TOPEKA, Kan. (Aug. 8, 2016) – While there has been much talk of how the so-called “conservative” Kansas state legislature got trounced in the recent primaries, the 2016 legislative session showed that those conservatives weren’t strong constitutionalists in the first place.

The legislature soundly rejected the principles of the founding fathers during the 2016 legislative session. They protected the Washington D.C. status quo by killing 13 measures to refuse cooperation with federal enforcement of unconstitutional policies. To make matters worse, many of the legislative acts did not even receive a vote in their respective chambers.

The rundown of key measures that failed in Kansas this year is as follows:


HB2676 was introduced by Rep. Joe Scapa (R-Wichita) to declare that “the state shall retain sole control over the development, establishment and revision of K-12 curriculum standards,” and to forbid any Kansas entity or official from ceding any authority over Kansas education to any entity not explicitly named in the Kansas Constitution. That bill contained very similar language as HB2292, which was introduced in 2015 but was carried over to this year’s legislative session. A companion bill to HB2676 was introduced in the Senate called SB67. It would have removed the state from federally-driven Common Core educational standards as well. All three of these bills failed during 2016. HB2676 never made it out of the House Committee on Education, where Chairman Ron Highland (R-Wamego) killed the bill by refusing to schedule it for a vote. HB2292 was rejected in the House by a 44-78 vote. SB67 died in the Senate Committee on Education after Chairman Steve Abrams (R-Arkansas City) killed the bill by not scheduling it for a vote.


A coalition of 22 representatives introduced HB2661 to bar state participation or support of the resettlement of refugees from any country wholly or partially controlled by the Islamic State. Although HB2661 would not have actually authorized the state to actively interfere with federal resettlement of refugees, it would have stopped any and all state assistance toward those aims. This would have made the resettlement of refugees to Kansas extremely difficult. The bill never gained any traction during the 2016 legislative session. Chairwoman Jan Pauls (R-Hutchinson) killed HB2661 by refusing to schedule it for a vote in her House Committee on Federal and State Affairs.


The House Committee on Federal and State Affairs introduced HB2715, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to help end the warrantless use of cell site simulators, known as “stingrays.” These devices essentially spoof cell phone towers, tricking any device within range into connecting to the stingray instead of the tower, allowing law enforcement to sweep up communications content, as well as locate and track the person in possession of a specific phone or other electronic device. The bill would have also banned law enforcement agencies from compelling third party communication companies to release mobile device information without a warrant, a court order or a subpoena. It never achieved success in 2016. It died in the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs under the leadership of Chairwoman Jan Pauls (R-Hutchinson) who killed the bill by refusing to schedule it for a vote.


Rep. J. R. Claeys (R-Salina) introduced HB2437 to require state legislative approval before any state agency could enter into any agreement that would require state resources. It stated simply that “no state agency, state agent or state employee shall enter into any agreement, including, but not limited to, cost-sharing agreements and grants, which obligates the state of Kansas to any explicit or implied maintenance of effort requirements without the express prior consent of the Kansas legislature.” Sadly, the bill never made it out of the House Committee on Appropriations. Chairman Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) killed HB2437 in his committee by refusing to even give it a vote.


Two bills were introduced that, in spite of carrying no legislative effect, would have made strong statements in favor of the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution. SCR1610 was introduced by Sen. Ty Masterson (R-Andover) and 26 co-sponsors while Rep. Blake Carpenter (R-Derby) and 56 co-sponsors introduced HCR5023. Both measures contained identical language and read, in part, as follows:

Kansas hereby claims sovereignty under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States…

We state our intentions to ensure that all government agencies and their agents and employees operating within the geographic boundaries of Kansas, or whose actions have an effect on the inhabitants, lands or water of Kansas, shall operate within the confines of the original intent of the Constitution of the United States.

Although none of the language in these resolutions was binding, the legislation still didn’t pass them. After the Senate approved SCR1610 by a 37-3 vote, the bill died before it could hit the House floor. Chairwoman Jan Pauls (R-Hutchinson) was the culprit yet again. She killed the bill by refusing to schedule it for a vote in her House Committee on Federal and State Affairs. HCR5023 received a favorable report from the same committee, but it died after House Speaker Ray Merrick (R-Stillwell) and Floor Leader Jene Vickrey (R-Louisberg) killed the bill by refusing to schedule it for a full House vote.


The Committee on Health and Human Services introduced HB2691 “to allow for the regulated cultivation, processing, manufacture, delivery, distribution and possession of cannabis” for medicinal purposes. It would have provided for the registration and operation of “compassion centers” (dispensaries), authorized the issuance of identification cards, established a compassion board, and provided for administration of the act by the department of health and environment. HB2011 was introduced by Rep. Gail Finney (D-Wichita) with similar provisions to legalize medical marijuana for qualifying patients. Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City) introduced SB9 to set up a medical marijuana program in Kansas as well. Senate Ways and Means Committee introduced an additional measure to solidly affirm the legality of medical marijuana. SB510 would have explicitly legalized patient access to medical marijuana as well as shielded physicians from any legal or professional repercussions for prescribing the substance.

Ultimately, each of these bills died with little fanfare in 2016. HB2691 and HB2011 never made out out of the House Committee on Health and Human Services where they were killed by Chairman Daniel Hawkins (R-Wichita) who never scheduled either bill for a mere vote. SB9 and SB510 never made it out of the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare where they were killed by Chairman Michael O’Donnell (R-Wichita) who never scheduled either bill for a mere vote.


Rep. Brett Hildabrand (R-Shawnee) introduced HB2004 to enable terminally ill patients to access to medications and treatments not yet given final approval for use by the FDA. HB2004 would have bypassed the FDA’s callous regulatory system by allowing patients to obtain experimental drugs from manufacturers without federal approval. This procedure would have directly conflicted with the federal expanded access program currently in place and set the stage to nullify it in practice. Tragically, this bill suffered the same fate as all the rest. After passing the House Committee on Health and Human Services with slight amendments, HB2004 died after House Speaker Ray Merrick (R-Stillwell) and Floor Leader Jene Vickrey (R-Louisberg) killed the bill by refusing to schedule it for a vote within its time constraints under House rules.


Although the state of Kansas has let many chances to push back against federal overreach fall through their grasp this year, hope is not lost. The legislators who refused to uphold their oath to the Constitution and killed these bills are now more vulnerable than ever. Remember to alert your community about who is jeopardizing your rights. From that point, the legislature can be remade with individuals with the backbone to protect your freedoms through nullification.

The process can be a long, hard and ugly one, but it can pay off. Many of the states that are currently passing several nullification bills each year were in Kansas’ situation not too long ago. However, activists in those states steadfastly refused to give up and successfully pushed their legislators to do the right thing. That is the future that Kansas can achieve, but it is going to take some determination to get there. Will you join us and help make it happen?

The 10th Amendment

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