Sunshine Coalition, KAB file complaint against Kansas Senate President in protest debacle

Local News
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The Kansas Association of Broadcasters has filed a complaint with the Kansas Attorney General against the Senate president Wednesday night, after the political body ordered everyone out of their chamber during a protest over Medicaid expansion.

KAB President Kent Cornish said Senate President Susan Wagle violated the U.S. and Kansas Constitutions by shutting media out from their meeting, while Wagle denies these claims. KAB, the Sunshine Coalition and the Kansas Press Association teamed up to file a complaint against Wagle with AG Derek Schmidt.

KSNT Eyewitness

A KSNT News crew saw a single protester in the Senate gallery stand up, begin screaming and singing and then others joined her.

The Senate stopped their proceedings, then went into recess. The capitol police came in to remove the protesters, then decided to clear the entire Senate floor. The public, media and some senators left the chamber.

Capitol police gave one protester a citation for disrupting a public meeting.

Kansas Association of Broadcasters

Capitol police arrested nine protesters Wednesday morning during a Senate meeting, according to a differing account from the Associated Press and Cornish.

The KAB president said the clearout of media during the incident was a breach of the Kansas and U.S. Constitution’s right to freedom of the press. The move would also violate the Senate’s Open Meeting Provisions (rule 23, page 12) if the Senate was in session.

Cornish, the Kansas Press Association and the Sunshine Coalition filed a Kansas Open Meetings Act complaint. In a letter to the Attorney General, Sunshine Coalition President Ron Keefover sourced Wagle’s spokesman as proving the violation:

The facts, as widely reported by the news media, including the Associated Press, are that earlier this morning, the Senate arrested nine protesters after disrupting debate on the legislation, but also cleared the Senate gallery and news media area, with Senate President Susan Wagle’s spokesman saying the media were removed because reporters were providing publicity to the protesters.

This is clearly an unconstitutional breach of both the Kansas Constitution and the U.S. Constitution’s right to liberty 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.”

Senate President Susan Wagle

Wagle put out a statement Wednesday evening and blamed the disturbance on the “left’s mob mentality.” That night, she told KSNT News there was no breach of the constitutions or senate rules, as they cleared the chamber out during a recess:

“We couldn’t allow people to disrupt our proceedings, after the capital police ushered those people out, we went back into our business and everyone was let back on the floor again, the press, the staff, and the senators, so we did not stifle debate, we did not stifle free speech.”

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