Veto Session Review
Hi everyone!

We are now down to just one final day in the 2021 legislative session. 

Last week was the veto session, and though the calendar called for it to end on May 11th, we were able to finish several days early – at 2:15 a.m. in the wee hours of Saturday morning. 
It was a remarkably busy and largely quite successful week, complete with five overrides of the governor’s vetoes and the passage of several important pieces of legislation, which I will detail in this newsletter.

As we look back to where we were when the session began on January 11th, there is no question that this session was a huge success, particularly given the challenges posed by COVID restrictions and the circumstances surrounding our former majority leader. And, as usual, there was some legislation that I thought needed to be stronger...and some that we were unable to get to that I felt were necessary. But, that is how it goes in the world of push as hard as you can for what you think is right and take the “wins” where you can get them!

While this newsletter will focus on the veto session, I look forward to recapping our success in the coming weeks.

In even better news, it appears that mask mandates are finally on their way out as a result of the CDC announcement that those who are vaccinated no longer need to wear masks, even indoors. The practical impact of that decision is that local governments cannot distinguish between those who are vaccinated and who are not, so they are quickly lifting mandates. As of the time of this newsletter, the governments of Kansas City (MO), Independence, and Jackson County on the Missouri side removed their health orders and many businesses are taking down their signs, as well. We are very close to getting back to normal! 

Of course, more work needs to be done. I am heartbroken by the continual requirement of our kids to wear masks in school. I planned on appearing at the Shawnee Mission School Board meeting on Monday to ask them to repeal the mandate, but they are denying me a chance to speak - their excuse was that they are already full.

Finally, thanks to all of you who responded to our survey on vaccine passports. Due to your help, we were able to get a proviso in the budget banning vaccine passports. While the impact may be limited because it was not a separate bill, it will still have an influence, and it sends a powerful signal that we will not tolerate vaccine passports in Kansas.
With that in mind, here is your legislative update…
During the April break, Governor Kelly vetoed numerous bills, which the Senate President referred to as a “veto-a-rama.” The Senate President subsequently promised to begin the veto session with a “veto-override-a-rama”, and that is exactly what happened.
On the very first day we were back, the Senate held override votes on the following bills, succeeding on five of the six:

SB 50 – Tax Relief for Families and Businesses – SUCCESSFUL OVERRIDE
This was legislation four sessions in the making and the primary purpose was to allow Kansans to fully enjoy the benefits of the 2017 Trump tax cuts. In addition, it included an increase in the standard deduction and created a $100,000 threshold for businesses out of state to have to pay online sales taxes, consistent with a decision by the United States Supreme Court. While it was not retroactive, it did set our policy going forward. The fiscal note was also modest as it was under $100 million. Still, the governor vetoed it, but we overrode the veto and the House followed. So this bill will now become law!

SB 55 – Fairness in Women’s Sports Act – FAILED TO OVERRIDE
This is as simple as it sounds and has gained much attention in the media. It simply would require that only biological women compete in women’s sports. The governor – and the Democrats in the Senate – used extreme and unfortunate language to characterize the bill and of course, she vetoed it. We fell just one vote shy of overriding her veto, on a vote of 26-14 – we needed 27. Sadly, three Republicans voted against the override. Because it had to get through the Senate first, the House never took it up. It is my fervent hope that we continue to push for this type of legislation until we get it passed, otherwise women’s sports will forever change as the chance to compete on a level playing field will be lost.

HB 2332 – Election Security – SUCCESSFUL OVERRIDE
This is one of two election security bills and was quite modest, in my estimation. Included in the measures were provisions requiring identification of any organization sending you an advanced voting application, prohibiting the altering of election laws by the executive branch, and enhancing election tampering laws. The governor nonetheless vetoed the bill, but both chambers overrode her veto, so it now becomes law. The provisions take effect on January 1, 2022, so they will apply to next year’s elections.

HB 2183 – Election Security – SUCCESSFUL OVERRIDE
This was the second of two election security bills to tighten up our election laws. It included a prohibition on backdating advance voting ballots, a requirement that signatures be matched on advanced ballots, a prohibition on extending advance ballot deadlines, limits on ballot harvesting, and it tightened up the restrictions on advance ballot delivering and assistance. I felt the limit on the number of ballots one person could collect should have been lower. This bill limits it to 10, and that still allows for the potential for limited ballot harvesting...especially in nursing homes. The original version was limited to 5, and I thought that was better...but at least we implemented limitations. Both the House and Senate overrode the governor’s vetoes, so it will now become law.

