The whole point of (the Value Them Both Amendment) it is to get the Kansas Supreme Court out of the abortion issue and allow the Legislature to regulate or restrict abortion. I think it’s basically a small step in the right direction because I think we need to go much further.Rep. Brett Fairchild (R-St John)
Topeka is worse than we thought. ... There are very few patriots in Topeka.Rep. Tatum Lee-Hahn (R-Ness City)
Rep. Brett Fairchild (R-St John) from the 113th District and Rep. Tatum Lee-Hahn (R-Ness City) from the 117th District spoke to constituents Thursday at the Pawnee County Fair. Both are freshman legislators who describe themselves as conservatives who have been known to buck the party leadership.
“Topeka is worse than we thought,” Hahn said. While she expects Democrats to disagree with her, she said, “There are very few patriots – right of the RINOs (Republicans in Name Only).”
Hahn said Sen. Alicia Straub (R-Ellinwood) wanted to attend the meeting in Larned as well but was at the Capitol in Topeka Thursday, “defending our sheriff.”
Pawnee County Sheriff Scott King was in attendance at the fair. Hahn did not explain her remark but King has expressed frustration with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services since John Freeman Colt escaped from the Sexual Predator Treatment Program at Larned State Hospital the morning of June 30. Local law enforcement was not notified until five and a half hours later.
While Hahn’s district includes Larned, Fairchild noted that could change after redistricting this year. At present, his district includes only the very eastern part of Pawnee County.
Fairchild talked about some of the major bills that passed during his first Legislative Session and a couple of the bills he introduced.
“We passed the Value Them Both Amendment,” he said. “The whole point of it is to get the Kansas Supreme Court out of the abortion issue and allow the Legislature to regulate or restrict abortion. I think it’s basically a small step in the right direction because I think we need to go much further.”
The proposed constitutional amendment will come before Kansas voters in August 2022.
“If we don’t pass it, the Supreme Court will basically strike down any restrictions and regulations on abortion,” he said.
The Legislature also passed a bill that allows out-of-state residents to conceal carry firearms, along with an amendment that allows 18-year-olds to do the same. “I think it’s important that everybody have the right to defend themselves, including men and women on our college campuses,” he said.
“We also passed a couple of election integrity bills this year. One would prevent the governor from unilaterally changing election laws,” he said. “That’s something that happened in the Presidential election ... and we wanted to make sure that doesn’t happen again in Kansas.”
The other election integrity law restricts “ballot harvesting.”
Fairchild said the party needs to find more conservative candidates to challenge some Republicans in the primary, and a Republican governor is also needed.
“Six Republicans voted against the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act and a few were from western Kansas, which is a conservative area,” he said. “I don’t know if any of those representatives will have a chance of winning reelection. Four voted against the Value Them Both Amendment last year and none of them made it. They were all gone. I think the people of our district aren’t going to put up with Republican representatives voting against a common-sense bill like that.”
He added, “I think most people realize how unfair it is to have biological males to participate in women’s sports. And one aspect of the issue that people don’t really realize is you would also have biological males changing clothes and showering with females in women’s lockers. How many fathers would want their 15 - 16-year-old daughter to have to be forced to view naked men and boys in girls’ locker rooms?”
Fairchild noted that Republicans overrode the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 50 that cut taxes by $95 million. It allows Kansans to itemize deductions on their state income taxes even if they take the standard deduction on their federal income taxes. It also increases the standard deduction in Kansas. The law will help the working poor and middle class, he said.
“I introduced several bills. The leadership really doesn’t want us to do that,” Fairchild said.
“I introduced a constitutional amendment to place a cap on state spending. You can’t exceed the rate of inflation in a given year. We had the same kind of concept in regard to counties ... the property tax lid bill – which isn’t in effect any more but was in effect for 5-6 years – told counties that they couldn’t increase spending by more than the rate of inflation.
“To me, it’s kind of hypocritical for the state to tell the counties they can’t increase spending any more than the rate of inflation, but then the state can spend as much as they want to.” He hopes this will pass next year.
He also introduced a bill to ban hormone replacement therapy and sex-change operations on minors. “I got a lot of critical emails (about that) but none of them were from my district,” he said.
In April, Arkansas became the first U.S. state to ban certain types of treatment for transgender youth, overriding a veto by Governor Asa Hutchinson. Kansas should be able to do the same, Fairchild said, but added, “I’m not sure we have the courage to do that here in Kansas.”
Patriots in Topeka
Hahn spoke next, noting another bill Fairchild introduced, along with herself and two other Representatives, would eliminate capital gains taxes on gold and silver. It states, in part, “The purchase, sale or exchange of any type or form of specie (defined as gold or silver coins, etc.) shall not give rise to any tax liability of any kind.”
She also said she takes issue with fellow legislators who wanted to close the State Capitol House of Representatives gallery to the public during the pandemic.
“The Constitution still stands in a pandemic,” she said. Even the Republican “white hats” voted to limit public access because, she said, “nobody wants to be seen as a radical.”
The Legislature should not close the people’s house to the people while letting the lobbyists in, she said.
“I spoke against it because it was the right thing to do,” Hahn said. “The bill failed. We lost – only 12 of us voted to allow you into your own capitol building. ... That set the tone for me in Topeka.”
Continuing to express frustration with “bureaucrats,” she said, “We voted on over 200 laws this year. How many more laws do we need? Are we a free people?” Hahn said she’s a bit of a Libertarian — “but not for medical marijuana, unless it’s regulated. If it’s regulated I’m for it.”
Hahn said she had an “Esther moment” that prompted her to run for the House of Representatives after Rep. Leonard Mastroni (R-La Crosse) died last September and Sen. Straub approached her about running for the open seat.
It started because her Papa was locked in a nursing home and she wasn’t able to visit him in person during the pandemic. “Nobody gets between a girl and her Papa,” she said. Attempts to get help from Topeka were unsuccessful.
“I went to Derick Schmidt, the Attorney General, and I said, ‘you have a whole set of folks, these elderly, that are having their constitutional rights being infringed on. They don’t have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness when they’re dying alone and their families can’t see them.’ All in the name of ‘public safety.’ You know, the Constitution doesn’t go away, just because we’re in a pandemic.”
She’s been disappointed that the “patriots” in Topeka are in the minority, she said. One example is the failure to pass HB 2025, protecting private property from unauthorized access by certain government officials and unauthorized surveillance. The bill says no employee of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is allowed to conduct surveillance of private property unless there’s a search warrant, consent to search, or a judicially recognized exception to the search warrant requirement, she said.
“It’s a good thing,” she said of the bill. But, “It failed! How did that bill fail, and why are we not holding those people accountable that voted against it? And do you know the large majority of those people that voted against it, they’re from western Kansas. That’s disgusting.”
Beef Checkoff Referendum
Hahn said she’s also received pushback and a death threat because she supports the call for a Beef Checkoff referendum.
The Beef Checkoff program assesses cattle producers $1 for every head of cattle they sell, to promote beef. The checkoff was voted on in 1985 and the money raised was supposed to only promote USA beef, but that’s not how it’s used today, Hahn said, describing it as a “slush fund.”
The Kansas Livestock Association asked her not to sign a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack expressing concerns about the viability of independent cattle producers and calling for more accountability in the Beef Checkoff program, she said.
“That’s weird – until you realize (KLA is) the biggest recipient of the Beef Checkoff dollars, over $9 million last year in the state of Kansas,” she said.