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Kansas governor's vetoes stand, killing a flat tax and squashing a ban on transgender care for kids

 Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly used her veto pen with regularity this year, and saw the Legislature push back.
Samantha Horton
/
Kansas News Service
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly used her veto pen with regularity this year, and saw the Legislature push back.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly weathered some attempts to override her vetoes on Wednesday, even as Republicans in the Legislature pressed on conservative hot-button issues dominating debate across the country.

Republican leaders fell just votes short on efforts to restrict gender-affirming care for children, switch the state to a flat income tax and change voting rules.

The Legislature remained on the offensive, however, advancing some override action on anti-abortion bills and measures that would limit transgender access to places like women’s bathrooms.

Taxes

The Kansas Senate failed to override a veto to a flat tax plan by one vote.

Had the bill become law, it would have tossed away the state’s progressive income tax brackets and charged everybody in the state a flat 5.15% rate (after the first $12,000 for married couples filing jointly). The existing tax code has three brackets, ranging from 3.1% to 5.7%. It will remain in effect.

The flat tax proposal also bundled a quicker end to the food sales tax and modifications to the social security tax — things Kelly championed.

The governor criticized the flat tax as something that would benefit the rich and hurt state revenue — leaving less public money to spend on schools and other state services. Republicans said the simpler tax code would provide tax relief to all Kansans.

That Republican-led tax plan would have cut state revenue by about $330 million a year. Kelly vetoed the bill Monday and offered a more modest rebate plan to make use of the state’s $2 billion surplus.

Transgender care

The Kansas Senate fell one vote short of overriding a veto on transgender health care restrictions.

The bill would let families sue doctors or jeopardize their medical licenses for prescribing puberty blockers, hormone treatment and vasectomies, among other procedures, for minors.

It also would have restricted surgeries like mastectomies or other operations that remove body parts. But those aren’t as common.

Republicans pushed for the bill, arguing children are too young to make these decisions. Democrats say gender-affirming care reduces suicide risks.

Kelly vetoed the bill and said approving anti-trans legislation would chase away businesses.

“I’m focused on the economy,” Kelly said in her veto message. “Anyone care to join me?”

Diversity

The Kansas House failed to override the governor's veto of a line item in the budget bill that would have banned diversity training requirements for social service workers. The proposal had been inserted into the budget bill by Republicans on the Higher Education Budget Committee.

Elections

The Senate fell two votes short of pushing through a change to election law that Kelly vetoed.

Under current law, when advance voters mail in their ballots, those votes count as long as they are postmarked by Election Day and reach the county election office no later than three days after Election Day.

Republicans had wanted to require that mail-in ballots reach election offices before polls close on Election Day. People who vote by mail would need to send their ballots earlier to ensure delivery by that time.

Wichita Democrat Oletha Faust-Goudeau urged the chamber “do all we can to make sure that everyone’s vote counts.”

Abortion

Lawmakers enacted a law that will ramp up restrictions on abortion providers amid outcries the new law could harm families.

The “Born Alive Infants Protection Act” requires doctors to provide lifesaving medical care to infants born alive after an attempted abortion. Critics say that situation rarely, if ever, occurs in Kansas and that the bill is designed to promote misinformation about abortion.

Killing a newborn baby is already a crime under several existing laws, but the new law mandates some specific steps, including immediate transport to a hospital. Critics say that could impact palliative care for infants who will die shortly after birth.

The bill was enacted with a 87-37 vote in the House and 31-9 in the Senate. A handful of Democrats, including Rep. Jason Probst of Hutchinson and Sen. David Haley of Kansas City, joined Republicans in overriding Kelly’s veto.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. 

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

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