of an African-American legislator who spoke passionately on behalf of her constituents is more negative publicity for Kansas and more bad blood among lawmakers.
The trouble began at a March committee hearing during discussion of a bill to revoke in-state college tuition for children of undocumented immigrants.
Winn understandably detested that bill. She teaches history at Kansas City Kansas Community College, and sees firsthand the potential of the students who would be priced out of a college education.
“I want to apologize to the students and parents whose lives are being hijacked by the racist bigots who support this bill,” Winn said.
A Republican lawmaker objected. Winn said she was talking about institutional racism, not individual racism. But that didn’t appease lawmakers.
Winn wasn’t exactly diplomatic, but serving in a legislature requires a thick skin. To subject her to an inquisition would undoubtedly invite comparisons to impolitic remarks by legislators who enjoy the protection of the large Republican majority. Virgil Peck’s joke about shooting illegal immigrants from helicopters because the practice worked to contain wild pigs jumps to mind.
Winn spoke up forcefully on behalf of young people who have no voice of their own. For Republicans to harass her for doing so only demonstrates why strong language is necessary.