The 2021 legislative session was marked by one overlying theme from start to finish for the ACLU of Kansas: playing defense.
This began early on as we opposed efforts to restrict abortions in the state. We succeeded in defeating a similar 2020 bill, but this session lawmakers were able to punt this issue to the voters, approving a ballot initiative for voters to terminate protections that reside in the Kansas Constitution. This vote will take place during the 2022 primaries.
Likewise, we fought back against bills limiting voting rights in the state. While two bills did pass, we were able to lessen their impact through legislative advocacy.
Efforts to pass anti-trans, pro-bullying legislative also persisted throughout the session. We were able to stop the harmful senate bill SB208, but on the last night of the session, this language was stuffed into SB55 and passed. With our advocacy, Gov. Kelly vetoed the bill, and we were able to prevent an override. The efforts gained a last-minute push during the special session as lawmakers threatened to amend it to an NCAA Name, Image, Likeness bill, but that, too, was stopped.
These defensive efforts came at the expense of expanding rights for Kansans. Particularly as we confronted systemic racism as a nation throughout 2020, we wish we were able to do more to build on this momentum and realize efforts to reform our law enforcement and justice systems.