The KBA Advocate is the weekly KBA legislative newsletter that contains up-to-date information on legislation that impacts your practice. It is only published when the legislature is in session and is sent to all KBA members electronically via the KBA Weekly.
As I write this report, the Kansas Legislature is preparing to enter its 24th Special Session—and only the third this century. Gov. Laura Kelly called the Special Session to deal with the Kansas Emergency Management Act. Last week, Gov. Kelly vetoed Senate Sub for HB 2054 which would have significantly amended KEMA. The bill also would have provided funding oversight for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, granted immunity to business and healthcare groups, extended certain executive orders, and allowed the use of tele-medicine.
Once the bill was vetoed, the governor issued a new emergency declaration—a necessary action since the previous declaration was set to expire at midnight on May 26th. The new declaration removed the Ad Astra Statewide Reopening Plan and placed that authority with county governments. Going forward, county commissioners are to decide whether to place any limits before reopening. For instance, Riley County is now open with some restrictions.
The new declaration extends certain executive orders. Those include the use of remote notaries and witnesses to act via audio-visual communication, extends the deadline for tax payments, suspends rules related to the sale of alcohol and extends telemedicine criteria. The latest declaration is set to expire on June 10th.
The legislature will need to negotiate with the Governor’s office on changes to KEMA during the Special Session while negotiating the COVID-19 response that has now moved to local governments. Many legislators advocated for more local control to deal with the pandemic. It will be interesting to see how much legislating takes place when a large issue has been resolved in their favor.With the emergency declaration set to end on June 10th,legislators have a week to move issues to the governor’s desk. One weekmay be sufficient to sort out the problems and come to a mutually beneficial product, but that is not a guarantee.
One major issue is that the legislative process must start anew; there are no “carry-over” bills. Each bill will have to be introduced and move through the legislative process again, which will eat up valuable time. Another issue is deciding what bills actually get worked. KEMA and the emergency declaration are the reasons for the special session, but the legislatureis not restricted to address only those matters. Lawmakers can choose to take up any issue. While unlikely due to the time crunch, they could decide to debate abortion or Medicaid expansion, tax cuts or budgetary issues. The list could grow exponentially. Finally, the Kansas Senate may attempt to confirm the Governor’s Court of Appeals nominee, Carl Folsom. That could get political and drag the special session out even longer.
How the legislature deals with the special session remains to be seen, but given the election year consequences, anything can happen.