Kansas governor allows anti-DEI bill to become law, vetoes anti-abortion and election bills

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TOPEKA — In her latest round of vetoes, Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday announced she was rejecting bills that would restrict voting in the state and funnel tax dollars to anti-abortion centers.

But she said she would allow legislation restricting diversity, equity and inclusion practices on campus, as well as a bill blocking state pension fund investments in China and other “countries of concern,” to become law without her signature.

GOP legislative leaders say they will work to override the governor’s vetoes when lawmakers return next week.

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said Kelly was siding with “extreme” Democrats.

“She wants federal money pouring into state elections without any checks or balances and even is opposed to increasing penalties for harming police dogs, who play a critical role in law enforcement,” Masterson said. “Perhaps the most appalling and extreme is her decision to abandon pregnant moms who are seeking resources to help during pregnancy, and her hostility to making adoption more affordable. We will work to get these measures into law when we return.”

A veto override requires the support of two-thirds of the members in both chambers — 27 of 40 in the Senate and 84 of 125 in the House.

Kelly upheld the security of Kansas elections in her veto of House Bill 2618, passed 26-13 in the Senate and 83-40 in the House. The bill would prohibit the use of federal dollars to conduct elections and election-related activities. Kelly said the change is unnecessary. 

“Restrictive voting legislation of any kind is wrong,” Kelly said. “Instead of making it more challenging for Kansans to participate in our democracy or focusing on problems that do not exist, I would urge the Legislature to focus on real issues impacting Kansans.”

Kelly also shot down House Bill 2614, which would require county election officers to record the names of people delivering advance voting ballots on behalf of other voters, among other requirements. Passed 26-13 in the Senate and 75-48 in the House, Kelly called the legislation an attempt to disenfranchise Kansas voters by enacting “burdensome and unnecessary requirements.”

Kelly vetoed House Bill 2465, a bill that would increase income tax credits for adoption expenses, but also created income, privilege and premium tax credits for contributions to crisis pregnancy centers and residential maternity facilities. The bill also provided a sales tax exemption for purchases made by pregnancy resource centers and residential maternity facilities.

Reproductive rights advocates warned against providing state funding for these centers. In most cases faith-based, these organizations typically discourage abortion and aren’t subject to state oversight or regulation. Critics of the organizations say they sometimes spread dangerous misinformation about abortion in attempts to sway vulnerable women. The bill passed the Senate 29-10 and the House 83-38.

“I do not believe it is appropriate to divert taxpayer dollars to largely unregulated crisis pregnancy centers,” Kelly said. “These entities are not medical centers and do not promote evidence-based methods to prevent unplanned pregnancies.”

House Speaker Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, condemned what he deemed to be Kelly’s “allegiance to abortion.”

“The pendulum has swung much too far when even adoption support is off the table, and that’s why House Republicans will work to override her veto to ensure these resources are available for Kansas women and families,” Hawkins said.


Kelly also rejected House Bill 2532, a horse race wagering tax bill, on the grounds it would have heightened taxes for a Wichita horse racing facility. The bill passed 34-3 in the Senate and 88-32 in the House.

“This bill would inadvertently cause a tax increase on the currently approved historical horse racing facility in Wichita,” Kelly said. “While I support the underlying goal of this legislation, I believe a trailer bill is necessary to ensure that this inadvertent tax increase does not occur.”

Kelly asked lawmakers to give more thought to the implications of House Bill 2583, legislation that would increase jail time and fines for people who injure or kill police dogs and horses and attempt to flee police. A Black lawmaker previously warned of racial justice concerns on the bill, referencing the historical use of police dogs to harm people fighting for equality during the civil rights movement. The bill passed 25-15 in the Senate and 115-6 in the House.

“The death of any law enforcement animal is a tragedy,” Kelly said. “There is no question we should hold those responsible accountable for their actions. While the intention of this bill is commendable, this legislation needs further evaluation and study.”

“The mandatory sentences are out of line with other more severe crimes without justification for why that is required,” the governor said.

New laws

Kelly allowed House Bill 2105 to become law. The bill bans state colleges and universities from using the practice of diversity, equity and inclusion when considering student admissions and faculty employment. Linking DEI considerations to faculty hiring or student enrollment will carry a $10,000 fine per violation under the law.

Conservative lawmakers have campaigned against K-12 and higher education DEI policies, but advocates and teachers say the DEI framework is an attempt to make campuses and classrooms more welcoming to historically disenfranchised students and provide voices to historically underrepresented groups.

“While I have concerns about this legislation, I don’t believe that the conduct targeted in this legislation occurs in our universities,” Kelly said. “We need to move forward and focus our efforts on making college more affordable and providing students from all backgrounds with the tools they need to succeed. I am focused on advancing policies that drive economic growth and develop tomorrow’s workforce. For that reason, I will allow the bill to become law without my signature.”

House Bill 2711, now law, contains several Kansas Public Employees Retirement System provisions, such as increasing the lump-sum death benefit for a KPERS retiree. But a section of the bill would require the divestment of state-managed funds in “countries of concern,” such as the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Cuba.

“While I support efforts to increase focus on national security, I am concerned about the unintended consequences that could be caused by this well-meaning legislation,” Kelly said. “Therefore, I will allow this bill to become law without my signature.”

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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