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Governor Kelly Signed the Ban on Sanctuary Cities


In a surprising move, Gov. Laura Kelly signed Monday a bill to ban sanctuary cities in Kansas, a move that will effectively neuter a local ordinance in Kansas City, Kan that has long been desired by community members there.

© Evert Nelson/The Capital-JournalGov.

The announcement came hours after groups in Wyandotte County rallied together to urge Kelly to reject the measure, putting at odds with those local leaders, including the mayor of Kansas City, Kan. And the action could hinder enthusiasm among supporters in the area, a traditionally Democrat stronghold, ahead of the 2022 election.

Kelly did veto a trio of other bills, one prohibiting local governments from banning plastic bags and containers, and another expanding short-term health insurance plans, which critics say offers patients insufficient coverage. But her decision to sign House Bill 2717 will gain the most attention.

Kelly's decision to sign the bill prompted a rare point of agreement with her likely foe in the governor's race, GOP Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who was a top supporter of the bill.

In a statement, Kelly called on Congress to enact "comprehensive" immigration reform, saying such an issue "rests with Congress and cannot be resolved at the municipal level." "I encourage my colleagues who sent me this bill to persuade our federal delegation to pass comprehensive immigration legislation that allows us to continue growing our economy and meeting our workforce needs here in Kansas," Kelly said.

The proposal will effectively halt a Wyandotte County ordinance, approved last month, that prohibits local authorities from working with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

The Wyandotte County ordinance would allow undocumented immigrants to receive a municipal identification card that would be intended to help them access local services.

The legislation would clarify that those ID cards could still be issued but couldn't be used to satisfy state law for identification purposes, including voting.

Kelly called on legislators to address the municipal ID component in a subsequent bill, saying as written the law will adversely affect "Kansans who rely on local government IDs to vote, such as veterans, the elderly, and people with disabilities."

It is not the first time in recent months the governor has bucked her own party — all but three legislative Democrats opposed HB 2717 — and elected to sign a particular bill.

Kelly also signed legislation in November following a special session of the legislature making it easier for workers to get out of COVID-19 vaccine mandates while also providing unemployment benefits for unvaccinated people who lose their jobs.

That move brought her heavy criticism from some members of her own party — concerns that will likely be renewed with news of her veto Monday.

"Wow, that is a real kick in the teeth," Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, Kan. "I understand it is an election year but that's a kick in the teeth."

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