Each legislative session, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Cindy Neighbor and Sen. Dinah Sykes are scheduled to send updates this week. Rep. Clayton’s column is below.
I am writing this column as of 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 15. Please be aware that information may have changed by the time this column shows up in your news feed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had sweeping effects on our way of life, and the Kansas Legislature is not excluded from this. On Friday, the House approved a resolution that would extend the time period of the State of Emergency declared by Governor Kelly. The House Judiciary committee also approved emergency legislation that would allow the Court system to circumvent deadlines in the event of quarantine or isolation measures. The House appropriations committee also approved a core budget, with the intention that the Senate would send in their Budget conferees to work with us to pass our preliminary budget.
Our normal deadline for First Adjournment, the conclusion of the regular legislative session, usually occurs the first weekend in April. House Leadership on both sides of the aisle understands the gravity of the pandemic. We know that the Statehouse is a bustling center of activity where we often have thousands of people every day from all over the state and country with international visitors as well. Most of our legislators are over the age of 60, many are in their 70s and 80s, and our staff members, lobbyists, and activists fall into vulnerable age categories as well. It is dangerous and unwise to continue to meet under these circumstances.
Sadly, the Senate disagrees with this assessment. Because they went home on Friday and refused to return to complete their side of the budget work, we will all return to the Statehouse Monday, March 16 and continue the work of approving the Judicial branch legislation and completing the Budget. Kansas is different than the federal government, in the fact that we are constitutionally bound to balance the budget. This budget is particularly important at a time when we need to continue to keep state government functioning.
When we return to work, there still remains the opportunity to expand Medicaid. You may have heard that the only way to pass Medicaid Expansion is if the House votes to strip some Kansans of their Constitutional rights, but this is an inaccurate statement. The House has already made our position on Medicaid Expansion clear by passing our bill last year, and the ball is in the Senate’s court. It is my sincere hope that, while we put ourselves, our families, our constituents, and our staff in danger by working for another week, that we do good and moral work that protects the health of Kansans, and that we avoid political frivolities such as abortion legislation.
Life will change for a time. I plan to conduct my March town hall virtually, and will also happily set up other meetings through similar platforms. If your organization would like to have a virtual meeting or a virtual town hall, please contact me! It should go without saying, but I will also self-quarantine as soon as the Session concludes, because, as your Representative, it is my job to make sure that I am keeping you safe, while still remaining accessible.
My top resources for COVID-19/Coronavirus updates are the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. The Centers for Disease Control is also a good resource for information. In the coming weeks, please remember to remain calm, check your sources before sharing on social media, and to check the time of postings. Unfortunately, the algorithms of many social media platforms do not update in real time, so some of the information you see may be days old. Before reacting, be sure to double-check the source and time of the information you see.
You can reach me at 913-205-4970 (call or text). My email address is email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter, where I post all of my votes in real-time @sscjocoks. My Facebook page is facebook.com/clayton4ks