Senate Republican leaders announce committees will start meeting

Senate Republican leaders Thursday announced several committees will start meeting to prepare legislation for the one-day session finale on May 21.

“Given the situation we are in with only one day of floor debate, our dedicated committee chairs agree it is their responsibility to hear full testimony and bring thoroughly vetted bills to the floor for quick debate,” said Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita.

Wagle has directed the chairs of the Senate Judiciary, Commerce, Tax and Financial Institutions and Insurance committees to meet as soon as possible.

The news release from Wagle, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, and Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine, R-Emploria, didn’t cite specific bills, but did mention several subjects that they said needed to be addressed.

Those include legislative oversight of $1.25 billion in federal funding for coronavirus related expenses; allowing businesses access to low interest capital, limiting liability caused by COVID-19 and removing penalties and interest on unpaid taxes.

Wagle also repeated her criticisms of Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive orders and emergency actions during the pandemic and her plan to reopen Kansas businesses.

The announcement Thursday came a day after Wagle and Denning were rebuffed by House leaders — both Republican and Democratic — to reconvene the Legislature on May 19. House members said the Legislature had already accomplished its main job — crafting a budget — and that it was too risky to bring legislators back for three days in close quarters in the Statehouse during a pandemic.

Meeting as the Legislative Coordinating Council, the leaders then agreed to return on the official last day of the session — “sine die” — which is Thursday, May 21.

The Legislature approved a budget for FY 2021 before it adjourned in mid-March amid the spreading pandemic. Legislators were scheduled to return April 27 for the wrap up session, but legislative leaders said the health risks were too high to return then.

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