Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed anti-diversity and abortion provisions in Kansas’ next state budget on Friday, escalating a conflict with the Republican-controlled Legislature over culture war issues that could see her reject a dozen or more of conservative initiatives.
The Governor has the power to cut individual budget items, and he used it to eliminate $2 million in state tax dollars for anti-abortion centers that provide free pregnancy and parenting counseling and services. Previously, he vetoed two bills that would enact anti-abortion policies despite a decisive statewide vote in August 2022 affirming abortion rights.
Kelly vetoed a budget provision that would have prevented state universities from using diversity, equity and inclusion principles in their hiring. She struck down another provision that prohibited the state board that licenses mental health professionals from requiring them or giving them incentives to receive training involving diversity or anti-racism theories.
The governor also vetoed five bills rolling back the rights of transgender people, including a sweeping bathroom bill and a measure that would have ended gender-affirming care for minors. Republican lawmakers are expected to try to override most, if not all, of Kelly’s vetoes on hot-button issues when they meet next week to wrap up their business for the year.
“Governor Kelly had two choices: make good on her campaign promise to rule from the middle or move Kansas sharply to the left,” Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican, said after several vetoes earlier in the day. This week. “The governor has clearly chosen the latter.”
Republican lawmakers in the US state chambers have sought several hundred measures this year to roll back LGBTQ+ rights and attack liberal ideas or policies in education and business. While Republican-leaning Kansas voters affirmed abortion rights and narrowly re-elected Kelly last year, they also left conservatives firmly in control of the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Kelly has until Monday to act on a bill that would allow parents to remove public school students from a lesson or activity that “harms the parents’ sincere beliefs, values, or principles.” Also on her desk is a bill that would prevent state and local officials from using environmental, social and governance issues to invest public funds or award government contracts.
As for the budget legislation, Kelly followed traditional Kansas practice of signing the measure itself, which contained the bulk of a proposed $24 billion annual budget, while vetoing several individual elements.
Aid to abortion centers would have helped them assist both pregnant people and new parents by providing supplies, parenting and life skills classes, and job training or placement. It also reportedly started a state-supported advertising program to make them more visible.
Lawmakers put the money into the budget of state treasurer Steven Johnson, an anti-abortion Republican, rather than into a department controlled by pro-abortion rights supporter Kelly. In his veto message, Kelly suggested that neither the state’s founders nor any of his treasurers would have seen such a program as part of the duties of the office.
“This is not an evidence-based approach or even an effective method to prevent unintended pregnancy,” Kelly said.
Republican lawmakers also hope to pass a proposal to give up to $10 million a year in state tax credits to donors of the centers.
Kelly vetoed a measure this week that would have required clinics to tell patients that a medical abortion can be reversed with a regimen rejected by major US medical organizations. would reasonably provide a physician with other live births.
On the anti-diversity provisions, Kelly said the provision for the board that licenses mental health professionals could have restricted training “in life-saving practices,” without being more specific.
She said the provision for state universities would have hampered hiring, made it harder for them to attract federal and private grants, and hurt efforts to “support students of all backgrounds.”
House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, said Kelly had rejected the measures to “support women in need” and prevent “prevention of radical ideology” by using tax dollars.
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