Expiration of the 2019 legislative session in Kansas won't resemble the frequently sleepy ceremonial affairs that inspire less-than-full attendance by House and Senate members for close of another year's political dueling at the Capitol.
This edition of "Sine Die," a Latin term used to label the final day of annual sessions in Kansas, will feature an attempt by Republican leadership Wednesday to put Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on her heels on potent judicial, tax and budget issues.
The Senate will plunge into several attempts at overriding line-item budget vetoes issued by Kelly. The most significant target will be veto of a bonus $51 million payment into the state's pension system.
Over in the House, GOP lawmakers have an opportunity to launch reversal of the governor's veto of a bill reducing state tax revenue by $250 million over three years. The measure would cut the tax load of multinational corporations, wealthy individuals and, potentially, consumers paying the state's inordinately high 6.5 percent sales tax on food.
Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said the governor was wrong to veto the tax bill and made a mistake by preventing a supplemental state contribution into the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. Wagle criticized Kelly's veto of an immediate $1.8 million appropriation to community mental health centers. Kelly retained a $5 million increase for the centers next fiscal year.
"Kansas, like the rest of the nation, is facing a severe mental health crisis," Wagle said. "Suicides are skyrocketing, the opioid epidemic is touching every community and the number of Kansans needing assistance is growing. But, sadly, Governor Kelly showed that mental health is not a priority in her administration by cutting funding to mental health centers."
House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer said neither the tax legislation nor budget elements vetoed by the governor were worthy of reconsideration by lawmakers.
The Legislature's budget spent $180 million more than Kelly proposed in January, but vetoes brought expenditures in line with the annual goal of a 7.5 percent ending balance in the budget.
"She ran on restoring fiscal responsibility and those vetoes help keep that promise," said Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said he would oppose an override on the tax bill and the extra funding for KPERS. He didn't expect there would be sufficient votes to counter Kelly on those issues.
"You never know when the next recession is coming," he said. "You've got to save for a rainy day."
The Senate's to-do list includes a confirmation hearing for Kelly's nominee to a vacancy on the Kansas Court of Appeals, followed by vote of the full Senate.
The governor's first nominee for the slot on the Court of Appeals, District Court Judge Jeffry Jack, withdrew after exposure of his Twitter posts maligning elected officials and offering pointed views on public policy. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled state law didn't allow withdrawals of nominees to the Court of Appeals, prompting the Senate to vote 0-38 in mid-May against Jack's nomination.
Wagle declared in a GOP fundraising email that Jack was "a pro-abortion, gun-grabbing judge" unworthy of promotion because of "hundreds of hateful and partisan tweets aimed at Republican officials and policies."
Kelly, who called for Jack's withdrawal, nominated Johnson County attorney Sarah Warner to the state's second-highest court. Her confirmation hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee is planned for Tuesday.
Republicans frustrated by abortion and education rulings of the state Supreme Court plan to compel a procedural Senate vote Wednesday to pull out of a committee an amendment to the Kansas Constitution. The amendment would require Senate confirmation of a governor's nominees to the Supreme Court. Currently, governors pick from three finalists without Senate involvement.
Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, said value of a state law mandating the Senate vet nominees to the Court of Appeals was demonstrated during the Jack controversy.
"This scenario is an example of why the process for appointing Kansas Supreme Court Justices needs to be changed. Senate approval would be one way of giving the people a voice in naming justices," Tyson said.
Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, said it would be difficult for opponents of the governor to secure two-thirds majorities — 84 House votes, 27 Senate votes — for overrides on tax and budget issues. Absences could play a role in outcomes on Sine Die, he said.
"Every person not there is a vote for the governor," he said. "I don't think they get there."