HB 2166 – License Plates – SUCCESSFUL OVERRIDE
This legislation would typically be non-controversial, as it creates several new customized distinctive license plates, including for branches of the military and several charitable organizations. However, Senate Democrats objected to the inclusion of a license plate that had the “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flag, with the proceeds going to the Kansas State Rifle Association. The bill was vetoed, but both chambers overrode the veto, so it now becomes law. You can sign up for a license plate here: Get on the List for a Gadsden Flag License Plate!

HB 2058 – 2nd Amendment – SUCCESSFUL OVERRIDE
The final bill we voted to override dealt with the 2nd Amendment. The main purpose of the bill was license reciprocity, as well as allowing those aged 18-20 to conceal carry. Among its several provisions, the bill specifies a valid license or permit to carry a concealed firearm issued by another jurisdiction is recognized in Kansas while such permit or license holder is not a Kansas resident. It also says that valid licenses or permits issued by another jurisdiction entitle the lawful holder only to carry concealed handguns as defined in Kansas law, and it requires such persons to act in accordance with Kansas laws while carrying a concealed handgun in the state. The bill also states criminal provisions in continuing law prohibiting the carrying of a concealed firearm by persons under age 21 do not apply to residents of another state who are less than 21 years of age and lawfully carrying a concealed firearm pursuant to a recognized out-of-state license. Finally, as noted, it allows those 18-20 to obtain a provisional conceal carry license. The bill was vetoed by the governor but we were able to override her veto in both chambers, so it now will become law.
A Victory for Kansas Kids
An priority of many conservatives in the legislature is to change our approach to education policy and funding from system-focused, to student-focused

The Republican legislature took a significant step towards that goal by adopting HB 2134 by a vote of 35-4. While fully funding K-12 schools, it also:
  • dramatically expands the low-income tax-credit scholarship program,
  • contains new accountability guardrails to ensure funding reaches at-risk students,
  • contains a critical budget certification process to ensure public money is reaching classrooms and being spent to ensure student success, and
  • places strict limits on the ability of school districts to require remote learning. 

Each of these items means the state is changing our focus to what’s best for each student. By expanding the scholarship program and requiring districts to certify school funding is truly reaching classrooms, Republicans are sending a powerful message that the needs of students must come first.

The most significant part of this is the expansion of the low-income tax credit scholarship program. The most significant boost to parental choice ever enacted into Kansas law, it dramatically expands the program to cover all students who are eligible for free and reduced lunches and are enrolled in kindergarten to the eighth grade, and any child receiving a scholarship may continue to do so through the 12th grade. The program remains capped at $10 million annually.

The low-income tax credit scholarship program has already helped hundreds of Kansas kids - now it can now help tens of thousands. Republicans believe every student in Kansas should have the best opportunity at success, and this bill represents a giant leap forward towards that goal.

The governor has indicated she plans to sign the bill.
For Small Business, Help is On the Way
If you have followed my Facebook feed over the past year, you have known how concerned I was about the impact of restrictions on small businesses throughout Kansas. I have been in touch with a number of business owners here in Shawnee and in surrounding areas. All were impacted as much or more by government rules as they were by COVID-19 itself! Some were forced to shut down for weeks, and restrictions lingered for a year, forcing many to ultimately close or at the very least, lose significant streams of revenue. In my opinion, none of that was necessary. You only need to look to the policies in South Dakota, and how they fared economically during the past year.

As a result, many have considered legal avenues to redress their grievances.
I have made it clear that we needed to provide a boost to small businesses who are the bedrock of our economy. With hundreds of millions of federal dollars pouring into the state, there was an opportunity to ensure those tax dollars reach the very businesses we need to prosper and for life to return to normal.

The COVID-19 Small Business Relief Act – contained within SB 273 – does just that. Any business with 50 or fewer employees who was harmed as a result of the restrictions imposed by the government, would be eligible to seek relief under the bill, and in exchange give up their right to sue the state for damages.

