TOPEKA, (KSNT)— The 2022 Kansas Legislative session came to an end Monday.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate had successful veto overrides on measures dealing with public health and elections, but Democrats said the Republican-controlled Legislature fell short in other areas.
“Despite much work left to be finished, Republicans are eager to adjourn so they can hit the fundraising trail and focus on re-elections. Their first priority needs to be completing the work left on the table. We are public servants but their focus today is on serving themselves,” said House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer, a democrat from Wichita.
Democrats speculate that Republicans are moving quickly to get a head start on upcoming elections, as filing deadlines approach in June.
Sawyer, along with other party members in the House and Senate, pushed for an immediate 0% state sales tax on food, and a $250 tax rebate, earlier in the year. Both attempts were shot down in months prior. Supporters argued that there was still time to get it done this year, if they didn’t adjourn early.
Republican lawmakers returned to override several vetoes from the governor.
One bill that’s back to life is House Bill (HB) 238, which prevents the state from closing down churches during public health emergencies. It also stops Medicare contracts from being negotiated until 2023, which is when the new term for governor starts.
This comes as the state’s democratic Governor Laura Kelly prepares to face-off with Republican frontrunner and Attorney General Derek Schmidt in November.
“The argument being that the possible changes to Medicaid should not be made at the very end of a governor’s term,” explained Senate Vice President Rick Wilborn, a Republican from McPherson. “Whoever the governor is for a full term, should be able to negotiate the next contracts as well as enforce them.”
Democrats rose in opposition to the plan, however, taking umbrage with the changes regarding Medicare contract negotiations.
“HB 2387 unnecessarily opens the contract process in our state to partisan politics for a major gubernatorial election, giving at minimum the appearance of potential corruption,” said Senator Jeff Pittman, D-Leavenworth.
Republicans emphasized that the bill is not a “no bid” extension of the contracts. Rep. Brenda Landwehr, who chairs the House Health and Human Services committee, said that it is strictly related to the RFP, which is the bidding process.
“It will happen in January, instead of November, that’s it. Very simple,” Landwehr said.
Landwehr’s comments prompted some democrats to express concerns over backroom deals being made.
“There’s only one way this bill works out the way the Chairwoman suggests… and that is if the new RFP is already being written behind closed doors with cooperation of a gubernatorial nominee who thinks he will be the governor…,” Carmichael said.
Republican denied prior claims from Dems about the bill.
Lawmakers also voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill regarding election laws. It would prevent the state from entering virtually any agreement with state or federal courts concerning election laws, without approval from the Legislature or the Legislative Coordinating Council, LCC.
MARIJANA AND MASKS
Another public health bill on the table was Senate Bill (SB) 34, which would have prevented health officials from implementing restrictions, like mask mandates, during public health emergencies for any infectious disease.
The bill passed narrowly in both the House and Senate, before Governor Kelly vetoed that the bill. She called it a “one size fits all” approach.
Her veto was sustained Monday, since lawmakers didn’t take action to override the veto. Medical Marijuana was also stalled in committee.
The House passed a plan in the 2021 session, which would have been a reference for Senate Bill 12, which was being considered as the conference committee bill. However, after only one meeting this year, the House and Senate conference committee failed to negotiate a final plan to bring to the floor.
In a statement released Monday, Sen. Rob Olson, a republican from Olathe, who chairs the Senate Federal and State Affairs committee, took personal responsibility for not getting the measure through this year.
The Senate House and Federal State Affairs Committees have dedicated a large portion of this session’s time and resources in pursuit of a model Medical Marijuana Regulation policy. Unfortunately, due to the heavy load of the committee, I regret and take responsibility for not getting this measure across the finish line this session.Sen. Rob Olson, Chairman of Senate Federal and State Affairs committee
While the measure has officially died this year, there could be plans to get it passed next year.
Olson stated that he plans on working with the House to do “substantial” summer interim work to get a bill ready for next year’s session that can be considered by both chambers.