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Kansas attorney general not planning lawsuit against Kelly on school bill veto


Kansas attorney general not planning lawsuit against Kelly on school bill veto

Jun 03, 2023 | 9:42 am ET
By Tim Carpenter
Kansas attorney general not planning lawsuit against Kelly on school bill veto
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, a Republican, said he wouldn't file a lawuit challenging Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's use of the line-item veto. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Attorney General Kris Kobach confirmed a decision not to file a lawsuit contesting Gov. Laura Kelly’s use of the line-item veto on the 2023 Legislature’s bill appropriating funding to K-12 schools.

Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins and the Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson had responded to Kelly’s targeted deletions from the bill by accusing the governor of violating the Kansas Constitution. The Legislature’s top Republican officials strongly encouraged Kobach to “immediately review this unconstitutional overreach” to determine whether it was necessary to file suit.

Masterson subsequently said he was fairly confident the best course was to not challenge the governor’s line-item veto authority on this bill delivering state aid to Kansas schools.

On Friday, Kobach spokeswoman Danedri Herbert affirmed Kobach had elected “not to take any action” on Senate Bill 113 at this time. She said the attorney general didn’t release a legal explanation for not contesting Kelly’s belief the line-item veto was available to her because the bill was an appropriations measure. Republican lawmakers characterized it as a policy bill not subject to line-item veto.

During a news conference in Olathe earlier on Friday, Kelly said she was aware of Kobach’s intention but declined to disclose that information.

“While Governor Kelly and Attorney General Kobach may not always agree, we appreciate the attorney general’s thoughtful and professional approach to vetting legal issues such as this,” said Brianna Johnson, spokeswoman for Kelly. “Governor Kelly is committed to protecting our rural schools, and her measured exercise of her constitutional line-item veto power over an item of appropriation of money did just that.”

The bill passed the House on a vote of 83-37 and the Senate by 23-16 — four votes shy of indicating a veto override was possible in both chambers. The Legislature adjourned without attempting to override Kelly.

Kelly line-item vetoed a provision that would have undercut state aid to districts with shrinking enrollments and vowed to continue to use that veto authority if the Legislature stuffed “really bad policy” into budget bills.

In this bill, the governor decided against vetoing expansion of Kansas’ private school tax credit to students in families with incomes 250% of the federal poverty level and elevation of the tax credit received by organizations or individuals donating to private school scholarships to 75%. In addition, the bill cleared a path for private school students to take part in public school activities and sports.