The bill defines “restriction” to mean any occupancy limitation, limitation on periods of operation, or the exertion by any governmental entity of other significant control on business resources or functionality related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning May 31, 2021, any governmental entity requirement for the use of face masks related to the COVID-19 pandemic that contains enforcement requirements by Kansas businesses would be considered a “restriction” under the Act and subject to a claim for relief.

The bill establishes the COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund to be administered by the Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) and would detail how expenditures from the Fund would be made.

The money would come from unencumbered funds and include those from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act; the federal Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriation Act; the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act; the federal Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act; the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021; the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021; and any other federal law that appropriates moneys to the state for aid for coronavirus relief, including any such moneys received by Kansas after July 15, 2021.

The bill includes numerous steps in the process to ensure oversight from elected officials when it pertains to hearing and processing and ultimately distributing claims.
SB 273 was adopted by a vote of 24-14 and was also passed by the House. We do not know what the governor plans on doing with the bill.
Vaccine Passports
Across the country, a troubling trend is emerging as both public and private entities are increasingly pushing vaccine passports as a condition to participate in society, including the ability to attend school, a sporting event, or even go to a restaurant. In New York, for instance, there is a likelihood that fans attending baseball games will be segregated due to their vaccine status. That is a HIPAA violation in my opinion.

Last week, I conducted a poll in which well over 2000 people across Kansas responded, and over 90% indicated their strong opposition to vaccine passports, even those imposed by private business. Unfortunately, while many governors and legislatures talk a good game, they are not willing to extend the bans to private businesses, even those that serve the public.

For instance, in Kansas, though the governor has indicated she has no interest in vaccine passports, she clearly meant government - it is important to send a powerful signal that such passports have no place in Kansas, even in the private sector.

It was my goal to get legislation passed, and I worked with Senator Kellie Warren in an effort to do so. However, as the end of our session drew near, it was clear that a separate bill was not going to make it through the process, so the legislature inserted a proviso in the budget banning vaccine passports in Kansas.

The language of the proviso is modeled after legislation championed by Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida and is meant to prevent the practice in Kansas. It prohibits vaccine passports from being issued by any entity receiving state funds and is intended to prevent places of public accommodation from requiring a vaccine passport, as well.

However, because it was just a budget proviso, there are questions about how far it can reach. The good news, it will apply to any state agency receiving state funding, assuming the governor allows it to become law.

Vaccine passports should not be implemented anywhere in our state – whether at a university, a sporting event, a movie, or a school. 

The inclusion of the proviso sends the clear message that vaccine passports are unacceptable in Kansas. Over the next 8 months, we will carefully review if any private businesses attempt to impose a vaccine passport. My bill, SB 308, which bans vaccine passports, is still active, and I intend to make that one of my priorities in the 2022 session.

I also am increasingly concerned about businesses or even public entities requiring their employees to get vaccinated. For instance, Delta Airlines announced any new employees will have to be vaccinated if they do not have some type of exemption. While I respect the rights of private business, I do not believe that these policies are appropriate, particularly at a time places are looking for employees. Plus, there is a growing body of evidence that indicates healthy people, and those who have had the virus, should not get the vaccine, as it may pose more health risks than the virus itself. 
Thompson Vote Tracker
Here is a review of the remaining bills adopted by the Senate during the Veto Session:
S Sub for HB 2313 went through several votes and versions until final approval on Friday evening. The final version has several important components, including:

  • Property Tax Reimbursements for Shutdowns. Provides property tax reimbursements in the event of shutdowns or restrictions imposed by government. Beginning January 1, 2022, the bill would provide for reimbursements from the county general fund to the owner of any building maintaining a business on the property that was shut down or limited in any capacity pursuant to a declared disaster emergency. This piece is not retroactive.
  • School Property Tax Levy. Re-authorizes the 20-mill property tax levy for school years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023.
  • Extends a vehicle property tax exemption for up to two motor vehicles to all current members in good standing of the Kansas Army National Guard, Kansas Air National Guard, or U.S. military reserve forces stationed in Kansas, beginning in tax year 2022.
  • Study of Government Competition Against Private Business. The bill would require the Legislative Post Audit Committee to direct the Legislative Division of Post Audit to conduct a study of the impact of nonprofit organizations and governmental entities competing against for-profit businesses during calendar year 2021 and submit a final study report to the Legislature on or before January 15, 2022.

