Kansas proposal against transgender athletes gets traction

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A proposal aimed at keeping transgender students out of girls’ and women’s sports is attracting enough interest in the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature to worry LGBTQ advocates.

A conservative Republican lawmaker introduced the measure this week in the state Senate. An Education Committee hearing hasn’t been set, but the committee chair said the bill is designed to ensure “the playing field is fair” in girls’ and women’s sports.

“It’s been a hot topic,” said Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop, a Wichita Republican. “There’s a great interest in that by a large segment of the Republican caucus.”

The Kansas State High School Activities Association, which oversees sports and other activities, has been notified of five transgender students who are active in middle school or high school activities. Bill Faflick, its executive director, said Friday that he assumes most or all are athletes, because other activities are gender-neutral. The association does not track the individual students’ performance, and there’s no record of a transgender athlete winning a championship.

Kansas is among at least eight states that are considering banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls’ or women’s sports in K-12 schools and colleges. In Tennessee, Republican Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday that allowing participation by transgender students “will destroy women’s sports.”

An executive order from Democratic President Joe Biden prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere sparked a backlash from conservative groups. In the U.S. Senate, Kansas Republican Roger Marshall is also backing legislation that would keep transgender athletes from participating in girls’ or women’s sports.

“I just want to ensure that women have the same opportunity that I had a college athlete, to have a fair and equitable playing field,” said state Sen. Renee Erickson, a former college basketball point guard, the Wichita Republican behind the measure. “It’s protecting discrimination against women.”

Proposals to criminalize medical treatments that help transgender minors transition to their gender identities also have been introduced in the Kansas House and Senate but appear unlikely to get hearings.

Equality Kansas, the state’s leading LGBTQ-rights group, has in recent years fought to keep such proposals from getting even a committee hearing, arguing that greater visibility for them spurs more harassment of kids who already face a high level of bullying. A similar House bill on transgender athletes last year never got a hearing.

Tom Witt, the group’s executive director, sees such measures as conservatives’ reaction to being unable to bar gay marriage since a 2015 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Almost every single anti-LGBT bill that’s been introduced since marriage was legalized has been targeted at children,” Witt said. “They’re schoolkids — they’re in school. They can’t be up here fighting this stuff.”

Freshman Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Byers, of Wichita, the Legislature’s first transgender member, said the dearth of transgender champions in girl’s and women’s sports shows that there’s no fairness-in-competition issue. The Kansas activities association has for about a decade had a policy under which schools can allow transgender students to play on teams associated with their gender identities. Schools are supposed to notify the association when they do.

Byers said the push for the measure contrasts with lawmakers’ concerns about how K-12 schools’ move to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has potentially damaged kids’ mental health because, among other things, some have restricted sports.

“Now, we see them intentionally trying to prevent kids from participating in athletics because of gender identity, completely unaware that it’s going to cause mental health issues that are completely unrepairable,” Byers said.

Republicans hold supermajorities in both legislative chambers, but some GOP lawmakers have misgivings about pursuing the measure on transgender athletes, including some conservatives.

At least a few worry that allowing a debate could spark a broader fight over LGBTQ rights — and force lawmakers to discuss expanding the state law against discrimination in employment and housing, which doesn’t specifically bar bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Might not like it — careful what you ask for,” said House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican.

Read SB 208 as Introduced into Legislation below:

KS Legislation SB 208 – As Introduced

Kansas lawmakers consider bills to cut drug crime penalties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas lawmakers are considering two bills to reduce penalties for minor drug crimes.

Kansas News Service reports that supporters of the lighter sentences say the bills would create more reasonable drug laws and reduce the state’s prison population.

Opponents told a Kansas House committee this week that the legislation would go too far and fail to recognize that all drug crimes feed an often-violent illegal drug trade.

One bill would reduce prison and probation sentences for the lowest-tier of drug crimes, such as possession or intent to distribute a small amount.

A second bill would recommend probation rather than prison for people convicted of a wider array of minor drug crimes. Some would also receive state-funded drug abuse treatment.

The two bills are among the recommendations made by the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission, a group of legislators, judges, attorneys, community members and others who met regularly in 2019 and 2020 to discuss changes to the state’s criminal justice system.

Scott Schultz, executive director of the Kansas Sentencing Commission, said studies show long prison sentences are not a deterrent to drug crimes and shorter sentences don’t lead to a rise in drug crimes.

Kansas bill to recognize other states’ gun permits advances


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A House committee has advanced a bill to expand Kansas’ recognition of other states’ concealed carry permits.

The bill is backed by Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who said in a hearing last month that the bill would help the state maintain reciprocity agreements with other states so that Kansans can carry concealed firearms elsewhere.

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted 14-5 to advance the bill to the full House for a vote.

