Readers of Kansas Reflector might imagine the break between regular sessions and veto sessions of the Legislative Assembly as a beautiful, carefree time for reporters, full of family field trips and yoga classes. We surely purify our minds with hiking and climbing, perusing classic literature while drinking herbal tea.

Big luck.

News from the Statehouse has barely slowed, and enough has accumulated in the past two weeks that it’s time for a column to sort through the best, worst and weirdest of this irritating interregnum.

Governor Laura Kelly signed two bills this week characterized by a messy legislative process. (January 27, 2022, photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

The governor promotes bad legislation

The Legislative Assembly made an unintelligible hash of its normal routines, passing a bill stuffed with 29 (count them, 29) tax measures and anti-sanctuary city bill without hearing well from opponents.

Governor Laura Kelly signed them both.

You might expect the former senator to pay a little more attention to how the sausage was made and call on legislative leaders to run recklessly on their own rules. Instead, she kept her eyes fixed on the November election, even take credit for the huge tax package.

The Republicans had no reason to follow the path they had chosen. They enjoy supermajorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives. They can pass whatever bills they want. However, leaders prefer shortcuts at the expense of their constituents.

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab’s re-election campaign featured a surprise endorsement this week. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Touted Unexpected Approval

Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab took on a major challenge from the right. So this week he broadcast an endorsement of the former governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, that of the disastrous tax “experiment”.

Brownback, who also served as the United States Ambassador for Religious Liberty, was at one time the second least popular governor in the United States. He’s not the first person you or I would turn to for approval. On the other hand, he may well have some influence on Kansas conservatives.

Given Schwab’s stubborn insistence on denounce electoral conspiracies while representing a party that bathes in it daily, he would need help.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has been targeted by the Democratic Party over the state’s lack of Medicaid expansion. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

State Democrats Schmidt Dog

The Kansas Democratic Party has made some weird choices in his quest to define Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt. I get it: He faces Democrat Kelly in a high-stakes race.

Their latest tactic, however, hits the mark. The party stresses the importance of expand the state Medicaid program. On Thursday they were in Wellington, once again reminding us that voters and many lawmakers support the expansion. Who doesn’t? GOP leadership.

All the Democratic Party has to do is state the facts: “As Attorney General, Schmidt continued his crusade against Medicaid expansion – and against Kansans’ ability to access health care – by blocking the expansion of 150,000 Kansans, including more than 470 in Sumner County.”

Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, and Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, were on opposite sides of a bill banning
Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, and Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, were on opposite sides of a bill banning “sanctuary cities” in Kansas. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Make the implicit explicit

When I wrote on Kelly’s signature that anti-sanctuary bill earlier this week, I didn’t go far enough. The column highlighted the distance between the governor and progressive defenders of the state who worked tirelessly to pass the Safety and Home Order in Wyandotte County.

Kelly’s veto was a kick in the teeth of progressives. It is undoubtedly true.

But it was also a hostile move toward the Latino community in the state, and I didn’t elaborate on that in the column. More than 12% of Kansas’s population is Hispanic or Latino, and this community deserves a governor who listens and addresses their concerns.

I admit, I thought the previous paragraph was self-evident. As someone who knows many progressive space advocates, I focused on the tension between their work and the governor’s political expediency. But I should have made the implicit explicit and recognized those who will feel the worst effects of this cruel law.

Stickers and buttons were placed at West Middle School’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Lawrence on Saturday, November 13. (Clay Wirestone/Kansas Reflector)

Simmer under everything

We still have a pandemic going through Kansas and the country. Coverage has declined and concerns have subsided, but new variants keep bubbling.

Since April 14, the seven-day average new cases was 151 and 8,524 Kansans had died of COVID-19. Many of us happily ditched masks and rushed back to our early 2020 routines. Understandably, and I followed the crowd.

What will happen, however, if cases rise again? Will anyone in this state show the political will to impose new public health restrictions? Will health officials have the leeway to share uncomfortable news with their Kansas compatriots? Will more people in our state roll up their sleeves for vaccines?

As the wise say, phew.

The stories continue to bubble and the veto sessions approach like a restless freight train. For now, though, it’s time to get back to my rock climbing and yoga. If those don’t satisfy, maybe I’ll just take a nap.