Editorial: Kansans deserve better than Legislature gave

The Editorial Advisory Board
Sen. Susan Wagle

They didn’t expand Medicaid.

They didn’t really address the crisis facing Kansans either, who are grappling with historic threats to their health and livelihoods.

But they did reject a judicial nominee .

Welcome to the special session of the Kansas Legislature, two days of backroom dealmaking and wasted potential. It was an outcome that made nearly everyone involved look smaller, and left the people of our state the losers.

The question all along was this: Were Kansans more threatened by Gov. Kelly’s executive orders protecting public health or by a once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic that has sickened thousands and killed hundreds?

Ideologically blinkered leaders in the House and Senate took aim at Kelly, rather than the virus. And large numbers in both chambers voted aye simply to get it all over with.

After the governor vetoed legislators’ earlier, late-night attempt to prevent her ability to protect the public, everyone tried again. But rather than take their time and spend the days needed to properly vet the legislation, leaders and the governor’s staff hammered out an agreement and declared the whole conflict done.

In the meantime, of course, the governor had already backed down, changing her plan to reopen Kansas from a mandatory to an advisory one, and handing her legislative adversaries their biggest win without a fight.

This is all profoundly disappointing.

Perhaps a compromise like this was inevitable, but the rushed and secretive process wasn’t ideal. And Legislative leaders clearly didn’t want their bodies taking up any business that might distract them — and, you know, actually make other things better.

Medicaid expansion was a clear opportunity to improve things for Kansans who faced twin health and economic crises. It wasn’t even debated. Carl Folsom. Kelly’s nominee for Kansas Court of Appeals, didn’t get the gig as some senators decided that smacking down the governor was more important than a good-faith appraisal of the nominee.

And given looming revenue shortfalls, legislators might have also taken a stab at finding more resources to cover expenses or beginning to make cuts — or both.

But this is an election year. And too many in both chambers decided that it was more important to pass a backroom bill, wash their hands of the whole thing and head home.

Kansans deserve better than that. At the very least, they deserve more discussion and debate as our nation and state struggle.