Sine Die Review
Hi everyone!

It has been a bit since my last update, so I wanted to give you a brief synopsis of what occurred on May 26th, the last day of the session.

As a reminder, the last day of the session, called Sine Die, was on May 26th. It’s separate from the rest of the veto session to allow the legislature to consider any overrides of vetoed bills that were passed during the veto session, as well as any emergency, last minute items needing consideration before adjournment until January.

This Sine Die was no different. During the period between the veto session and the Sine Die, the governor vetoed three items:

  • SB 273, which would have set aside a portion of federal COVID-19 relief dollars so businesses that were restricted or closed by government could seek compensation for the time they were restricted or closed.

  • SB 29, which would have improved short-term health care plans by extending the time frame from 1 to 3 years in which a short term plan could be owned without being subject to underwriting at the renewal times within the coverage period.

  • A budget provision which would have funded the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center for $500,000 to research COVID-19 treatments for severely ill patients.

There was a wrinkle this veto session, in that the House did not have enough legislators present to obtain the 84 votes necessary to override the Governor's vetoes. In the Senate, almost all of our members were present. That made overrides almost impossible...and frustrating. All of the items above were excellent pieces of legislation. 

The funding for Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center was also important as it would have provided for clinical trials of a therapy that would help research treatments for folks with the most severe cases of inflammatory diseases, including those most afflicted by COVID. More on that below.

We did attempt an override on SB 29 and were successful, overriding the veto by a vote of
28-11. However, while they tried in the House, they were 17 votes short, partially due to the fact they had several people not present. You can view the House roll call vote by clicking here. Realizing this was the reality, an override attempt was not made on the other two provisions.
However, I do want to specifically mention each of them in more detail, which I will later in this newsletter.
Also, you are likely aware of the fact that many businesses are struggling to find workers, even though they are fully open, and people are returning to shop or dine-in, in droves. One of the primary reasons for this worker shortage is the federal government’s $300/week extra unemployment benefit which, when combined with traditional unemployment, often exceeds what the person was making while actually working – and that creates an incentive for the person NOT to work. As a result, we’ve seen businesses cut hours or staff.  

State participation in the program is voluntary, and nearly 25 states have removed themselves from the program. The State of Kansas has not, as that decision is controlled by the governor. However, on Sine Die, both chambers passed resolutions strongly encouraging the governor to drop Kansas participation in the program. It is simply not good public policy to have the government compete with private sector businesses who are the backbone of our economy. To this point, the governor has yet to do so.

On top of that, 35% of the businesses in Kansas shut down permanently over the past 14 months. I have told you many times that on March 12th, 2020, the last day of our session last year, I warned that shutting down the economy for this virus would have unintended consequences beyond our wildest imaginations. Well, the distortions in our economy caused by this shutdown are having enormous and long-lasting results. We should never have done it. There were ways to deal with the virus and still keep businesses open. But now the damage is done.

Nearly daily, we are getting new revelations about what Dr. Fauci knew... that Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine not only worked well, but could have saved lives...and allowed life to go on much closer to normal! That is criminal! We should never let another “emergency” be prolonged for political reasons ever again!

With that, here are some more details regarding the highlights of our last day:
Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center Funding
As noted, the governor line-item vetoed an expenditure in the budget which would have provided $500,000 in funding for the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center at KU Medical Center. The funding would have gone to study treatments for severe cases of COVID-19. 

Unfortunately, the governor’s veto message created quite a deal of confusion about the funding, so we opted to continue to educate legislators in the interim, with a goal of securing the funding next session. 

You might have seen our press releases on the matter, but if not, here is the joint release I sent out from Senate President Masterson and myself:
Masterson, Thompson Pledge to Work Towards COVID-19 Research Funding for Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center

Topeka, KS (May 27, 2021) – Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson and Senator Mike Thompson issued a joint statement pledging to continue to work towards funding COVID-19 treatment at the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center at KU Medical Center. $500,000 of funding was included in the omnibus budget but was line-item vetoed by the governor. The Senate did not pursue a veto override on Wednesday.

