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Statehouse path unclear for move to end Kansas Columbus Day

January 26, 2021 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislators have heard testimony from Democratic lawmakers pushing for Kansas to join a handful of states observing a day honoring Native Americans instead of Christopher Columbus, but a chief proponent said he doubts that the bill will get a vote.

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Tuesday listened to remarks from three lawmakers who said Kansas needs to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day to acknowledge how understanding of Columbus’ legacy has changed over the years.

Native American advocates have pressed states to change to Indigenous Peoples Day over concerns that Columbus helped launched centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.

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But Democratic Rep. Boog Highberger, of Lawrence, a lead bill sponsor, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the panel’s Republican chairman failed to hold a vote on the bill.

Highberger said he has proposed the legislation at least three times. The bill got its first committee hearing in 2019, but Chair John Barker, an Abilene Republican, didn’t bring it to a vote.

After the meeting on Tuesday, Barker told reporters he doesn’t know whether he will hold a committee vote on the bill this year. Without one, the bill would stall.

“It’s a matter of selecting things that are priorities,” Barker said.

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Andy Tsubasa Field is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.