Last-minute debates drag late into night on final day of KS legislative session

Published: May. 21, 2020 at 9:43 PM CDT
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Late Thursday night, Kansas lawmakers remained at the Statehouse in Topeka as some last-minute debates continued on the final day of the 2020 legislative session.

The Kansas House approved a motion that will see the session continue past the midnight deadline to complete the work and carrying it into Friday morning.

Curbing Kansas Governor Laura Kelly's executive powers when it comes to emergencies is part of one of 12 bills that Senate GOP leadership put forward for the end of the legislative session.

While the proposed bill would extend the governor's current emergency declaration beyond its current May 26 declaration, the proposed language presented Thursday says no new declarations can be issued without a review and approval from legislators.

Under the proposed legislation, violation of the declaration would be a civil penalty instead of criminal.

Republican lawmakers also are proposing oversight of how the $1.25 billion CARES Act funding for Kansas is spent, as well as giving more local authority to counties.

Late Wednesday night, Republican leadership in Topeka got some additional backing when Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the governor's second emergency declaration is "constitutionally suspect."

Governor Kelly responded Thursday, saying, "this is not an honest conversation about reviewing and modernizing (Kansas Emergency Management Act)."

Democratic members of the Kansas Legislature have also expressed frustration because they say the process the GOP leadership is using to move bills doesn't allow them to vet, debate and add amendments to bills.

Republicans said they needed to take those measures in order to complete the bills they're working on.

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