2020 will be a busy year at the Statehouse where you’ll hear news about two constitutional amendments I will support. I’ll also work hard to ensure middle-class Kansas taxpayers directly benefit from a strong Trump economy; continue to monitor our mental health crisis and opioid and suicide epidemics; and ensure our roads carry us into the next generation.
The first constitutional amendment will protect laws already in place that are now at risk because of a decision by the Kansas Supreme Court last April. Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt cleared a path for unlimited abortion. The health and safety of countless women and their babies are at stake because reasonable regulations, such as parental consent requirements for minors, could be struck down. Kansans could lose the ability to require an abortion provider to have a license, follow health and safety guidelines and provide women information about potential risks.
It could remove our ban on late-term and dismemberment abortions and taxpayer-funded abortions. The amendment will not ban abortion nor prohibit exceptions for cases of rape, incest or life of the mother. The amendment simply allows Kansas voters to decide how to regulate an industry as it does other health care services.
The second constitutional amendment also addresses a decision by activists among the Kansas Supreme Court. The court removed the legal caps on non-economic damages sought in lawsuits. This means lawsuits can seek to recover such things as psychological damage in addition to economic loss. We can’t allow Kansas to become a roost for fee-seeking trial lawyers looking to sue individuals, families and companies for all they are worth. Without action, everyone will pay the price in higher insurance rates to protect themselves against irresponsible litigation.
I will also revisit a plan to implement the Trump tax cuts in Kansas. I want to give you, the taxpayer, the ability to itemize your mortgage interest, property taxes and health care costs. When President Donald Trump’s tax policy gave you a larger standard deduction and lowered income tax rates, many Kansans were no longer allowed to itemize deductions on their federal returns. Current Kansas law doesn’t allow you to itemize your state return if you don't itemize federal. I want to change that. The bill also decreased the sales tax you pay on food and eventually phases out entirely. Two versions of this bill passed the legislature last session, but Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed both. I expect this legislation to be addressed again, understanding that hard-earned money belongs to the people of Kansas.
In the last few years, the state has made great progress in addressing the mental health crisis facing our state. We’ve devoted millions more to local community health centers that partner with school districts where clinical intervention can improve outcomes for students. The Legislature will continue to address the growing opioid and suicide epidemics and focus on reforms in our overcrowded prison system. We need to help vulnerable and at-risk Kansans, not punish them.
Finally, Kansas roads also need to remain healthy. Legislators will study a 10-year plan to improve existing infrastructure and expand in areas needed for growth.
As your Senate president, I am committed to working hard on your behalf to ensure Kansas government remains fiscally conservative while providing critical and necessary services to Kansans in 2020 and beyond.
Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, is president of the Kansas Senate.