Lawmakers prepare for Wednesday special session

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Kansas lawmakers are returning to work Wednesday morning for a special legislative session.

After vetoing the legislature’s massive, 78-page coronavirus bill that was passed after a marathon 24-hour final day of the session, Governor Kelly called lawmakers back to create a new bill. Under Kansas law, a special session can be called if 2/3rds of the legislature votes for it or if it is called by the Governor.

The main goal for this special session is to pass a bill that redefines the Governor’s emergency powers. Some lawmakers believe that Governor Kelly overstepped in her response to the coronavirus pandemic and are looking to limit her power moving forward. When asked about this at her press conference, Governor Kelly said she doesn’t have a problem with some oversight, as long as she can still extend her necessary executive orders.

“To work with our local units of government to provide the support that they need to deal with, you know, including the supplies and equipment, but also, often, manpower,” said Governor Kelly.

Under the previous bill, the Governor could extend emergency declarations after getting permission from the State Finance Council. All of the Governor’s executive orders, including ones that allow unemployed Kansans to get federal money, are reliant on the continued extension of the emergency declaration. Senate President Susan Wagle stands by the original bill that passed the full legislature.

“She overstepped her authority in a number of emergency orders she’s made and we’re going to send her back a bill that is very similar to the one she just vetoed,” said Senator Wagle, R-Wichita.

Some lawmakers are also looking to overrule the Governor’s veto on three other bills that passed the full legislature.

The first is a property tax relief bill that Kelly vetoed because she says counties rely on that income and need the money right now. The second bill was oversight of Kansas foster children’s education that was vetoed because of the cost to the state during an already financially strained time. The third bill was a business and agriculture loan program for Kansans that the Governor vetoed because of the cost to the state and because the bill included a tax break for for-profit banks.

Senator Wagle says the Senate will be looking to overrule to Governor’s veto.

“We were giving tools to all Kansans so they can live through this, pay their bills and bring accountability into the foster care system,” said Wagle. “So, we’ll do what we can in as short of time as possible.”

During a special session, anything can be discussed, so it’s possible that new bills will be brought forward. But Governor Kelly says she does not anticipate Medicaid Expansion will be passed this year, despite beginning the year with bipartisan support.

“It’s very unfortunate that we didn’t get that expanded this year,” said Governor Kelly. “But I don’t see that coming up during the special session.”

Senator Wagle says that, while she anticipates some Senators will ask to have new bills debated, she is planning to keep things on track. She also does not expect another 24-hour day in the legislature.

“It’s very important that we understand and that we’ve all been able to read the bills,” said Wagle.

During a special session, there is no time limit, so the work can continue for as long as necessary. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate will reconvene at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.

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