Nine years ago, Sen. Tom Holland purchased a 100th anniversary 2003 Softail Standard Harley-Davidson.
It wasn’t a mid-life crisis purchase, the 58-year-old Democrat said. “It was a post-campaign crisis.”
“I bought it right after Sam Brownback kicked my butt when I ran against him for governor back in 2010. That’s honest to God the story,” he said.
Clad in a frayed, sleeveless black jacket, Holland showed off his Harley in his front yard in early November. Holland’s jacket came from the 2015 Sturgis motorcycle rally.
“Sturgis is kind of like the Mecca pilgrimage for all riders Harley,” Holland said. “If you like to go watch people and see people, it’s out of this world.”
Holland and his wife enjoy going on rides together and the couple have two motorcycles. But the 2003 Softail has been Holland’s “tried and true” since 2010.
“Once we had the gubernatorial run and that thrashing, it was just like, ‘Okay, I want to go be a free spirit.’ So I got it and started riding and did some really neat rides cross country,” he said.
Apart from riding his motorcycle, when the Legislature isn’t in session, Holland and his wife are co-owners of an IT consulting firm that they run out of their house. They also have a vineyard in their front yard, which they started in 2016.
Holland has served in the Senate since 2009. Prior to that, he was a state representative for six years.
At the end of each legislative session, Holland’s motorcycle makes an appearance at the Statehouse. He rides it to Topeka during the veto session. And just in case anyone wonders whom the bike belongs to, his license plate has a special message.
This session, Holland said Medicaid expansion and a constitutional amendment regarding abortion will be the biggest topics.
“You got Gov. (Laura) Kelly and her allies that are going to be driving the Medicaid expansion and then you’re going to have the conservative Republican leadership working to get some sort of pro-life constitutional amendment on the ballot,” he said.
There are also numerous initiatives Holland is working on personally. Most important to Kansans, Holland said, is a property tax freeze for senior citizens and disabled veterans and a bill providing tax abatement for agricultural buildings damaged in natural disasters.
The Golden Years Homestead Property Tax Freeze Act would provide refunds for certain increases in residential property taxes to people 65 and older or to people who have a disability as a result of military service.
“That’s a huge deal for Kansas seniors,” Holland said. “Over 70,000 senior households would be positively impacted.”
Holland said over 5,000 disabled veterans would also benefit.
The other bill, SB242, dates back to the EF4 tornado that struck Douglas County in May, Holland said. SB242 would provide a 100% tax abatement for three years on any agricultural building or structure that is at least 50% destroyed by a natural disaster.
Holland also mentioned a few other bills he will be working to pass.
Last session, Holland and four other senators got a hearing on their veterans-first medical cannabis act. The bill would legalize cannabis for medical use, but it would be rolled out in multiple phases, and the first group of people to get access to medical marijuana treatment would be veterans.
“Quite honestly, our vets go through PTSD,” Holland said, noting that they could positively benefit from medical marijuana and that he “can’t think of a more deserving group” to be the recipients of the first phase of the medical cannabis rollout.
Also last session, Holland introduced a bill that would require clergy to report child abuse to authorities.
A lot of people are mandatory reporters, Holland noted. “We want to add clergy to that list.”
Holland noted that, at the insistence of a Catholic organization, the bill includes an exception for instances where the crime is reported under the sacrament of reconciliation, in which parishioners confess their sins to priests who are sworn to secrecy.
Just last week, Holland pre-filed a mental health parity bill that would make health care coverage for those dealing with suicide ideation and substance abuse issues more accessible.
Holland said his proudest accomplishment thus far in the Statehouse was supporting constitutional funding of K-12 education.
“Building our state for a better tomorrow starts with making sure our kids are properly educated,” he said.
Holland is honored to be the voice for more than 73,000 constituents, he said, and he takes that privilege seriously:
“At the end of the day, I want to be sure all Kansans can aspire to have opportunities to grow in the state.”
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