The bill passed 35-0 with several passing. Having also passed the House, it is now headed to the governor who is expected to sign it. I voted Yes.
SB 159 is the omnibus budget and also pays claims against the state. Included within the budget are two provisos which are very important to the liberty of Kansans. One bans vaccine passports and the other extends the limits on contact tracing that were adopted by the 2020 legislature. For a detailed review of the contents of SB 159, please click here.
The bill passed 26-12 and having also passed the House, is now headed to the governor. I voted Yes.
HB 2137 amends various provisions in the Kansas Liquor Control Act (KLCA) and the Club and Drinking Establishment Act (CDEA) concerning the sale, transfer, and licensure requirements related to alcoholic liquors. Among the changes, the bill would:

  • Allow retail sales of alcoholic liquor and cereal malt beverages (CMB) original packaging on Sundays between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. and on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. Current law prohibits the sale of alcohol and CMB before 12 p.m. on Sundays and on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.
  • Authorize alcoholic liquor retailers, class A and B clubs, and drinking establishments to sell refillable and sealable containers of beer and CMB for consumption off the licensed premises.
  • Authorize a public venue, club, drinking establishment, caterer, or holder of a temporary permit to sell or serve mixed alcoholic beverages in a pitcher.

For a full list of all the provisions in the bill, click hereI voted Yes.

The bill passed 30-9. Also having been passed by the House, it is now headed to the governor.
H Sub for SB 78 would amend several provisions in the Insurance Code and would codify the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Credit for Reinsurance Model Regulation into statute. It also amends the Insurance Company Holding Act, the Professional Employer Organization (PEO) Registration Act, the effective date for the risk-based capital (RBC) instructions promulgated by the NAIC, and certain coverage and oversight requirements in the Health Care Provider Insurance Availability Act (HCPIAA). Finally, the bill repeals the Automobile Club Services Act and a statute relating to the power of the Commissioner of Insurance to examine and investigate into the affairs of persons engaged in the business of insurance to determine whether any unfair method of competition or unfair or deceptive act or practice has occurred.

The bill passed 33-7. Having also been passed by the House, it is now headed to the governor. I voted Yes.
SB 29 contains the contents of SB 199, which previously passed the Senate. It includes additional protections allowed by the federal government for those who purchase short-term health care coverage. Under current law, a person purchasing a short-term health care coverage is subject to underwriting when the policy renews on an annual basis. Under SB 29, policies could be sold in which a consumer could renew a policy twice (for up to three years) and not be subject to underwriting, thus covering any illnesses or incidents stemming from conditions developed during the three-year period. Short term plans have been part of Kansas law for a long time, this bill simply adds further protections for those who own them, thus providing citizens additional options when considering a health care plan that is right for them.

The bill passed 29-11. Having also passed the House, it is now headed to the governor. I voted Yes.
S Sub for Sub for HB 2397 is a bill that the legislature must pass every year, reconciling various statutes that have been amended.

The bill passed 39-0. Having also passed the House, it is now headed to the governor. I voted Yes.
SB 39 would change several license, bond, and permit renewal fee deadlines related to livestock and domestic animals from June 30 to September 30 of each year. The bill would also allow the Animal Health Commissioner to recover the actual cost of official calfhood vaccination tags.
The bill passed 35-5. Having also been passed by the House, it is now on the governor’s desk. I voted No because the vaccination tags process could turn into an expansion of governmental oversight for small cattle operations.
Sub for SB 238 amends and updates the Pharmacy Act of the State of Kansas with regard to the powers, duties, and functions of the State Board of Pharmacy. Among other provisions, it also amends the Emergency Medical Services Act to clarify the oversight provided by medical directors with regard to emergency medical services and to provide an alternate procedure for appointment of a medical director.
The bill passed 36-4. Having also passed the House, it is now headed to the governor. I voted No out of concerns over the Telehealth component. I am not against it in most settings but I feel it is undermining Kansas doctors and we need more thought about this practice, and protection in place for Kansas doctors. I am concerned it will make attracting doctors to rural Kansas more difficult if they can't make a sufficient living in those areas because their patient base is partially going to out of state physicians.

