2021 Kansas Special Session: What Do I Need to Know?
Who Called It?
Last Friday, Governor Kelly’s office received 115 individually signed and notarized petitions from legislators asking her to call a special session of the Kansas Legislature. State law requires a two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate to call a special session. All republicans, 29 in the Senate and 86 in the House, supported the petition.
Why Was It Called?
President Biden issued the first of three executive orders in July that required all federal employees and contractors to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. More recently on November 4, the White House released details on the other two orders that mandate all employers of private businesses with 100 or more employees require their workers to be vaccinated. This Emergency Temporary Standard under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will go into effect on January 4, 2022. The third order is for health care workers and requires that healthcare facilities participating in Medicare or Medicaid require their workers to also receive the vaccine.
Most Kansans see these actions as federal government overreach, and state lawmakers are responding both legally and legislatively.
When Is It?
The 2021 Kansas Special Session will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, November 22. It’s unclear how long it will take to conduct their business. However, some are hearing that leadership would like it kept to one day.
What Legislation Will Be Considered?
A Special Committee on Government Overreach and the Impact of COVID-19 Mandates was formed and held four meetings throughout October and November. Last Friday, the committee held hearings on two proposals and ultimately approved them as recommendations to the full Legislature to consider on Monday.
The first, 22RS2356, proposes to loosen up requirements of employers when granting medical and religious exemptions as well as creates a cause of action against employers who terminate an employee because of their unvaccinated status. The second proposal, 22RS2357, creates a new eligibility requirement for unemployment benefits for employees who voluntarily leave or are let go from their employment due to their unvaccinated status.
If Those Bills Pass, Then What?
These are complicated issues with legal challenges happening across the country. Until those work through the courts, it’s unclear what authority any state legislation will have over the federal orders. We will keep our members informed as the process unfolds. In the meantime, special session proceedings can be watched online at http://kslegislature.org.