Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed four pieces of legislation prized by Republican members of the House and Senate related to transgender sports, food stamps, COVID-19 and public school education. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed hot-button bills sought by Republicans to ban transgender females from sports, adopt an educational bill of rights for parents, raise the barrier to eligibility for food stamps and broaden COVID-19 lawsuit immunity for health providers.
The Democratic governor didn’t surprise anyone Friday by vetoing the four controversial bills. There was no shock GOP leadership in the Legislature pledged to seek overrides upon returning to Topeka on April 25.
Kelly, who is seeking re-election in November, offered an explanation for rejection of House Bill 2448, which would mandate able-bodied adults without dependents to work at least 30 hours per week or enroll in a job training program to be eligible for the federal food stamp program.
“Every Kansan feels the price of the pandemic-induced inflation at the pumps and at the grocery store. The cost of food alone is one of the most significant contributors to inflation overall,” Kelly said. “With the rising costs of these necessities, we should be helping people afford the basics. This bill would unnecessarily burden nearly 30,000 hard-working Kansans.”
Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, said Kelly’s veto of the food stamp legislation was a mistake because it required taxpayers to subsidize food purchases by people who choose not to work despite high demand from Kansas employers.
“Both because work gives dignity and because taxpayers deserve better, I would have signed this work requirement into law,” Schmidt said.
Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said the Legislature would prepare for votes to salvage the ban on transgender girls or women from participation in school or college sports programs as well as the education bill of rights requiring teachers to disclose all classroom materials to parents in advance of use and encourage parents to challenge library books they consider offensive.
“In recent months, the governor has been a chameleon, demonstrating election-year conversions in an attempt to fool Kansans into believing she shares their values,” Masterson said. “Rather than listening to parents and female athletes, her decision to veto the Parents’ Bill of Rights and the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act demonstrate she is still largely controlled by the hard left.”
Override of a Kansas governor’s veto requires support from two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate.
Masterson said it was important to put into state law provisions of Senate Bill 160 limiting membership on girls or women teams to a person’s gender at birth. Allowing trans females to take part would create competitive advantages.
In addition, the Senate president said veto of the educational bill of rights applicable to K-12 public schools across Kansas outlined in Senate Bill 58 suggested the governor viewed “parents as the enemy.”
Sherri Schwanz, president of the Kansas-National Education Association, said the governor’s veto of the parents’ bill of rights prevented creation of an artificial barrier to communication between teachers and parents “for the purpose of opening schools to attacks by partisan operatives.”
“It protects our students from the attempt to make our classrooms ground zero in a culture war that seeks only to advance a partisan agenda,” Schwanz said. “We applaud Governor Kelly for using her veto pen.”
Kelly also vetoed Senate Bill 286 that extended health care providers immunity from civil liability in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic until January 2023. The shield addressing damages, fines and penalties for health care decisions related to the pandemic would be broadened to include people not employed by a medical facility or providing direct health care services.
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