Kansas lawmakers respond to governor’s State of the State address

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 10:39 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - It’s been more than 10 months since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Kansas. Tuesday night (Jan. 12), Governor Laura Kelly outlined a path toward recovery in 2021 in her State of the State address. Focused on recovery and in light of political unrest across the U.S., she called for bipartisanship, moving forward. She’s not the only one.

In a pre-taped response to the governor’s address, Kansas’ new Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, set an optimistic tone as lawmakers have a lot to work through. Masterson, however also set clear divisions between Republican priorities and those of the governor.

Republicans and Democrats share many of the same goals when it comes to what they would like to see in the new year. Those goals include thriving businesses, students permanently back in school and a rebound from COVID-19. The difference lies in how to get there.

“We trust you to make decisions for yourself and your family as how best to stay safe. We will not support the governor’s regime of unconstitutional mandates and edicts,” Masterson said, addressing Kansans. “We trust you will always make the best decisions for your family, not the government.”

Masterson is among at least seven state lawmakers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. He’s criticized mask mandates but acknowledged the issues posed by the pandemic.

“Kansans have endured the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with great courage and often great sacrifice,” he said.

Masterson also used his response Tuesday night to lay out legislative goals for his party. This includes a focus on taxes and addressing an oft-divisive issue. A constitutional amendment on abortion is already in the works.

Relating to taxes, Masterson said, “Kansas taxpayers should be allowed the opportunity to take advantage of the federal tax cuts, and we must work to enact meaningful property tax reform.

Eyewitness News on Tuesday also spoke with House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, after the governor’s speech.

“I thought it was a very positive tone and reaching out to Republicans to work together to solve this pandemic we’re all facing right now,” Sawyer said of Kelly’s State of the State address.

Sawyer said to start the 2021 legislative session, pandemic issues will be top of mind as last year’s special-session COVID-19 package expires.

“Emergency powers, all the extensions (Kelly) gave for people to help get through this crisis will end January 26 if we don’t do anything,” he said. “So it’s important early in the session we get that extended and keep that going.”

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