Kansas has new anti-ESG law amid raft of culture war vetoes

Apr 24, 2023, 5:38 PM

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions from reporters during a news conference, Monday, April 24...

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions from reporters during a news conference, Monday, April 24, 2023, in a second-grade classroom at Elmont Elementary School in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

(AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials won’t be allowed to use a Republican measure to become law without her signature.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s decision Monday came after she vetoed more than a dozen other anti-transgender, anti-abortion and culture war measures approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature. She nixed a bill Monday that would have allowed parents to remove their public school students from lessons or activities that offend them and another measure that Kelly said could have led to prison terms for some people helping immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

The new anti-ESG law, taking effect July 1, is part of a larger push from conservatives across the U.S. against what they see as “woke” practices pushing liberal climate or diversity goals. At least nine states have enacted such laws; Montana’s GOP governor signed a bill last week, and a measure cleared Indiana’s GOP-controlled Legislature on Monday.

“This bill will ensure that public dollars — particularly our state pension fund — are invested in ways that produce the highest possible returns with the lowest acceptable risk, and that public contracts are awarded to the entities best-qualified to fulfill them,” Kansas State Treasurer Steven Johnson, a Republican elected last year, said in a statement.

Republicans across the U.S. have pushed back as the use of ESG principles has become more prevalent and visible.

Last month, 19 GOP governors issued a statement calling ESG a “direct threat to the American economy, individual economic freedom, and our way of life.” Utah’s Republican state treasurer told a GOP gathering that ESG “opens the door to authoritarianism” and is “Satan’s plan.”

About one-eighth of U.S. assets being professionally managed, or $8.4 trillion, are being managed in line with ESG principles, according to a report in December from US SIF, which promotes sustainable investing.

ESG supporters argued that it represents a better assessment of risk for investors by addressing questions such as whether a worldwide shift toward green energy makes investments in fossil fuels less financially sound.

There also was research released earlier this month by Bain & Company, a global management consulting firm, and EcoVadis, which provides sustainability ratings for 110,000 companies worldwide, including 10,000 in the U.S. It showed evidence that having more women in management, greater employee satisfaction and sustainable supply chains all correlate with stronger revenue growth and higher profitability.

Researchers were careful to note that many factors can influence a company’s financial results, but Sylvain Guyoton, EcoVadis’ chief rating officer, said the study suggests a company’s use of ESG is worth considering.

“Some of those ESG activities are good old management practices that have been rebranded into ESG,” Guyoton said in a recent interview from Paris.

In announcing that the Kansas measure was becoming law, Kelly didn’t touch on how investment managers for the state and its pension system for teachers and government workers will be required to “consider only financial factors” when making investment decisions.

The governor acknowledged having reservations about “potential unforeseen consequences” over how the state and cities, counties and local school districts will not be able to favor bidders on contracts based on ESG principles.

The measure had little support from Democratic lawmakers. Conservatives dropped proposals for new rules for private money managers following strong backlash from influential business and banking groups.

Meanwhile, Kelly scotched Republicans’ proposed “parents’ bill of rights,” which would have allowed parents to demand an alternative when a public school lesson or activity “impairs the parent’s sincerely held beliefs, values or principles.” The governor said such a measure “distracts” from fully funding education.

House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, said Kelly was opposing parents’ right “to direct their own children’s education, upbringing and moral or religious training.” The bill’s supporters did not appear to have the two-thirds majorities necessary to override a veto.

Republicans said the immigration bill would have combatted human smuggling.

It would have made it a felony to transport, harbor or conceal another person, applying when someone knows or should have known that a person is in the U.S. illegally and “is likely to be exploited” for another’s financial gain, if the person dealing with the immigrant “benefits financially or receives anything of value.” A first-time offender could be sentenced to almost three years in prison.

Kelly argued that the bill could send “a good Samaritan” to prison for accepting gas money for driving an immigrant neighbor to work.

“That overcriminalization is unnecessary and shows that lawmakers haven’t considered the full impact of this bill,” Kelly said.

The measure cleared the Legislature with large, bipartisan supermajorities.

“Governor Kelly has sided against law and order and put radical politics above the safety and human rights of victims,” Hawkins said in a statement.


Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

National News

In this photo provided by Vernon Tyau, Jarek Agcaoili, left, with his mother Danielle, sister Jessi...

Associated Press

3 dead, 2 missing after family fishing trip in Alaska becomes a nightmare

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska fishing adventure became a nightmare for a family of eight when disaster struck one of the two boats they chartered over the Memorial Day weekend, leaving three people dead and two more missing despite a desperate search over hundreds of square miles of ocean. The tragedy tore the Tyau […]

23 hours ago

FILE - The sign for Fort Bragg, N.C., is displayed, Jan. 4, 2020. Fort Bragg will shed its Confeder...

Associated Press

Fort Bragg to drop Confederate namesake for Fort Liberty, part of US Army base rebranding

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Fort Bragg will shed its Confederate namesake to become Fort Liberty in a Friday ceremony that some veterans view as a small but important step in making the U.S. Army more welcoming to current and prospective Black service members. The change is part of a broad Department of Defense 2020 George […]

23 hours ago

FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee responds to questions during a news conference, April 11, 2023, in N...

Associated Press

In gun law push, Tennessee governor’s office memo says NRA prefers to ’round up mentally ill people’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s administration accused the National Rifle Association of wanting to use involuntary commitment laws “to round up mentally ill people and deprive them of other liberties,” according to documents drafted by the Republican’s staffers as part of their initial attempt to pass a gun control proposal earlier this […]

23 hours ago

Chips sit on a roulette table at the Hard Rock casino in Atlantic City N.J., on May 17, 2023. With ...

Associated Press

As legal gambling surges, should schools teach teens about risk?

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — As a high school senior, Nick was blessed with a deadly accurate jump shot from the three-point range — something he was quick to monetize. He and his gym classmates not far from the Jersey Shore would compete to see who could make the most baskets, at $5 or $10 […]

23 hours ago

Sage Chelf poses for a photo at her home in Orlando, Fla., May 27, 2023. Recent Florida legislation...

Associated Press

Some trans people turn to crowdfunding to leave Florida after anti-LGBTQ+ laws

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Dozens of transgender people in Florida have turned to crowdfunding appeals to help them leave the state after the passage of new legislation that targets the LGBTQ+ community, including a law that curtails access to gender-affirming care for adults and bans it for minors. For Sage Chelf, the decision to leave […]

23 hours ago

Associated Press

US, Taiwan sign trade deal over China’s opposition

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States signed a trade agreement Thursday with Taiwan over opposition from China, which claims the self-ruled island democracy as part of its territory. The two governments say the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st Century Trade will strengthen commercial relations by improving customs, investment and other regulation. The measure was signed by […]

23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Kansas has new anti-ESG law amid raft of culture war vetoes