TOPEKA, Kansas – It’s been a busy legislative session in Topeka, but with the state of Kansas being mocked on national television, one lawmaker says it’s time to just go home.
“This session has devolved into a joke on some levels,” says Democrat Paul Davis. “We need to focus on jobs and property taxes. But, instead we are getting national attention. This is not good. That’s one of the reasons I’ve proposed we cut the session short.”
Davis is talking about Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. Stewart is calling Kansas lawmakers out for proposing laws that would pinpoint precisely how many spankings a child can get under Kansas law. Other lawmakers have proposed a law that some are calling religious freedom.
Kansas Speaker of the House, Republican Ray Merrick, commented on the Jon Stewart jokes about Kansas.
“I do not support discrimination in any form. Nor do the members in my caucus. There were many different interpretations of the language in the bill. I interpreted it as a protection to religious liberty. Other people have interpreted it as discriminatory,” explains Merrick. “Because of that, I’m committed to working with the Senate to ensure that any measure that’s signed into law is unequivocally clear about the purpose and intent of the legislature, which is the protection of religious liberty. This is the legislative process at work. I will personally see that nothing signed into law can be misinterpreted to condone discrimination.”
However, some business owners are sending a message to lawmakers on the religious freedom bill by printing signs to go in their front windows.
“Our business is a safe haven,” says Angela Mallory, co-owner of the Donut Whole in Wichita. “It’s a safe haven for really anyone and everyone. We really don’t put out any political viewpoints or cater to any demographic. We have an open door policy.”
The signs going up in the Donut Whole say the business will serve anyone and everyone. The Kansas bill being proposed would allow businesses to refuse service to some customers based on sexual orientation.
Kansans are speaking out.
“Is that really the way we want to be seen?” asks Ryan Joseph of Wichita.
“We are going to see a lot of those lawmakers out of office in the next election because everybody that I’ve talked to, the people of Kansas are not happy about this,” says Jason Breitigan of Wichita.
Still, lawmakers say they are doing their best to offer what their constituents want. And they wonder if it might be time to call it a session.
“Jobs, the economy, taxes,” says Davis. “That should be our focus. I understand people want to bring issues forward and that is what the legislative session is all about. But, it might be time to cut the session short at 70-days (instead of 90) and just go home.”