Stories & News
Health Forward is supporting and building inclusive, powerful, and healthy communities by prioritizing people who experience the greatest injustices in health outcomes. We are working to remove those injustices through our leadership, advocacy, and resources. During the 2023 sessions in Kansas and Missouri, we used as many tools as we could to remove these injustices through leadership, advocacy, and resources.
At 6 p.m. on May 12, the gavel dropped in Jefferson City, which concluded the 2023 legislative session in Missouri. Kansas ended their session on April 28, but one thing is for sure: both sides of our service area saw policy changes – some great, some good, and definitely some bad – that will impact partners and communities for years to come.
For this legislative session recap, we’re going to break down the wins, losses, and things to keep an eye on for next year all through the lens of our purpose-driven policy agenda in each state.
People Policy Goal: People can access safe, quality, and affordable whole person care.
Medicaid Expansion: Our number one priority in advancing our People policy goal in Kansas is to expand Medicaid. Two bills were introduced to do so, but neither even received a public hearing for citizens to offer their support. Not only has Kansas missed out on billions of dollars in investment in the state, but 150,000 Kansans are missing out on health coverage. We will not relent in continuing to advocate for this policy.
Public Health: A concerted effort to attack the reasonable authority of public health officials to limit gatherings, designate quarantines, or even propose regulations to keep police, firefighters, and health professionals safe was a recurring theme of Kansas’ 2023 session. It came in the form of SB 6, then Sen. Sub for HB 2390, and eventually HB 2285. HB 2285 eventually passed but, thankfully, was vetoed by Gov. Kelly. We will be keeping a close eye on the legislation of this type in 2024 and will leverage what we can to stop it and, when possible, support bills that increase base support to local health departments.
Food is medicine: Some legislation that was detrimental to people accessing affordable, nutritious food also came up this year. House sub for SB 169 passed both chambers but was vetoed by Governor Kelly because of how it favored wealthy Kansans over poorer ones, even though it would’ve reduced the food sales tax immediately. We favored SB 57 – which was a straight elimination of the food sales tax, but it didn’t even get a hearing. Last, HB 2094 is a work requirement bill for accessing SNAP benefits for older adults aged 50-59. Originally, it passed out of the legislature to go to the Governor, who vetoed it, but unfortunately, it was overridden. We are firmly opposed to any legislation that imposes work requirements to access safety net benefits.
Telemedicine similarly had two bills introduced and neither of them got hearings. These bills would have greatly expanded access to virtual medicine options, which is ever important for rural communities and others with shortages of healthcare professionals. We would remain in favor or similar legislation in next year’s session.
Power Policy Goal: Participation in our democracy and policymaking process improves health outcomes.
Voting Access: A number of bills were considered this year that would’ve greatly restricted access to casting ballots and that would have made it especially hard for rural Kansans. SB 208, as amended on the Senate floor, would have banned ballot boxes outright in Kansas. HB 2053 would’ve given the Secretary of State unfettered ability to regulate remote ballot boxes. Thankfully, legislators abandoned the contents of these bills and used them for work on the government ethics commission and the 2024 presidential primary.
However, SB 209, which eliminated the three day grace period to return advance mail-in ballots, did pass both chambers. It was vetoed by Gov. Kelly over spring break and after a failed veto override the bill officially died. We oppose this legislation because of its adverse effects on rural Kansans due to longer postal service wait times.
Place Policy Goal: Our communities are healthy places where people fully participate in the digital economy and build wealth through safe, quality, and affordable housing and homeownership.
Early in the legislative session, HB 2430 was introduced which was targeted at those who are unhoused. It would’ve made it a crime to simply be a person experiencing homelessness and we vigorously opposed it. It had a public hearing in which many advocates showed up in opposition and, for this session at least, this bill is dead.
On the affordable housing and homeownership end, though, there was a bit of good news as SB 17 passed, which expands incentives to build more affordable housing in certain communities across Kansas. We supported this legislation and, in conjunction with HB 2237 passed last year, which focused on rural communities, we see a strong track record of working towards this goal.
Platform Policy Goal: Community health is influenced by systems, policies, and stories that promote racial equity and economic inclusion.
Our platform policy work in Kansas saw some good legislation introduced, but unfortunately, it didn’t make it to full passage. There were two bills that would’ve added hair texture and protective hair styles to the Kansas Act Against Discrimination but they both died in committee with no hearing. Given that Black women disproportionately face discrimination in the workplace, we supported these bills and similar legislation to pursue race equity in all policy. Another bill that failed to get passage was HB 2376, which would have nullified ‘restrictive covenants’ in Kansas which were used for redlining and segregating neighborhoods by race. We supported this legislation and hope to see it pass next year.
Take a look at the Kansas bill tracker for a full list of bills we followed.
These highlighted bills are ones we are keeping a focus on, but to see a full list of the bills we’re tracking in Kansas.
While two bills were introduced that would have subjected Medicaid expansion to the annual appropriations process and put in work requirements, they were not taken up on either floor of the House or Senate. This is great news, but we will be vigilant should this legislation be introduced in future sessions.
Post-partum extension for people who give birth has finally passed! This extends the period for which mothers are covered by Medicaid from 60 days after birth to a full year. Not only that, but this legislation had some other provisions that we’d been supportive of and following this session.
While it didn’t pass this go-round, we will work next year towards advancing a SNAP restaurant meals program in which differently abled individuals and seniors can use their SNAP benefits to purchase hot meals at a restaurant.
Weakening Missouri’s citizen-driven initiative petition process was at the forefront of many in the legislature this year, but the passage of HJR 43 was not meant to be in 2023. The version that passed out of the Senate was to raise the threshold to 57% or have concurrent majorities in 5 of the 8 congressional districts. However, after a conference committee report was negotiated and passed the House, it never was taken up in the Senate. It is expected that this will be taken up in 2024, and Health Forward will continue to advocate against weakening the initiative petition.
One of the big items we were following on housing was a ban on eviction moratoria by any cities or counties in Missouri. Ultimately, this bill did not pass. We opposed SB 222 and would continue to oppose similar legislation in the future. Localities need as many policy tools as they can at their disposal, especially in unprecedented times like what COVID presented. Keeping people housed is essential and is a major contributor towards health outcomes.
While there was quite a bit of legislative activity on broadband last year, there were relatively few bills this year. The Broadband Development Council bill, which would help build much-needed data infrastructure for advancing digital equity in urban and rural areas, passed the house but didn’t pass the Senate.
In another bit of good news for the end of the session, the so-called ‘Do No Harm’ bills in the House and Senate – which would prohibit institutions who educate medical professionals from including any Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) curriculum – did not make it to either chamber floor and died at the end of session. We opposed these bills because it would make it nearly impossible to educate aspiring healthcare providers on culturally relevant and responsive care. Additionally, it would do damage to our pipeline of medical professionals, of which Missouri is already facing a shortage.
Also, anti-DEI language was added to large swaths of the Missouri budget as it passed the House. Fortunately, this language was removed as it moved to the Senate. This language – aside from it being unworkable – would have damaged billions of dollars flowing into our state’s economy and promoting harmful narratives about the nature of DEI work.
Last, we have been working intently over the past few years to expand the use of disaggregation of public health data by at least race, ethnicity, and language. Bipartisan legislation in the Senate was introduced and we testified in support of them. While they didn’t pass this year, we will continue our advocacy on this work to ensure that more and better data is publicly available where possible.
These bills highlighted are ones we are keeping a focus on, but to see a full list of the bills we’re tracking in Missouri.
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