May 27, 2020

Capitol Connection is your report from KAC's Vice President Adrienne Olejnik on happenings at the Statehouse and issues affecting Kansas children and families. For more updates, follow KAC on  Facebook  and  Twitter .

For Adrienne's perspective, see her  Twitter  account!
A marathon session, followed by a veto

The Senate and House convened for one final day, May 21, to close out the work of the Legislature for 2020. Typically, this last day, called "sine die," is ceremonial without significant work occurring, but that was not the case this year, due to the shortened session.

Scattered committees met in person and via Zoom in the week or so preceding this final session. A disparate list of bills was still being finalized less than 12 hours before lawmakers convened.

Expectations for the day were clearly different among legislators. Discussions quickly became heated on the Senate floor as members disagreed on the format of their time together -- limiting opportunities for bill amendments and discussions and explanations of items being presented.

In the evening, a motion in the House to suspend its midnight rule passed -- allowing the Legislature to keep working through the night and into the morning of May 22. The intended one-day session turned into an overlapping, two-day, 24-hour marathon.

For the bulk of the first day, bills and committee reports were heard on topics such as cable technology, electric rates for big energy users moving to Kansas, banking bills, and scrap metal.  An attempt was made to add an amendment for Medicaid expansion to a bill on the Senate floor early on, but the motion to discuss that amendment failed, 26-14.

What made it through

Eventually, expected discussions about the pandemic, emergency powers, liability issues, and federal relief came up for discussion.

Major items that passed both chambers included measures changing property tax disclosures, banking industry changes and electric rate reductions for new Kansas businesses. 

The biggest was  a multi-issue bill  that contained many provisions for COVID-19 response, including changes to unemployment law, civil liability immunity, and other health-related topics. It also included changes to the governor's ability to designate the federal relief funds, use emergency declarations, and issue executive orders.

It was clear that the challenges of kids and families struggling to meet their basic needs -- before the pandemic and even more in these past months -- were not the priority. We are disappointed that no significant discussion was given about the positive role and function of government to help our fellow Kansans. Instead, a poorly conducted final day(s) of session ended with bitter words and little help for these kids and families.

That's not all, folks!

On Tuesday, Gov. Laura Kelly announced that she planned to veto that giant COVID-19 bill, questioning both its limitations on her emergency powers and its constitutionality.

She also called the Legislature back to Topeka for a special session, beginning June 3. So while we anticipated this would be the last Capitol Connection newsletter sent this year, we now expect there to be at least one more.

We don't know what to expect from the special session yet. Will lawmakers keep to a tightly focused agenda based on the pandemic, or might they take up other subjects? 

Rest assured that KAC will be keeping track and keeping you informed.

Take care --