Schmidt said that when Kansas lawmakers passed a law in 2015 allowing residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit, they removed a provision that required the attorney general to recognize concealed carry permits issued by other jurisdictions. Schmidt said states had since raised concerns with his office about the lack of reciprocity language in Kansas’ law.

“There are at least some people in other states who could lawfully, temporarily carry in Kansas before, who cannot now,” Schmidt said. “And I don’t think it’s a large number of people overall, but it’s real.”

The bill is drawing pushback from Democrats and gun control groups. Some of them worry the bill would allow people from states with looser gun laws to carry concealed weapons in Kansas, including states that allow people convicted of certain stalking crimes and some violent offenders to carry a concealed weapon.

Danielle Twemlow, a Topeka volunteer with Moms Demand Action, a gun control group, told The Associated Press that she is worried about the bill allowing teenagers, some convicted stalkers and those who lack adequate gun safety training to carry a concealed firearm in Kansas.

“This is dangerous and it only puts Kansas at risk,” Twemlow said.

The committee rejected efforts by Democrats to weaken the concealed carry law. Rep. Jo Ella Hoye, of Lenexa, offered an amendment to repeal permitless concealed carry, and Rep. Boog Highberger of Lawrence offered an amendment that would have banned concealed carry in the Statehouse. Both failed.

As amended by the committee Wednesday, the bill would allow the attorney general to issue concealed carry permits “if at any time it becomes impractical” for the state Department of Revenue to issue permits and the attorney general decides problems have persisted over 30 days.

Wichita Republican Rep. Blake Carpenter pressed for the change, saying that some Kansans were unable to get permits when revenue department offices closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some proponents of the bill are pushing for another bill to lower the age for concealed carry of firearms in Kansas from 21 to 18, but committee members took no action on that Wednesday.


Andy Tsubasa Field is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

News to Know (2/10/21)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Opening arguments are slated to begin this afternoon in the second impeachment trial of former President Trump. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to continue with the proceeding after hearing arguments as to its constitutionality.  All 50 Democrats said it was constitutional. They were joined by six Republicans.

NIXA, Mo. – The Nixa, Missouri school district fired an assistant principal who is facing child pornography charges. A court affidavit says 41-year old Colby Fronterhouse pretended to be a 14 year old girl sending sexually explicit messages to a 13 year old boy. Authorities say Fronterhouse got the boy’s cell phone number through school records. He had been placed on administrative leave but the school board yesterday voted to fire him.

JOPLIN, Mo. – The wintry weather has led to dangerous road conditions. Driving on snow however, is different than driving on ice. While both are slick and hazardous, officials say you can get a little more traction on snow than you can with ice. In either case the Joplin police department says you need to play it safe. For the latest road conditions your state, you can go to our website, koamnewsnow.com, and click on “Road Conditions” at the top of the page.

Who do you think should pay the bill on the first date? http://koamnewsnow.com/vote

Sen. Hawley speaks on transition of power, social media, and assault on the Capitol

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) has made national headlines since the election in November, and appeared on the KOAM Morning News on Monday morning.

In the two part interview, the U.S. Senator answers questions regarding whether he recognizes Joseph R. Biden, Jr. as President of the United States, whether he’ll work with his administration, where he feels social media platforms should step in when it comes to suspending or removing its users, and how he plans to represent the state of Missouri despite the feedback he’s received from both sides of the aisle after the January 6th riots at the Capitol.

You can contact Senator Hawley’s office through this link –

Click here to watch clips from the KOAM Morning News

Virus outbreaks stoke tensions in some state capitols

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – After only their first few weeks of work, tensions already are high among lawmakers meeting in-person at some state capitols – not because of testy debates over taxes, guns or abortion, but because of a disregard for coronavirus precautions.

In Georgia, a Republican lawmaker recently was booted from the House floor for refusing to get tested for the coronavirus. In Iowa, a Democratic House member boldly violated a no-jeans rule to protest the chamber’s lack of a mask rule.

And in Missouri, numerous lawmakers and staff – some fearing for their health after a COVID-19 outbreak in the Capitol – scrambled to get vaccinated at a pop-up clinic before legislative leaders warned that the shots weren’t actually meant for them. GOP Gov. Mike Parson denounced the lawmakers as line-jumpers.

House Democratic leader Crystal Quade, who got the shot, blamed the lax policies of the Republican-led Legislature for fostering angst.

Lawmakers are “coming every week to a building that doesn’t have precautions, where people aren’t wearing masks, where people are getting a positive test left and right,” Quade said.

“We are essentially a super-spreader just waiting to happen,” she said.

Since the start of this year, more than 50 state lawmakers in roughly one-third of the states already have fallen ill with the virus, according to an Associated Press tally. More than 350 state legislators have gotten COVID-19 since the pandemic began, including seven who died after contracting it. Republican lawmakers have had a disproportionate share of the cases, according to the AP’s data.

