State GOP seek to upend Kelly’s vetoes

Kansas lawmakers return to the Statehouse next week for a showdown with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly over issues at the heart of both culture wars and taxes.

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April 29, 2021 - 8:31 AM

TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas lawmakers return to the Statehouse next week for a showdown with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly over issues at the heart of both culture wars and taxes.

While legislators took a break, Kelly vetoed a range of high-profile bills. Now the conservative Republicans who control the Legislature face the challenge of overrides with slim margins to pull that off.

Here are the top policies that lawmakers may clash over:

Echoing a wave of bills in more than 30 states, Kansas Republicans passed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.” The bill would ban people identified as male at birth from playing on women’s or girls’ teams. The bill doesn’t address people identified as female at birth playing on men’s or boys’ teams.

The proposed law was swiftly vetoed by Kelly. She deemed the legislation a “devastating message that Kansas is not welcoming to all children and their families” and said that it may harm the state’s ability to “attract and retain businesses.”

Following her veto, Republican leaders in the Legislature issued their own statement lambasting the veto. However, Republicans face an uphill battle in whipping enough votes to override Kelly’s veto. It takes 84 votes in the House and 27 in the Senate to overturn her veto.

After the session adjourned, Kelly also vetoed a bill that would let people from other states with permits to carry a concealed weapon have those permits honored in Kansas. More notably, it lowers the age of eligibility for a concealed carry permit from 21 to 18.

In a statement explaining her veto Kelly said, “Legislation that allows more guns on campus is neither safe nor effective, and it will drive prospective students away from our schools.”

Kansas already allows most people over 21 to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, but the bill would allow younger people to carry concealed guns if they get a state license.

Critics of the bill including gun-violence prevention group Moms Demand Action, praised Kelly’s veto.

To override Kelly’s veto, Republicans need to pick up four votes in the House and could lose three in the Senate while still overriding.

Republicans took another swing at tax cuts this year. Their plan would benefit businesses with international divisions and help individual filers with changes like a larger standard deduction. But doing so would cost the state tax revenue.

Just like in past attempts, Kelly knocked the bill down with her veto pen. She raised concerns about the cost, pegged at several hundred million dollars in the coming years, and hinted at budget deficits the state saw after tax cuts in 2012 when Republican Sam Brownback was governor.

But lawmakers in the conservative GOP Statehouse majority think this year they may have the votes to override the governor’s action after picking up seats in the 2020 election.

The tax plan passed the Senate with enough votes to override a veto, but would need three additional supporters in the House.

Conservative lawmakers tied billions of dollars in school funding to a proposal that would let some struggling students use state funding to attend a private school.

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