Update: Students no longer banned from Statehouse after unfurling sign with bloody hands for Medicaid expansion

A banner stating there is blood on the hands of Republican leadership for refusing to vote on Medicaid expansion hangs in the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka on Wednesday morning. The House passed a bill in favor of Medicaid expansion, which the state Senate has yet to vote on. (Courtesy photo Katie Sullivan)

Update, March 28 at 3:40 p.m.: Brandon Whipple, representative from the 96th district, tweeted that he was in contact with Tom Day, the Kansas legislature service director about the precedence for banning three K-State students from the Statehouse in Topeka.

“This morning I contacted Tom Day, #ksleg Service Director to ask about the precedence of banning someone for a year over violating the ‘no sign’ policy,” the tweet reads. “He replied that to his knowledge no one has ever received such a punishment & the ban against the students has been lifted.”

Original story:

Three K-State students are banned from the Kansas Statehouse, at least for a year, after unfurling a banner with bloody hands calling for a vote on Medicaid expansion in the senate on Wednesday morning.

Jonathan Cole, senior in mechanical engineering and student senator; Nate Faflick, senior in family studies and human services; and Katie Sullivan, senior in social sciences and student senator; and community members Thea Perry and Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan unfurled four banners stating Republican leadership had “blood on their hands” for failing to pass Medicaid expansion.

“Medicaid expansion hasn’t happened because obstructionist Republican leadership have prevented it before,” Cole said. “This would help cover 150,000 low-income Kansans with healthcare. Could you imagine being so poor you couldn’t afford life-saving health insurance?”

Cole said the group was “citizens just holding legislators accountable.” Each of them are now banned from the Statehouse for the year. Whether that means until the end of 2019 or until March 2020 is unclear.

“I hope this pressures senators to override obstructionist leadership,” Cole said. “Being banned isn’t enforceable. If they want to silence activists speaking for those who don’t have a voice, that’s on them. Shame on them.”

Sullivan said the bloody hands represent the 150,000 Kansans who could be left without healthcare because of a lack of leadership in the statehouse, and that the group stands by what they did.

The four banners specifically condemned Senate President Susan Wagle, House majority leader Daniel Hawkins, Senate majority leader Jim Denning and House speaker Ron Ryckman, all Republicans.

Statehouse staff removed the banners shortly after they were put up and escorted the students out of the building, the Associated Press reported.

Hawkins issued a statement saying the banners were put up by “extremist demonstrators” in violation of Statehouse policy.

“Supporters of socialist health care don’t care about the facts,” the statement reads. “They want to push to a Bernie Sanders-endorsed, socialist health care plan where the government tells you exactly what you get. No options.”

Earlier this month, the Kansas House passed a bill 69-54 in favor of Medicaid expansion and is now pending a state Senate vote. Wagle and other senate leaders have signalled their opposition to Medicaid expansion and have not allowed the house bill to come to a vote on the senate floor.

Governor Laura Kelly applauded the house vote and urged the senate to take up the matter.

“Medicaid expansion is one of the most critical issues impacting our state’s future,” Kelly said in a statement last Thursday. “It will allow up to 150,000 more Kansans access to affordable healthcare, support local hospitals and clinics, and impact our economy for the better.

“Over 70 percent of Kansans support Medicaid expansion,” the statement continued. “I encourage the Kansas Senate to join me, this bipartisan coalition, business leaders and the overwhelming majority of Kansans in support of Medicaid expansion. The time for blocking progress has long since passed. Now is the time to expand Medicaid.”

I'm Rafael Garcia, and I'm a 2019 K-State graduate in journalism and former editor-in-chief of the K-State Collegian. I believe that much of the world's problems come from a lack of understanding of other people, but by telling other people's stories and finding the good in the world, I think we can increase our understanding and appreciation of each other. Questions, comments, concerns, news tips? Email the Collegian team at news@kstatecollegian.com.