The 2021 Legislative Session will be very unusual, with efforts to spread out in committee rooms and into the public galleries of the House chamber and limit physical access to members of the public and the press. Masks are encouraged – seemingly more in the House than the Senate – and temperatures are checked as people enter the building.
The first calendars indicate a quick start to legislative action, with the Judiciary and Tax committees already scheduled to hear bills addressing government actions relating to COVID-19 and tax legislation left hanging from the 2020 session. Some are saying that regardless of the safety efforts, leaders are anxious to get several pieces of legislation passed quickly – before illness and quarantines may keep legislators out of the building and getting the right number of votes could become a challenge. A constitutional amendment regarding abortion is expected along with possible liability protections for nursing homes.
Calendars are posted each day at https://kslegislature.org – select the third tab from the right on the blue banner. Committee meeting audio can be streamed live by selecting Audio/Video from the top edge of the home screen, click on Statehouse Live and Archive from the dropdown list. There are larger audio/video links for streaming the full House or Senate sessions mid-page on the right margin.
Full House and Senate sessions with action are to be limited this session – requiring fewer gatherings of the legislators within the House and Senate chambers. There is a plan to bring representatives into the chamber in groups when votes are required. The calendars will indicate when House or Senate deliberations are to occur. Action on bills by the full House or Senate is indicated in the calendars by a line showing up under a list of bills to be debated under General Orders.
Many interim meetings have streamed live on YouTube – subscribe to the Kansas Legislature channel. So far, it does not appear all the legislative committees will be appearing there, although the House and Senate sessions were available. However, individuals who sign up to testify in committees will be provided a link to participate with audio and video.
The first day has been a little rocky – not all the links have worked well. This means that those of us who are tracking the activities of the Legislature closely will have extra work to do.