The U.S. Capitol also experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases – and tensions – after some Republican lawmakers refused to wear masks while sheltering with others during the Jan. 6 siege by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

The Missouri Capitol has had one of the largest outbreaks so far this year, with at least 10 cases among lawmakers. That number might be higher, but it’s hard to know because some lawmakers have refused to say whether they contracted the virus and aren’t required to tell legislative administrators.

Missouri’s legislature has no mask requirement, no formal contact tracing and no ability for lawmakers to vote remotely. Social distancing also is difficult, especially in the 163-member House chamber where desks are packed tightly together.

After being in session for barely a week, the Missouri House canceled all work for a full week “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the building.” House Majority Leader Dean Plocher declined to estimate how many were sick, saying lawmakers had a right to privacy.

In Iowa, Democratic Rep. Amy Nielsen tested positive last weekend. She said she likely was infected at the Capitol, where Republican leaders have refused to require people to wear masks or disclose positive cases.

Iowa House rules require men to wear ties and jackets and prohibit jeans, but Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley said he cannot force members to wear masks and is unwilling to make them leave if they don’t. On Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell wore jeans on the House floor to make a point and refused a request to change clothes. Grassley then prevented her from speaking during debate.

“Jeans aren’t hurting anybody, but all the people wandering around without masks on, they are,” Wessel-Kroeschell said Wednesday.

Ohio Sen. Cecil Thomas, a Democrat, walked out of a committee hearing Wednesday because many members of the public weren’t wearing masks. In Ohio’s Republican-controlled House on Wednesday, GOP lawmakers – many without masks -rejected Democratic motions to require statehouse staff to wear masks and to allow virtual testimony on bills, including by lawmakers.

In other states, Republican leaders have run into resistance from their own members while trying to enforce coronavirus precautions.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston had police escort fellow GOP Rep. David Clark from the chamber last week after Clark refused to comply with the chamber’s twice-weekly coronavirus testing. At least nine Georgia lawmakers already have tested positive this year.

“I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been to too many funerals,” Ralston told colleagues after having Clark removed.

Clark eventually got tested and returned to the House a couple days later.

In Mississippi, where nearly 50 lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19 last summer, at least five more have come down with the virus since the session began in early January.

At least five Pennsylvania lawmakers also have become ill with the coronavirus this year, in addition to a dozen who had it last year. Conflicts about mask-wearing have been common, with a few dozen Republican lawmakers regularly going maskless on the House floor and during committee hearings.

Last week, House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton rose to make a point: “Masks are supposed to be worn on the floor of the House, and I’ve counted over 30 members that currently are unmasked,” she told the Republican House speaker.

Speaker Bryan Cutler summoned McClinton to the front of the chamber for a private talk after she disputed his response that some lawmakers of both parties were maskless. Cutler eventually encouraged everyone to abide by the chamber’s mask rules.

In New Mexico’s Democratic-led Legislature, House Speaker Brian Egolf excluded nearly all lawmakers from floor sessions and closed conference rooms after a Republican lawmaker and several staff tested positive for COVID-19. He cast partisan blame.

“What I have observed is that certain members of the Republican Party do not adhere to COVID practices in any meaningful way,” Egolf said.

House Republican leaders have asked the state Supreme Court to intervene, arguing the pandemic precautions go far beyond what’s necessary to protect public health.

“The new rules are unconstitutional in that they define ‘present’ as not present, the ‘seat of government’ as something other than where the legislature meets, and require members to participate via computers and headphones,” the Republican lawsuit states.

Coronavirus tensions were evident Monday during the opening of Oklahoma’s legislative session. About 20 lawmakers – mainly majority Republicans – didn’t wear masks as they gathered for the governor’s state of the state address. That frustrated House Democratic leader Emily Virgin, whose parents both were hospitalized last year after contracting COVID-19.

“It’s misguided. It’s dangerous. It sets a horrible example,” Virgin said during a news conference outside of an Oklahoma City hospital.

In the Wisconsin Assembly, majority Republicans aren’t allowing lawmakers to attend committee hearings or floor debate remotely. Democratic Rep. Lee Snodgrass tweeted that they were being forced to choose “between their health … or being in person for floor session.”

New Hampshire Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Republican, drew criticism for leading a lengthy committee hearing – much of it without his face covered – after returning from a trip to Florida. The state’s travel rules require anyone leaving New England to quarantine for 10 days upon returning, and Statehouse rules forbid entry to those who recently made such trips.

The House speaker’s office said Baldasaro was allowed to attend the hearing because the state health department considers lawmakers “critical infrastructure staff.” Baldasaro said he eventually put on a face shield to satisfy anyone “whining and complaining.”

“The people elected me to do a job and I will not be showing a sign of weakness by hiding in a basement or my computer because of COVID,” Baldasaro said in an email to the AP.