The statement from Senators Masterson and Thompson is as follows:

“Due to confusion created by the governor’s misleading veto message, we elected to further educate members of the legislature in the off-session about the importance of funding these important trials to fast forward a potential treatment of severe cases of COVID-19. The Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center, created by the Kansas Legislature in 2013, is in a unique position to be a leader in pursuing ground-breaking treatment to those who have been most acutely impacted by COVID-19 as well as other diseases. It is unfortunate the governor decided to use her veto pen to undermine this research, but the Senate is committed to securing this funding.”
In the governor’s veto message, she claimed the money would not be enough to do a real trial – but she provided misleading information on the costs of clinical trials. While she cited cost figures for lengthy trials with hundreds to thousands of patients, the very same paper she cited also noted the median cost (IQR) of a clinical trial of just $41,117 per patient. In a more recent paper, the same author said, “At a median cost of $41,413 per patient enrolled, the costs of obtaining this key scientific evidence are modest.”

The proposed Kansas adult stem cell trial is for 10 patients, which would be $50,000 per patient.

As indicated in a previous statement released by Senator Thompson after the governor’s veto, peer-reviewed scientific studies indicate a type of adult stem cell, called Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs), derived from the umbilical cord, can reduce inflammation by "calming the storm," as already proven in GVHD trials, allowing the body to fight and repair damage. The Governor's line-item veto of $500,000 ensures that a remedy which is ready for testing, will not be available to Kansas citizens. This therapy is also promising for a number of other severe inflammatory diseases, so COVID patients are not the only ones losing out as a result of the governor’s veto. 
SB 273: Small Business Relief
While not surprised, I was nonetheless disappointed when the governor opted to veto this bill. We all know businesses who were severely impacted by the decisions of both state and local governments to impose lockdowns or other burdensome restrictions on their businesses, such as social distancing or mask requirements. I know of several here in the 10th District who were impacted by these decisions, many of which were simply unnecessary.

The United States Congress has adopted multiple relief bills aimed at lifting people up whose incomes and livelihoods were hurt by COVID. The amount of money pouring into states is staggering. It was the feeling of Republicans that it was prudent to use a portion of that money to help small businesses, many of whom were closed while their bigger competitors were open.

Yet, the governor – who imposed many of the restrictions herself – opted to veto legislation that would have helped these same businesses. It is truly unconscionable, and it is my hope people remember this action when they cast their votes next November.
Majority Leader Election
Finally, immediately following adjournment, Senate Republicans had a caucus to elect a new Majority Leader. Here are the details:

You might recall that on the last day of the regular session, the Republican caucus held a secret ballot to remove our former majority leader from that position. This created a vacancy, and in the past few weeks, Assistant Majority Leader Larry Alley has served as acting majority leader. However, we needed to elect a permanent majority leader, and that election was held on the 26th, immediately following adjournment.

Three candidates ran for the position – Larry Alley, Richard Hilderbrand, and Jeff Longbine. Larry Alley won on the second ballot. I sit next to Larry on the floor and he’s a great man who will do well in this position. He is well-liked by all, conservative, and will work well with the entire caucus.

As a result of Senator Alley’s election, a vacancy in the office of Assistant Majority Leader occurred. Renee Erickson, a strong conservative who has been a leader on issues such as Fairness in Women’s Sports and school choice, ran for the position unopposed. I fully support Renee and believe she will do an excellent job!
Looking Forward
In the coming weeks, those of you in my district will receive a traditional “snail mail” newsletter that encapsulates all we accomplished this session. I will also e-mail out an e-version of this newsletter for others who like to follow our work. The list of legislation we passed is quite long and that’s a good thing! From Value Them Both to property tax reform to income tax reductions, this was an incredibly successful session for Republicans by any reasonable standard.   

Thank you to all of you for your support, prayers, thoughts and opinions. I will continue to keep you updated in the weeks and months ahead!

Your Senator,

Mike Thompson