SB 170 would enact the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT), and provide for the interjurisdictional authorization of psychologists across state boundaries to practice telepsychology using telecommunication technologies and to provide temporary in-person, face-to-face psychology services. Among its provisions, the bill would enact the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact and amend the Physical Therapy Practice Act (Act). The PT Compact would provide interstate practice authority for physical therapists in compact states. The PT Compact would provide for the creation of a Physical Therapy Compact Commission, with each member state represented by one delegate, and would outline the voting and meeting requirements.
The bill passed 40-0. Having also passed the House, it is now headed to the governor. I voted Yes.
SB 60 is a bill that adds several provisions that protect victims of abuse and extortion. It would amend law in the Kansas Criminal Code related to jurisdictional application and psychological or psychiatric examinations of crime victims, removes the spousal exception in the crime of sexual battery, clarifies the provisions relating to the crime of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, and creates the crime of sexual extortion.
The bill passed 40-0. Having also passed the House, it is now headed to the governor. I voted Yes.
SB 47 is the Kansas Taxpayer Protection Act. It requires, on and after January 1, 2022, paid tax return preparers to sign any income tax return prepared by or substantially prepared by the preparer and to include the preparer’s federal preparer tax identification number on any such return. Any failure to do so would subject the preparer to a civil penalty of $50 per return with a maximum of $25,000 in civil penalties per preparer per year. It also would authorize the Secretary of Revenue to enjoin any person from acting as a paid tax preparer if the preparer had engaged in certain conduct defined in the bill. 
The bill passed 40-0. Having also passed the House, it is now headed to the governor. I voted Yes.
HB 2158 would amend statutes regarding the State Child Death Review Board, Advisory Committee on Trauma, law in the Kansas Code for Care of Children concerning investigations for child abuse or neglect, family foster home licensing and eligibility for child care assistance and would establish the Joint Committee on Child Welfare System Oversight.
The bill passed 39-0. Having also passed the House, it is now headed to the governor. I voted Yes.

HB 2121 would amend the penalties for the crime of mistreatment of a dependent adult or elder person, define the term “absconds from supervision,” amend law regarding sureties and delivery of a person arrested, amend law concerning proof of identity documents accepted for the issuance of a replacement driver’s license, and require the Secretary of Corrections to develop guidance for parole officers to use while supervising offenders on parole and post-release supervision.
The bill passed 39-0. Having also passed the House, it is now on the governor’s desk. I voted Yes.

HB 2079 is the Kansas Fights Addiction Act, which would address use of funds received from opioid litigation and establish limits on future opioid litigation by municipalities; amend law to transfer certain duties from the Secretary of State to the Attorney General; and amend law related to notices offering help to victims of human trafficking.
The bill passed 39-0. Having also been passed by the House, it is now headed to the governor. I voted Yes.
HB 2077 would amend law related to the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission, Kansas Closed Case Task Force, and the Kansas Crime Victims Compensation Board.
The bill passed 39-0. Having also been passed by the House, it is now headed to the governor. I voted Yes.
HB 2026 would establish a certified drug abuse treatment program for certain persons who have entered into a diversion agreement pursuant to a memorandum of understanding and amend law related to supervision of offenders and the administration of certified drug abuse treatment programs. It also would amend law to change penalties for crimes involving riot in a correctional facility and unlawfully tampering with an electronic monitoring device.
The bill passed 36-0. Having also been passed by the House, it is now headed to the governor. I voted Yes.
HB 2187 promotes home ownership by enacting the First-time Home Buyer Savings Account Act. It would establish modifications to the Kansas adjusted gross income of an individual for contributions to a first-time home buyer savings account. 
The bill passed 35-1. Having also been passed by the House, it is now headed to the governor. I voted Yes.
Looking Forward
As noted, we just have one more day left - May 26th, when we will consider any vetoes by the governor of the bills above. In addition, we will elect a new majority leader.

Although our session is essentially over, work on bills for next year will continue. I am researching and prioritizing things that I think are important and necessary to be considered next year. And, I will keep you posted on these items and my thoughts throughout the rest of 2021.
Thank you to all who have contacted me on the various bills and topics important to you during the session. I get flooded with emails and although it’s difficult to respond to them all...I do read them all. Just know that your opinions are valued and considered!

Thank you!

Your Senator,

Mike Thompson