May was a banner month for conservatives in the Kansas legislature, who, after returning from a short recess, defeated the state’s Democrat Governor on issue after issue—setting a strong example for Republican legislatures looking to push back against liberal politicians in statewide office.
The Kansas Governor, “Lock-Down” Laura Kelly, has been a target for the state’s conservatives since at least the start of the pandemic when she used her executive power to shutter schools, businesses, and places of worship—in contrast to many Republican governors who took more measured approaches.
The pandemic was a dark time for many Kansans, made worse by their Governor’s gross incompetence in allowing $600 million in unemployment insurance fraud, prioritizing vaccinations of violent prisoners over law-abiding citizens, while cutting $22 million for services to individuals with disabilities.
In November, voters decided it was time to rein in Governor Kelly and ushered in a conservative, veto-proof majority to both the House and Senate chambers. However, with 84 Republicans out of 125 in the House and Republicans outnumbering Democrats in the Senate 29 to 11, Governor Kelly’s woke and broke agenda has faced a very different array of forces in 2021 compared to last year.
In January, the newly elected conservative leadership moved swiftly to pass emergency management reforms designed to curb Kelly’s pandemic power grab, as well as a pro-life constitutional amendment and common-sense occupational licensing reform (led by conservative legislators) aimed at attracting outside talent to the state.
However, it appeared Governor Kelly did not get the message voters sent her in November. Instead of moderating, she doubled down on her left-wing agenda. She issued a flurry of vetoes, including cutting funding for victims of sex trafficking, the elderly and prohibiting the designation of a prayer room at the Capitol.
As a result, when the Republican legislature came back into session, it faced a set of issues on which it had to enact legislation to constrain or override the Governor in just a few weeks. Kansas Republicans got to work immediately, overturning the Governor to ensure lower taxes, protect gun rights, advance election integrity, and ban “Zuckerbucks,” the practice of private money being funneled into state and local election offices by left-wing billionaires such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The Governor also had her veto overridden on a new law to add new license plate designs for the state’s drivers, including one bearing a slogan to which the Democrats objected, the American Revolution-era phrase “Don’t tread on me.”
Despite numerous veto overrides and other setbacks for Governor Kelly, she pressed on with her left-wing agenda. She vetoed a bill that would provide direct relief to struggling Kansas businesses hurt by her forced lockdowns. She rationalized her decision by hiding behind textbook bureaucratic excuses, claiming that the conservative legislation might threaten federal funding. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins offered a scathing response to the Governor’s decision to veto COVID relief to small businesses, saying, “Today is just further evidence that the Kelly administration is a Death Star with the sole purpose of destroying the Kansas economy.”
Using the state budget as a vehicle, Republicans were also able to pass several pro-freedom, pro-growth provisions related to COVID-19, including a ban on state agencies requiring vaccine passports and ensuring that the legislature has a say in how federal relief dollars get spent in the future.
On Wednesday, May 26, the Kansas Legislature met for one final time to conclude business for the year. Many Republicans were hoping to join the other 23 states that have rejected the federal unemployment bonus as the Kansas Chamber of Commerce sounds the alarm that local businesses throughout the state are struggling to find workers. Instead, the Kansas GOP managed to pass a resolution in both the House and Senate urging Governor Kelly to end the federal unemployment “bonus,” which is paying Americans not to work.
May was a great month for Kansans who support economic opportunity, individual freedom, and personal responsibility. For the Governor, “Lock-Down” Laura Kelly, it was a hard lesson in how conservative legislatures can constrain Democrat governors—a lesson many of her colleagues in blue states across the country may be learning soon if they do not heed her cautionary tale.
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