Kansas governor vetoes ‘born-alive’ bill, K-12 NRA gun safety training program

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Top GOP lawmakers in the state vow to override Kelly’s vetoes

TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly overruled a “born-alive” bill and an NRA-backed gun program for public schools, but the Kansas GOP plans to overturn these vetoes when the Legislature returns later this month. 

Immediately after Kelly announced her vetoes Friday, Republican lawmakers, who hold a legislative supermajority, announced in a series of released statements their plans to override the Democrat’s vetoes.

Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said Kelly’s rejection of the two bills showed a lack of willingness to work across the aisle.

“The governor has opted to abandon all semblance of moderation and side with the most extreme elements in her party,” Masterson said in a Friday news release. “The result is that our veto session will now be quite busy.” 

To override Kelly’s vetoes, 84 votes are needed in the House, and 27 are needed in the Senate. The proposed NRA program, which has been debated for years, passed the House 78-43 and the Senate 31-8, meaning the GOP may not be able to gather enough votes to override the measure. 

The bill would encourage elementary and middle school students to participate in the Eddie Eagle program, an NRA-developed child gun safety curriculum. 

From kindergarten through grade five, Kansas children in participating school districts would be instructed with the Eddie Eagle program, and grades six through eight would either use Eddie Eagle or other gun programs offered by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Critics have said the training program isn’t effective and that lawmakers should work toward stricter gun laws rather than child gun training.

Kelly said local school boards and the State Board of Education should decide K-12 education, not lawmakers pushing agendas.  

“This bill is yet again an act of legislative overreach, an attempt to override our locally elected leaders and insert partisan politics into our children’s education,” Kelly said in a Friday news release.  

House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, also mentioned politics in a Friday news release on Kelly’s veto. 

“It’s clear that with the veto of the Eddie Eagle GunSafe firearm safety bill, Governor Kelly cares more about scoring political points simply talking about gun safety rather than taking action to actually increase the safety of our children around firearms,” Hawkins said. 

In an average year, 456 people die and 655 are wounded by guns in Kansas, according to Everytown for Gun Safety statistics. The organization estimated that gun deaths and injuries cost Kansas $5.7 billion each year, of which $95.1 million is paid by taxpayers. 

‘Born-alive’ bill

The “born-alive” bill was passed in the Senate 31-9, while the House approved the measure 86-36. 

The legislation, which is backed by anti-abortion organizations and lobbyists, would require health professionals to help infants that survive a botched abortion and send these newborns to a hospital or face criminal and civil sanctions. Kelly vetoed a similar bill in 2019.

“This bill is misleading and unnecessary,” Kelly said. “Federal law already protects newborns, and the procedure being described in this bill does not exist in Kansas in the era of modern medicine.” 

Supporters of the legislation have argued that newborns with a heartbeat or who are breathing had been left to die in abortion clinics, but have given no evidence of this occurring in Kansas. Critics of the “born-alive” bill say no one is killing infants and that the bill is anti-abortion propaganda. 

Masterson called Kelly’s opposition to the bill a “barbaric and extreme position.”

“With this veto, the governor has sadly indicated she believes that Kansas should be more like New York where even babies born alive do not have the protection of law,” Masterson said. 

Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes echoed Kelly’s message in a news release following the veto announcement. 

“There is no circumstance in which an abortion is performed in Kansas where an infant can be born alive,” Sykes said. “It simply does not happen.”

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