(June 4, 2020) – The legislature began its work for the 2020 Special Session called by Governor Laura Kelly a day early. Both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees met on June 2 to review a compromise to the vetoed House Bill 2054, the COVID-19 response bill. The agreement is the work of the governor and legislative leadership. Both the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Representative Fred Patton (R-Topeka), and the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Rick Wilborn (R-McPherson), met for informational hearings.
The full legislature returned on Wednesday, June 3, to begin the Special Session. House members introduced a total of 20 bills, and Senate members submitted a total of eight bills, though few are likely to be heard by either body. The House Judiciary Committee held a short meeting to pass the compromise bill, House Bill 2016, to the full legislature. The bill was then debated on the House floor late into the evening and finally passed with only technical amendments on a vote of 107 to 12.
The Senate Judiciary Committee continued to meet through the day to discuss the compromise legislation on the Senate side, Senate Bill 7, with most of the concerns expressed by committee members related to the liability of nursing facilities, community colleges, Washburn University and the opening of the state going forward. The Senate Judiciary Committee broke for the day around dinnertime, intending to return in the morning to conclude their work on the bill.
The Senate Judiciary Committee met through the morning today and heard from Lee Norman, MD, KDHE secretary, the governor's office, Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, and representatives for persons in nursing facilities and group homes. The committee took its final vote on House Bill 2016, the twin to Senate Bill 7, and voted to send it to the full Senate for consideration. The full Senate convened around 2 p.m. today and, after nearly two hours of explanation of vote, passed House Bill 2016 on a vote of 26 to 12. Passage of the compromise bill was quickly followed by approval of the 2020 Special Session adjournment resolution. The House passed the adjournment resolution closing the 2020 Special Session at 4 p.m. this afternoon.
The final compromise included several items the Kansas Hospital Association had worked to have added to support hospitals in responding to COVID-19 through the rest of the year. Those include:
- Liability protections for hospitals for civil action for a COVID-19 claim;
- Extension of executive orders expanding the use of telemedicine through Jan. 26, 2021; and
- Allowing hospitals to exceed bed capacity in the case of a COVID-19 surge through 120 days after the expiration or termination of the public health emergency.
Thank you to all of our members for reaching out to their legislators and the governor's office to help with the passage of these provisions.