TOPEKA — The legislative process in Kansas is a numbers game that people conveniently sum up to the trifecta of 63, 21 and one.
This odd set of numbers represents the narrowest margin within which bills can pass in both the House and the Senate – 63 in the House and 21 in the Senate. The single digit relates to the power of a governor’s pen. A few quick flicks of the wrist and a Kansas governor can veto any bill.
Lawmakers of course have recourse. When Governor Laura Kelly vetoes a bill, as the Democrat has repeatedly done in recent weeks, it can be overruled by the House and Senate. Republicans will need to muster two-thirds majorities to do so. That’s 84 of 125 votes in the House and 27 of 40 votes in the Senate.
At least two invoices rejected by Kelly, probably more, will be listed in the waiver register. That drama will play out after lawmakers return Monday to Topeka. The backdrop is the 2022 gubernatorial campaign pitting the Democratic incumbent against likely GOP nominee Derek Schmidt, the attorney general.
“Rather than listen to parents and female athletes,” Senate Speaker Ty Masterson, R-Andover said, “her decision to veto the Parents’ Bill of Rights and Fairness in Law on women’s sport demonstrates that it is still largely controlled by the left”.
Masterson said Republican lawmakers would respond to Kelly’s veto of a statewide ban on public schools and colleges on the participation of transgender girls and women in sports. The policy was a high priority for religious conservatives and part of a nationwide movement to slow the momentum for LGBTQ rights.
Under the Kansas bill, a person designated male at birth who became female would be barred from participating in school sports for girls and women.
These are “hate groups”
Rep. Susan Ruiz, D-Kansas City, said the anti-trans legislation is the work of “hate groups” who don’t want to allow families to make important decisions about people different from themselves. The Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council, both listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, have supported transgender sports legislation and widely sought to restrict LGBTQ rights.
“The reality is that this bill is not about sport at all. It has nothing to do with sports. This is discrimination against children,” Ruiz said.
Proponents of the bill said targeting transgender girls, but not boys, was necessary to avoid unfair competitive advantages in sport.
“Some have said to me, ‘We don’t have a problem in Kansas,’ said Rep. Susan Humphries, a Republican from Wichita who voted for the bill. “I don’t know if that’s true or not. no, but that’s not the point.”
Humphries said the purpose of changing Kansas law to disqualify transgender girls or women from school or college athletic programs was to prevent a ‘native man’ from stealing awards, scholarships and the dreams of competitors with certificates of birth indicating that the individual was a girl at birth.
The imperative to act could be explained in the same way that House staff check each Representative’s desk drawer daily as “proactive protection” against security threats, she said.
“As far as I know, we’ve never had an incident in the House, but we’re taking action,” Humphries said. “We wear hard hats in construction areas.”
Kelly vetoed a comparable trans sports bill last year and this year’s model was incorporated into Senate Bill 160. It was sent to him by a vote of 74 to 39 in the House and 25 to 13 in the Senate. Neither total meets the two-thirds threshold, and many members of the House and Senate have set foot on both sides of the partisan aisle.
Rep. Stephanie Byers, a Democrat from Wichita, said the veiled purpose of Kansas’ unwarranted bill was to “bully transgender girls into the closet.” Their mental health is considered collateral damage.
On the other hand, Rep. Tatum Lee, R-Ness City, said LGTBQ activists sought to intimidate her into “being ashamed of the way God created me or my daughter. I don’t am not just a pronoun or a topic of political discussion.
In another irritating move for GOP lawmakers, the governor vetoed Senate Bill 58. This is the so-called parent education bill of rights. It applies to public schools and not to private schools. The bill begins by stating the obvious: parents direct the education of their child as well as moral or religious education.
However, the Bill of Rights bill also requires teachers to share all teaching materials for use in the classroom with parents – in advance. As always, parents can exclude their children by requesting alternative accommodation from the teacher. The bill passed 67 to 46 in the House, well short of two-thirds to evade a veto, and also affirmed district policies allowing parents to challenge books on school library shelves.
Rep. Patrick Penn, R-Wichita, voted for the bill of rights because the legislation placed in the language of state law unequivocally declaring that parents have the final right to direct education, the education and care of their children.
“To raise our children, we need their responsible parents, not provoking the anger of our children, but raising them in training and
warning from the Lord,” Penn said. “Our children do not belong to the state, to the ‘educators’, to the teachers’ unions or to the village. Our children belong to their parents.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, D-Overland Park, pointed out the irony that supporters of the bill of rights insisted that parents decide how their children were raised, but the tool made available to a single parent Complainant could force school libraries to remove a book from all students. in the neighborhood.
In the Senate, which voted 23 to 15 for the Education Bill of Rights, there was bipartisan dissent. Sen. John Doll, R-Garden City, said the legislation amounted to an assault on K-12 public school teachers. In a speech dripping with Doll’s frustration, he backed off at the idea of conservatives expanding education bureaucracy.
“We have way too many laws, way too many rules. We go after public educators. It really saddens me,” Doll said.
Other veto fodder
It may have escaped some people that Kelly also sent in Senate Bill 161, which would have allowed unmanned electrical devices to roam streets and sidewalks to deliver consumer products.
The governor has proposed a bill extending the length of time a person can maintain a low-cost health plan. It’s supposed to be just a bridge to a more permanent plan, but plan marketers want the policy to last up to 36 months. Those plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions, and that wasn’t enough for a governor who supports the Affordable Care Act and has advocated with the legislature to expand Medicaid eligibility to serve thousands of low-income Kansans. revenue.
Kelly vetoed a bill prohibiting cities and counties from passing rules prohibiting businesses from turning away customers with single-use plastic bags or containers that often end up exploding in communities. His argument was that local governments should decide for themselves.
Another potential bait is Senate Bill 286. Kelly rejected the bill offering broader liability protections for doctors and healthcare providers during the pandemic. It also added penalties for assault and battery in a bid to deter dangerous people from harming frontline health workers in hospitals or clinics.
Rep. Trevor Jacobs, a Republican from Fort Scott, said he believed the liability loophole was a disservice to patients and a boon to businesses. Her 78-year-old aunt was hospitalized with pneumonia during the pandemic and after several days contracted COVID-19. Her 60-year-old husband was banned from visiting her and she fell into a coma before dying. Jacobs performed the funeral service for the aunt.
“I’m going to vote ‘no’ on this purely for personal and selfish reasons,” Jacobs said. “The hospital staff was a bit careless. I know we have heard that there could be prosecutions. We are going to pass a law to protect the hospital and give them immunity, but what about patient immunity? »
Rep. Bradley Ralph, a lawyer and Republican from Dodge City, said he understands the objections to the legislation, but the final version narrowed the scope of the immunity provisions and the result was sound policy.
“It protects all doctors,” Ralph said. “There’s nothing here that says you have to treat in a special way.”