Kansas City Democrat target of GOP complaint for remarks on immigrant tuition measure

Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City

? A special investigative committee of the Kansas House will meet at 2 p.m. Wednesday to consider a formal complaint lodged by nine Republican members of the House Education Committee against the ranking Democrat on that panel, Rep. Valdenia Winn, of Kansas City, Kan.

The complaint alleges that Winn, used “inflammatory language,” including accusations of racism against supporters of House Bill 2139, which would have repealed an existing law that allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Kansas colleges and universities if they meet all other residency requirements.

According to the complaint, the incident occurred March 19 when the committee was preparing to vote on whether to advance the bill to the full House.

The complaint alleges that when Winn was recognized to speak about the bill, she used “inflammatory language and inferences toward the committee or anyone who would support such a bill.”

According to a transcript of a portion of that meeting, which is attached to the complaint, when Winn was recognized to speak on the bill, she stated:

“I have dreaded this day because this is a racist, sexist, fear-mongering bill that I would like first to apologize to the progressively-minded people of Kansas who are appalled that we are turning back the hands of time…um…regarding to, and I am going to use strong language, Jim Crow tactics, and once again making Kansas a laughingstock.”

She continued: “I want to apologize to the students and their parents whose lives are being hijacked by the racist bigots who support this bill because this bill is not an act of” …

At that point, Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, interrupted to object, saying: “She just referred to this committee as racist.”

“I said supporters,” Winn replied. “I am not saying anything, but you know what, you can do anything you want, but I am going to say what I have to say because if the shoe fits, if the shoe fits, it fits. But this is an example of institutional racism, not individual racist, institutional racism because it deals with societal structural changes.”

The committee eventually voted to table the bill.

Under rules of the Kansas House, the investigative committee could vote to recommend that Winn be reprimanded, censured or expelled, but any such action would require a two-thirds majority vote by the full House. It could also recommend that no action be taken.

Winn was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The nine members who signed the complaint include Reps. Barker; chairman Ron Highland, of Wamego; Tony Barton, of Leavenworth ; Charles Macheers, of Shawnee; Willie Dove, of Bonner Springs; Jerry Lunn, of Overland Park; John Bradford, of Lansing; Marc Rhoades, of Newton; and Dennis Hedke, of Newton.

The investigative panel is composed of three Republicans and three Democrats.

The Republican members include Reps. Erin Davis Davis, of Olathe, who will chair the panel; Mark Kahrs, of Wichita; and Sharon Schwartz, of Washington.

The three Democrats are Reps. Tom Sawyer, of Wichita; Barbara Ballard, of Lawrence; and Brandon Whipple, of Wichita.