Capitol Update: Rep. Ousley weighs in on ‘sudden’ end to legislative session

Rep. Ousley discusses two pieces of legislation he supported — Office of the Child Advocate and the Permanent Advance Mail In Ballot for Kansans. Ousley represents the 24th District, which includes Merriam and parts of Overland Park and Mission. File photo.

Each week, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Jarrod Ousley, Rep. Owen Donohoe, and Sen. John Skubal are scheduled to send updates this week. (Rep. Donohoe did not respond to our invitation to submit a column).

Below is the submission from Rep. Jarrod Ousley, D-24th District. 

Greetings in the time of Covid-19. I hope your family is safe and well, and that whether you celebrate Passover or Easter, your celebration was a happy one.

The end of session came suddenly this year, as the need to leave Topeka and physically isolate rushed the close, sacrificing good bills that many had hoped to vote on. The likelihood of the legislature reconvening for a veto session is anyone’s guess right now, but even if we do return for a rapid veto session, or to extend the Governor’s emergency powers past May 1st, the focus will not be on many of the bills I’d hoped to see make it to the Governor’s desk this year.

The first was my Office of the Child Advocate legislation, HB 2187, which would have made an independent ombudsman office to assist children in our foster care system. I will continue to work with children advocate groups to create this office next session, as Kansas is one of just a handful of states that does not have such an office in some capacity or another.

On the Senate side, another bill that would have been nice to see pass, was a Permanent Advance Mail In Ballot for Kansans to sign up to vote by mail simply once, rather than having to apply for the advanced mail in ballot prior to every election.

Senate Bill 412 was a bill put forward by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Elections and Local Government. In light of concerns with contagion, voting by advanced mail in ballot will be pivotal to maintaining our public health and ensuring Kansans have a safe way to exercise their right to vote.

Because this bill did not pass, it is imperative for everyone in Johnson County to complete and return their application for an advanced ballot in the upcoming election cycle, for both the primary and the general election. While it is possible that the Secretary of State could work with the Governor’s Office under the emergency powers to alter the nature of the election, there is no guarantee that this will occur.

As a hotspot in our state, and with the potential for a second wave next fall, all of us can do our part to ensure common sense legislators are elected up and down the ballot, while preventing a situation in which polling places become crowded. The next election may see far away right now, but the August primary will be here in four months, and the general will be here in seven.

To complete the form electronically with Kansas Votes click here:
https://www.ksvotes.org

Kansas Votes is an online registration and advance ballot service created in partnership with Loud Light.

A link to a printable version that you can mail in can be found here on the Johnson County Election Office website: https://jocoelection.org/sites/default/files/advapp.pdf

After you complete your request for your mail in ballot, pledge to encourage your friends and family to complete the request as well. We are fortunate to have the ability to do so, and we need to maximize the service this election cycle.

As always, it is my privilege to serve my constituents in House District 24. I can be reached at jarrod.ousley@house.ks.gov at (785) 296-7366 and on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JarrodOusleyforthe24th/