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Kelly vetoes some budget items amid strain with Legislature

Laura Kelly
Posted at 10:02 AM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 11:02:28-04

TOPEKA, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly has vetoed a ban on the use of state dollars to enforce mask mandates and 17 other budget provisions amid ongoing strain between the first-term Democrat and the GOP-dominated Legislature.

Kelly said in a statement Monday that she supported the majority of the budget but that some pieces were unnecessary, had been resolved in other bills or should have been vetted more thoroughly, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Other provisions that were vetoed included one that would give legislative committees more power over how to allocate federal relief funds.

The rejections come after Kelly last week vetoed a ban on transgender school athletes, civics and financial literacy requirements for high schoolers and gun safety education for students using National Rifle Association materials.

The eight non-budget bills she has said no to are more than any Kansas governor in the past 17 years and come after Kelly issued just seven total during her first two years in office.

The strain between Kelly and the Legislature has largely centered over how to handle the pandemic, with both sides repeatedly clashing over gathering restrictions and mask mandates.

The weeks ahead will bring high-stakes fights over whether GOP lawmakers can override her vetoes and enact changes to taxes, public school curriculum and transgender rights. All of it comes amid early positioning in the 2022 governor's race.

Republicans are working to build their case against Kelly, who is the only incumbent Democratic governor up for re-election in a state lost by President Joe Biden.

"I think that the governor's making hard choices and that's what we hired her to do. I think this to me is the most conservative group of Republicans I've seen in my five years in the Legislature," said Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, a Prairie Village Democrat.

Republicans, meanwhile, believe they can paint the vetoes as obstructionist and out of touch as they foment opposition to Kelly ahead of the election.

"When the right people get elected we see the kind of legislation coming out of Topeka that we saw last session that Gov. Kelly had to get out a stamp and just think how tired her arms are - that is your success," said Republican Party Chairman Mike Kuckleman.