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It is all down to one day. And we hope it is action-packed.
When the state’s Legislative Coordinating Council met Wednesday to decide how and when the state House of Representatives and Senate would return, Senate President Susan Wagle and Majority Leader Jim Denning proposed a three-day session packed with bills. Their proposal was ultimately turned aside, and the Legislature will instead come back for a single day: Thursday, May 21.
That means, as a practical matter, little is likely to be accomplished. Other members of the council cited safety concerns, and the old chestnut about wants versus needs. We cannot afford that. We need a very productive day.
We would have preferred more time. There is much to be done. Passing Medicaid expansion, for instance, would extend lifesaving health insurance to thousands of Kansans, some of whom are newly unemployed. And regardless of House Speaker Ron Ryckman’s characterization, this is a need. Not a want.
It is not going to happen this year. When coupled with Denning’s announcement Friday to forego re-election, the state loses the best chance of passage it had.
The Senate asked committees to meet and prepare legislation for immediate consideration. Some items should be no-brainers, such as providing a deferral on property tax payments for those affected by COVID-related job and business loss. Allowing the Kansas Supreme Court to continue to meet electronically is another.
Other items will be difficult. The issue of the governor’s emergency powers must be handled, and she must be given authorization to wield a strong hand when a second wave of COVID-19 is expected to hit in advance of the 2021 legislative session.
The Legislature must be proactive in considering the issue of liability to businesses, schools and hospitals tied to the virus. This state doesn’t need a long line of lawsuits because of actions an entity has taken if it followed state health department guidelines.
A hospital, for example, shouldn’t be sued because of a delay in performing elective surgeries. A restaurant or school shouldn’t be liable if a person contracts the disease.
Senators and representatives on both sides of the aisle, your job is representing Kansans. If you believe your fellow Kansans must return to work for the good of the state, surely you must do the same thing.
Sine Die, May 21, is the equivalent of Game Day. Return to Topeka with a plan. Be ready for one long day of extreme productivity.
Make it a great day for all Kansans.