It looks like the 2020 legislative session took its final bow last week. Legislators came back for two days to discuss a COVID relief bill that is very similar to the bill Governor Kelly vetoed just two weeks ago.
The notable differences were that the bill extends the governor’s powers until September 15th with oversight from the State Finance Council (a committee chaired by the governor), allows counties more latitude in the decisions they make, does not allow the Governor to close businesses unilaterally, protects Kansans from forcibly being involved in contact tracing, and allows some oversight in how the governor can use federal dollars. The legislators I spoke with were not totally satisfied with the bill that passed, but recognized that it was a necessary bill that did allow us to control some of the governor’s actions.
There was a move in the House to insert Medicaid expansion into the COVID-19 Relief bill by Rep. Jim Ward (D-Wichita). When the amendment was ruled not germane to the bill, Rep. Ward challenged the ruling. Thankfully, his challenge was roundly rejected by a majority of legislators. All but one Republican voted to sustain the decision of the Rules Committee against the amendment.
This session will almost certainly go down in the record books as one of the oddest in Kansas history. It started out with two main topics – Value Them Both and Medicaid expansion. In the end, neither measure was passed, largely because the worst of COVID-19 occurred right when most of the legislative work usually gets done in March.
We are thankful for all those in the House and Senate who fought so hard to pass Value Them Both early in session. We are especially appreciative for the dedicated work of Senators Susan Wagle and Eric Rucker who carried the bill in the Senate and Representatives Susan Humphries, Renee Erickson, and Susan Concannon who carried the bill on the floor in the House. House Speaker Ron Ryckman and House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins were an indispensable part of our work on the bill this year. We look forward to working with them next year to pass Value Them Both, to provide women with basic protections.
We would like to take a moment to honor the work of Senate President Susan Wagle who has been a stalwart defender of life over the last 25 years. Most recently she carried Value Them Both on the Senate floor and was key to the passage of the Amendment in the Senate. We thank her for her commitment to life in Kansas. Even though she will no longer be working with us in the Senate, we look forward to her continued involvement in the movement to protect life.
As an organization, this session is one that did not turn out like we had planned, but we are excited about turning our focus towards elections and next legislative session. Further, we know that this is not the end of the amendment but is only the first round. We look forward to coming back next session with a legislature that is even more committed to life.
We eagerly anticipate continuing to work with you over the next several months to elect men and women who will defend life, the family, and religious freedom.
Brittany Jones, Esq.
Director of Advocacy