Legislative Leadership Fails Kansans

Almost 24 hours after they started Thursday morning, the Kansas Legislature adjourned in the early hours today, having worked through the night to quash debate, vote on measures yet to be written, and eventually pass a terrible bill that endangers Kansans.

The day began with Leadership dismissing once again the will of Kansans and the majority of legislators, denying not just a vote, but any debate on Medicaid expansion. Sen. Denning went so far as to lament that his touted Medicaid expansion bill never got a debate, at the same time as he voted to prevent that debate.

That was just the beginning.

As the day wore on, debate was denied on any of the measures, instead sending them directly to conference committees, where six legislators are supposed to compromise and send something back to the chambers for up or down votes. It's an effective way to limit debate to just those six legislators, who are appointed by their leadership. The result, four conservative Republicans and two figurehead Democrats, who can do little but raise objections and watch it happen without them.

Sen. Vic Miller's floor speech listing all the days the Senate did not do work is what prompted conservative leadership to pull debate off the menu. Senate work was already stalled as long ago as February—before the coronavirus curtailed legislative activity—by Sen. President Susan Wagle's declaration that no bills would be worked unless her pet amendment to strip women's rights from the Kansas Constitution was passed. This was after her amendment was defeated by actual voting in the legislature.

The bill, HB 2054, ultimately passed the Kansas Senate 27-11 (see the votes), and the Kansas House 76-34 (see the votes). Its next stop will be the Governor's desk, where she will have to decide to sign it, or veto the measure. If she vetoes it, her emergency powers run out on May 26. There is a significant question about whether the bill is, in fact, legal, as it was passed after the midnight deadline. (Here is the text of the conference report, if you are the sort who wants to read it)

Here are some news stories to catch up with:

Let us tell you what we really think

The result of yesterday's marathon session is a bill that severely curtails Gov. Kelly's emergency powers, making her decisions subject to legislative oversight, taking away any power to oversee federal relief funding, and making any orders she publishes inconsequential if county governments decide they don't want to follow them. And for the cherry on top, the bill also decriminalizes the act of ignoring an executive order.

To sum it up succinctly, the radically conservative Leadership in the Kansas Legislature ignored the scientific community, medical professionals, and their own constituents (the public approves of Kelly's handling of the pandemic) to score political points. But they took pains to ensure the bill still allows curbside alcohol sales.

Our frustration with the tone-deaf Leadership in the Legislature has reached new heights. This is an election year, and it is time to get busy.

  • If you are a supporter of good government, you need to make some noise. The state's elected legislators and leadership made a decision yesterday to pass laws nobody had read without the opportunity for debate and deliberation. This is not representative government, this is rule by a select few who answer to their political ambitions, not the people. Join us for Walk the Vote

  • If you are a supporter of healthy communities, it is time to stand up. The Legislative Leadership ignored medical advice by actual doctors, instead replacing it with wishful thinking by questionable economists, deciding that Kansas Chamber lobbyists were right: more dead Kansans is worth re-opening the economy. Join us for Walk the Vote

  • If you are a supporter of public schools, voting rights, equality, gun safety, immigrant rights and so much more, it is time to speak out. This is an election year. Get in it. Join us for Walk the Vote

The Mainstream Coalition, with our nonpartisan get out the vote efforts, our advocacy work for issues we all believe in, and our PAC's election work to support candidates and issues, is poised to make a huge difference this year.

Stay safe, vote, and do more than vote, join us for our advocacy event: Walk the Vote on June 13, 2020!

- Danny Novo
  Communications Director

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