Chuck Weber will assist the bishops of Kansas with issues they want to put before the Kansas legislature this year. (Advance image)

KCC’s executive director looking ahead to the 2019 legislative session
Chuck Weber says being executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference is a little like the person who breaks up your holiday party because he wants to talk about politics and religion.
“These areas often produce awkward discussions. Taken up together, they can clear your house of guests in a matter of minutes,” he said with a laugh.
Nonetheless, the intersection of religion and politics is at the heart of Weber’s mission at the Kansas statehouse on behalf of the bishops of Kansas and Catholics in the pew. State representatives and senators will gather in Topeka for the opening gavel of the 2019 session on Monday, Jan. 14.
Weber and the bishops will keep a special eye on legislation passed last year that was supported by the Kansas Catholic Conference, the Adoption Protection Act. The bill grants legal protections to faith-based adoption agencies that allow them not to place children in home situations that go against agencies’ “sincerely held” religious beliefs.
“I think one of the things – one of the disappointing things – that we’ve heard so far from Gov.-elect (Laura) Kelly is that in her first news conference she immediately said that she was going to direct her staff to find ways not to enforce the Adoption Protection Act,” Weber said in an interview at the Chancery Thursday, Dec. 6. “It’s one thing to oppose legislation and it’s a whole other thing to say: I’m going to look for ways not to obey the law.”
The act protects agencies, such as Catholic Charities, who want to place children in homes with a married man and woman, he said.
“That’s all it does. It just protects our First Amendment right to do that – it has been called all sorts of things that it’s not, and we’re very disappointed the governor-elect has decided to go after this constitutionally-protected right.”
Weber said he will seek common ground with Governor-elect Kelly on issues of mutual interest such as access to healthcare, opportunity for the disabled, and justice for immigrants.
Medicaid expansion will likely be a hot-button issue for the state in 2019, Weber said, adding that the KCC supports Medicaid expansion, but with strong reservations: the cost, which could result in an additional taxpayer expense of up to $100 million a year; and government funding of contraceptive and abortive drugs.
Another topic that is beginning to surface is taxpayer-funded sex-reassignment surgery, he said. “It’s going to be a very difficult question and it’s something that the legislators have to work out.”
Immigration is more of a national rather than a state topic, Weber said, although there was a lot of rhetoric about the topic in the latest gubernatorial race. The bishops of Kansas hope Congress will find a practical, just way for immigrants seeking a better life to come into the United States, he said.
The Kansas Supreme Court will soon rule on what is called the live dismemberment abortion issue, Weber said, adding that the court may, unfortunately, find a “right” to abortion in the state constitution.
One or two live dismemberment abortions are taking place daily in Kansas, he said.
“This has to do with the pro-life laws that we have passed over the last five or six years in Kansas being held up in the courts,” Weber said. “So, this is something that we’re keeping a very close eye on. The solution, if that is in fact what the court is going to find, is to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot for the people of Kansas to say, look, we can pass pro-life laws by the people and they need to be enforced without the interference of the courts.”
Gender identity may become a topic of discussion in Topeka, he said, as well as gambling.
“It’s almost a foregone conclusion that gambling in Kansas is going to be expanded,” he said, but the Kansas bishops want to make sure families are protected from the hidden costs of gambling when they are negatively impacted by gambling.
“We’re going to make sure that the problem gambling fund that is now in statute, make sure that that money is going to the right places.”
Catholic education will also be a topic Kansas’ bishops want to keep before the legislators.
“We have a very limited school choice program in Kansas,” Weber said. “It’s actually one of the worst in the entire country.”
The state’s bishops hope to expand what’s known as the Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship Program, which gives families in low-income situations and whose children are in failing schools the opportunity to enroll in Catholic or other private schools. Changes were made last legislative session that make it more difficult for families to enroll students from failing schools in Catholic schools.
“So we want to make sure that Kansas at least gets back to where we were before in terms of educational opportunities for the poor and if possible, expand educational opportunities,” he said.

Want your voice heard in Topeka?
Chuck Weber said those wanting to engage in the legislative process about issues important to Catholics should contact him. He has developed a presentation ideal for small groups and gatherings of all kinds.
“The most effective voices about public policy comes from communities, parishes and individuals,” Weber said. “I desperately need your help in letting lawmakers know what’s important to Kansas Catholics in the pew. Let me know how I can help you become a strong advocate at the statehouse,” he said.
Weber may be contacted at cweber3@cox.net or at 316- 708-5350.