(May 29, 2020) – If you are confused about what happened during the end of the legislative session last week, combined with Gov. Laura Kelly's subsequent actions, you shouldn't feel bad. I'm not sure anyone has a handle on exactly what has transpired.
First, the legislature convened last Thursday, at 8 a.m., for what was to be a long day, but one that was to finish prior to midnight. That plan didn't go so well, because lawmakers didn't adjourn until almost exactly 24 hours later. Most of that time was spent designing legislation to curtail the power of Gov. Kelly during an emergency, including a requirement for legislative approval of executive orders closing businesses by the State Finance Council and shifting control of the distribution of federal funds granted to the state for COVID-19 relief from the governor to the Legislative Coordinating Council. As we previously reported, legislation was adopted that also contained several provisions important to health care providers including:
- Flexibility with the current provider assessment;
- Liability protections related to COVID-19; and
- Continuing telemedicine policies from Gov. Kelly's executive order.
Earlier this week, Gov. Kelly vetoed the "mega-bill" passed by the legislature that limited the governor's emergency powers and took control of the federal COVID-19 funds. As we reported in Capitol Comments, this vetoed legislation also included the telemedicine and liability provisions. However, it did not include the provider assessment provisions, which were in a separate bill.
So, where do we stand now? Here is a summary, although not an exhaustive one:
- Because the governor and legislative leaders could not come to an agreement, the state's emergency disaster declaration has expired. Going forward, counties in the state will have the option to issue their own local orders, rather than following executive orders from the governor's office. In other words, the power to manage the reopening process is now placed in the hands of local officials.
- Gov. Kelly has issued several new Executive Orders including, significantly, one that temporarily expands telemedicine and addresses select licensing requirements aimed at facilitating economic recovery and preventing future outbreaks of COVID-19.
- The status of the Kansas Hospital Association's provider assessment legislation remains somewhat in doubt, because the governor has not yet acted on that bill. We are, of course, encouraging her to sign it.
- A special legislative session has been called for next Wednesday, June 3. While the governor specifically called this special session to address emergency management in the state, the legislature is not limited to that specific subject, nor are they limited to a particular timeframe.
KHA will obviously be paying very close attention to this upcoming session to be able to take every advantage of possible opportunities to support Kansas hospitals and the communities they serve. Let's hope this time Kansas legislators and the governor are more successful in bridging the gap between their disagreements.