This week in wins: Kansas welcomes refugees with open arms

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Kansas joins states like Colorado and Utah in embracing refugees in their states, while citizens in Alabama saw a new statue of Rosa Parks unveiled in Montgomery.

The House of Representatives passed a landmark voting rights bill as part of an ongoing fight to end voter suppression, access to health care could be expanded in Virginia and Kentucky, and Kansas City, Missouri could become the first major city with free bus service all over town.

Read on to catch up on this week's wins.

Kansas governor welcomes refugees with open arms

Refugees "contribute to our economy, workforce and the cultural fabric of our state and nation," Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly wrote in a letter to the Trump administration in late November. "Kansas has a long and proud history of welcoming the world's refugees to our state," she added, noting she welcomes refugees who go to Kansas.    

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The letter was in response to an administration Executive Order allowing states and cities to opt out of resettling refugees. Rather than refuse refugees, Kelly, a Democrat, wrote that the "citizens of Kansas have shown time and again a strong commitment to welcoming refugees into communities statewide." 

Kansas joins other states such as Colorado, North Dakota, and Utah that expressed a desire to continue welcoming refugees.  

House passes new Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House of Representatives by a 228-186 vote on Friday. One Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, joined a unified Democratic caucus in approving the legislation.  

If it becomes law, the VRAA would restore the power of the Justice Department to examine changes to voting laws in areas with a history of voter discrimination. The bill would also add new protections for early voting and voter registration. 

The bill will "protect and advance the legacy of those brave foot soldiers of the civil rights movement by restoring key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and empowering the Justice Department to stop voter suppression tactics before they go into place," Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) said when she introduced the bill in February. 

The legislation now moves to the Senate, where a companion bill from Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy has 45 co-sponsors.

Rosa Parks statue unveiled in Montgomery, Alabama

On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus, sparking one of America's seminal civil rights movements. Exactly 64 years later, a statue of Parks was unveiled in Montgomery, Alabama, commemorating her stand against segregation, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. 

About 400 people gathered in downtown Montgomery to witness the unveiling of the statue, located where Parks got on the bus that fateful day. Park's arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, protesting segregation.

The lawyer who represented Parks, Fred Dray, attended the ceremony.

Gray told the Advertiser he was glad to be able to honor Parks, "and even more importantly to honor the 40,000 African American men and women who stayed off of the buses for 382 days."  

Kansas City, Missouri, moves to eliminate bus fare for entire city

Kansas City, Missouri, took a step toward becoming the first major city to offer free bus transportation for the entire city, KSHB-41 reported on Thursday.   

By a unanimous 13-0 vote, the city council directed the city manager to ensure next year's budget request included enough funds to ensure free bus transportation for the city.

"The City Council just took a monumental, unanimous step toward #ZeroFareTransit," Mayor Quinton Lucas wrote on Twitter following the vote. 

Currently, residents can pay $50 for a monthly bus pass or $1.50 per ride, KSHB reported. The city is still in the process of figuring out how the new program will be funded. 

Minnesota governor creates Advisory Council on Climate Change

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is taking executive action to address climate change. On Monday, the Democratic governor signed an executive order creating both an Advisory Council on Climate Change and a Climate Change Subcabinet position, WCCO-CBS4 reported.  

"Climate change threatens the very things that make Minnesota a great place to live — from our wonderful lakes to farmable land and clean air," Walz said, according to WCCO. "Tackling climate change requires bold thinking and collaboration," he added.

The subcabinet position will work across government agencies to come up with strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change. 

WCCO adds that the executive order will also require new emissions standards for vehicles sold in the state, encourage more electric vehicles, and work towards making Minnesota 100% reliant on clean energy by 2050. 

2019 elections score health care victories in Virginia and Kentucky

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered state officials to pause their work on a Medicaid work requirement, anticipating that a new Democratic legislative majority will not require such action, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. A work requirement, a demand of the outgoing Republican majority, would have meant up to 74,000 Virginians could have lost their health care.

"Virginians made clear they want more access to health care, not less," Northam said in a statement, referring to the 2019 election results where Democrats won a majority in both legislative chambers. 

In November, voters in Kentucky elected Democrat Andy Beshear as the state's next governor. A day after he won, Beshear vowed to rescind a similar work requirement in Kentucky, which will help up to 95,000 Kentuckians keep their health insurance.

Check back next week for more good news.