Public, media kicked out of Kansas Senate chambers after Medicaid protest

Local News
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A protest by supporters of Medicaid expansion in a Kansas Senate gallery temporarily shut down its work on other issues and led to the arrest of nine protesters.

The Senate cleared their gallery and press area because they were providing publicity to the protesters, a spokesman for Senate President Susan Wagle said.

KSNT News was inside the Senate chambers as the protesters began yelling from the upper floor.

Kansas Association of Broadcasters President Kent Cornish said the clearout was a breach of the Kansas and U.S. Constitution’s right to freedom of the press.

“The Kansas Constitution says: ‘The liberty of the press shall be inviolate; and all persons may freely speak, write or publish their sentiments on all subjects,'” Cornish said.

The move also violated the Senate’s Open Meeting Provisions (rule 23, page 12).

The Republican-controlled legislature did not plan to consider Medicaid expansion Wednesday, its last scheduled day in session this year. But about 40 protesters arrived at the Statehouse to protest in favor of it. The Kansas House passed a plan favored by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly in March, but the state Senate never debated it.

The protest started when the Senate began considering overriding Kelly’s vetoes of several items in the next state budget. The protesters refused to stop singing and chanting. The Senate suspended its work and closed the gallery for the day. The press was allowed back in.

Harrison Hems, the senate president’s chief of staff, said nine protesters were arrested.

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