Kansas lawmakers wrapped up the majority of their work for the annual legislative session on Friday, capping a busy and, in some ways, historic yr.
More than 80 payments grew to become legislation throughout that point, with a half dozen different measures sitting on Gov. Laura Kelly‘s desk, awaiting motion. Other controversial points — akin to a ban on transgender athletes in girls’s sports activities, medical marijuana legalization and sports activities betting — stay untouched.
Here are the highlights of how the insurance policies handed throughout a busy 5 months will have an effect on your life.
More conservative Kansas Legislature emerges
The 2020 elections swept into energy a brand new crop of legislators, a lot of whom introduced a extra conservative tint to the desk.
This was most noticeable within the Kansas Senate, which took the lead on a spread of insurance policies, most notably a proposed ban on transgender athletes in lady’s sports activities.
Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed that proposal, arguing it might negatively impression trans youths, in addition to the state’s economic system. But proponents vowed the battle wasn’t over.
“It’ll continue to be an issue,” stated Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover.
Conservative members within the Senate additionally took the lead on a spread of different matters, together with a ban on vaccine passports and a failed effort to restrict the power of employers to require immunizations.
They have been joined by House colleagues who pushed for an enlargement of the state’s faculty alternative applications. That was outlined by a push to permit college students to make use of public funds to pay for personal faculty tuition, amongst different bills.
While that proposal failed, a scaled-down faculty alternative proposal was handed final week — and members vowed to redouble their efforts subsequent yr to get a extra aggressive proposal handed.
“They are not going away,” stated Rep. Kristey Williams, R-Augusta. “The needs of at-risk students are not going away. But this year we were not able to come to a larger, overall consensus.”
Lawmakers reply to COVID-19
COVID-19 was a relentless theme all through the session — though the Statehouse managed to keep away from a virus outbreak, one thing which has plagued many different legislatures nationally.
Instead, legislators centered their intent on compensating companies affected by the pandemic.
That features a framework for state and native governments to pay out compensation to small companies, which have been ordered to close down, an try to pre-empt potential lawsuits.
Lawmakers additionally handed laws making an attempt to thrust back future shutdowns by making native governments give companies a property tax break for any time they’re ordered to shut.
Local governments have warned this might impression their potential to supply core companies sooner or later.
It “will make people hesitate,” stated Trey Cocking, representing the Kansas League of Municipalities, “and I think you are going to have outcomes to property and life that are not good.”
Members additionally overhauled the state’s emergency administration code, taking goal at how the each the governor and native governments can use their powers going ahead.
The governor will nonetheless have the ability to situation emergency orders, however they are going to be reviewed and, probably, revoked at anytime by the Legislature or, when not in session, a prime group of legislative leaders, most of whom are Republican.
In addition, people who really feel aggrieved by a state or native order can petition a court docket, which has to rule promptly on the matter.
The measure was a compromise between GOP lawmakers and Gov. Laura Kelly and was much less aggressive than what was initially proposed.
“This isn’t perfect. I didn’t agree with everything in here, and I know many of you don’t either,” Rep. Fred Patton, R-Topeka, stated. “But this is a good compromise.”
Tax debate returns to Topeka
This yr marked the newest continuation of a long-running debate over tax coverage, with many members not shy about making comparisons to the ill-fated tax cuts below Gov. Sam Brownback.
The laws thought of most just lately is distinct from the Brownback-era insurance policies.
It primarily goals to permit Kansans to reap the benefits of 2017 federal tax cuts championed by President Donald Trump.
Most controversially, it provides companies higher flexibility to carry earnings from abroad associates on some objects, akin to mental property, again into Kansas with out paying taxes on them.
But the invoice would additionally elevate the usual deduction, a degree of bipartisan settlement.
Republicans cheered it as wanted aid for Kansas residents and companies.
“I don’t why we didn’t do it three years ago,” stated Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe.
Gov. Laura Kelly, in the meantime, known as the $284 million price ticket “reckless,” however the Legislature overrode her veto anyway, with Republicans arguing the state’s better-than-expected tax revenues as offering a wanted monetary cushion.
Veto overrides on weapons, voting
Lawmakers rejected Kelly’s use of the veto pen on various different measures as effectively.
That consists of two items of laws altering the state’s election legal guidelines, a measure permitting 18- to 20-year-olds to hide carry and a push to ascertain a license plate emblazoned with the controversial “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
The voting payments have been significantly notable, though they have been far much less drastic than what was thought of in different states, akin to Georgia and Texas.
One proposal would restrict the variety of advance ballots an individual might return, making it a misdemeanor to knowingly accumulate greater than 10 ballots. Republicans argued it was a typical sense measure to reflect the safeguards which might be in place for in-person voting.
But Democrats countered that they’d make it more durable for sure teams, together with the disabled and aged, to get their vote counted. And election officers stated the issue of so-called poll harvesting wasn’t current in Kansas.
“I don’t see it happening,” Harvey County Clerk Rick Piepho stated. “Maybe I’m a trusting person, but I believe people are being above board.”
A separate measure would forestall the judicial and government branches from altering election legislation with out the legislature’s consent, a response to authorized battles in Pennsylvania and different swing states in the course of the 2020 election.
Medical marijuana, sports activities betting stay on the desk
Legislators return to Topeka on May 26 for the ceremonial last day of session, which may also probably characteristic some last remaining legislative enterprise.
But there are a slate of high-profile points which will not be taken up and as a substitute can be left till 2022.
Most notably, that features the legalization of medical marijuana, which made historic progress within the Legislature this session. The Kansas House handed a framework for medical cannabis final week, the primary time such a measure had handed out of both chamber.
The debate confirmed how conservatives have come round on the concept, emphasizing how the proposal has various rules baked in to forestall widespread marijuana use.
“We need to get back, in my opinion, to personal responsibility and trusting that people will use this medical marijuana in a responsible manner, at home, in order to help their seizures or other issues they may have,” stated Rep. Blake Carpenter, R-Derby.
The Kansas Senate hasn’t taken a place on the matter, though the two-year construction of the session will imply they’ll contemplate the medical marijuana proposal instantly upon returning subsequent yr.
Legislators may also be looking for to reconcile variations on the route the state ought to take to legalize sports betting, with huge variations between how the trade must be regulated and taxed.
Pressure will stay excessive, not simply from rabid sports activities followers but additionally from a variety of trade stakeholders, together with the state’s casinos, who stand to profit from legalization.
“We’ll see if the people of the state still want sports betting,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, stated after a invoice on the difficulty didn’t go the House in April. “If they don’t, then I think this body has spoken. If they do, they’ll let us know.”
The Capital-Journal’s Titus Wu contributed to this report.