Decision expected on return of 2020 Legislature

Kansas legislative leaders will meet Wednesday, May 6, at 3 p.m. for discussion and possible action on reconvening the Legislature. 

The committee room is not open to the public because of social distancing policies, but can be heard by accessing the Statehouse audit stream: (1) Go to www.kslegislature.org. (2) Click on “Audio/Video” in top right corner by Search Bar. (3) Select “Statehouse Live & Archive.” 

When the regular session adjourned early in mid-March, the House and Senate were scheduled to return for the “veto” or final wrap-up session on April 27, but the decision on when and if to reconvene was delegated to the Legislative Coordinating Council. Health concerns about social distancing during the COVID pandemic pushed back the decision until May 6. The final or “sine die” adjournment has been set for May 21. 

In weighing whether to reconvene, the LCC will consider several issues. 

The Legislature passed a state budget before adjourning in March. New state revenue estimates based on the economic impact of business closed for health concerns and record unemployment predict the approved spending would result in a $653 million deficit in the State General Fund next year. 

The Legislature could try to amend the approved budget to reduce spending, shift revenues from other programs into the state general fund or other strategies. Or, it could allow Gov. Laura Kelly to make the cuts under her “allotment” authority. Finally, the Legislature could make budget changes when it returns next January, but the fiscal year will be more than half completed by that point. 

Another issue is Kelly’s latest disaster declaration and updated executive orders concerning the COVID crisis. The declaration expires May 13 unless the State Finance Council (legislative leaders plus the governor) extends it for a maximum of 30 days, until June 13, when the state is expected to be ”reopened” under the plan Kelly announced April 30 – unless there is a spike in COVID cases or deaths. Local governments can impose stricter requirements. 

The Legislature could extend the governor’s authority for a longer period – or put restrictions on the governor’s orders. Some Republicans say Kelly’s plan does not allow certain business to open fast enough and were upset with her restrictions of religious gatherings. 

Finally, there remain a number of issues that were not resolved during the regular session that could be pushed if the Legislature convenes. The highest profile include a Senate-passed constitutional amendment limiting abortion rights and the House-passed expansion of Medicaid. For schools, there are number of bills passed by the House and Senate that were never considered by the second chamber. 

The LCC could decide to keep the Legislature from meeting until May 27 and take no action during the often-ceremonial sine die adjournment. It could call back select committees like the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committee, then attempt a short session and quick vote on a new budget. 

Or, it could provide for a longer session that could take up a wider range of issues, with increased health concerns. 

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