Topeka — Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday set up showdowns with the Legislature by vetoing two measures - one that would allow Kansans to carry concealed weapons, and another aimed at reducing payments to workers injured on the job.
Sebelius said her vetoes were part of her vow to keep Kansans safe.
SB 418, which would have allowed concealed carry of guns, would have endangered the public and law enforcement, she said.
"While every law-abiding Kansan has a right to keep and bear arms, hidden weapons make it harder for law enforcement to do its job, and they make Kansas' workplaces less safe," Sebelius said.
Sebelius said the workers' comp bill, SB 461, was onerous because it would have reduced payments to injured Kansas workers who already have among the lowest benefits in the nation. And, she said, it was too broad.
"The Legislature's proposal would also allow a worker to be terminated simply because of an injury on the job," Sebelius said. "That's a slap in the face to the men and women who work hard every day to do their jobs in a safe and efficient manner, and it's simply wrong."
Attempts by the Legislature to override the vetoes will start today in the Senate, according to Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence.
To override a governor's veto requires two-thirds' majorities: 84 votes in the 125-member House, and 27 votes in the 40-member Senate.
The concealed carry measure was approved 90-33 in the House and 30-10 in the Senate. The workers' comp bill was approved 67-56 in the House and 28-12 in the Senate.
The workers' comp bill is unlikely to be overridden given the earlier votes in the Legislature. And even though concealed carry passed by the two-thirds majorities, that doesn't necessarily mean those votes will hold during an attempted veto override.
Some legislators, especially Democrats, may change their votes to sustain Sebelius, a Democrat.
"If concealed carry is overridden in the Senate, I feel confident about its chances in the House," said state Rep. Candy Ruff, D-Leavenworth, who has sponsored the measure for years.
Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said he was one of six Democrats in the Senate who voted for the concealed carry bill, and will have to decide whether he will vote to override Sebelius.
"I'll have to make a decision," Hensley said.
Law enforcement opposed
Under the gun bill, Kansas residents 21 or older with no criminal background or history of mental illness or drug abuse could have obtained a four-year permit after completing an eight-hour training course.
Sebelius released a letter from Lenexa Police Chief Ellen Hanson in which Hanson said the bill's provisions were inadequate.
Eight hours of training wasn't enough, and simply banning those with no criminal background wouldn't keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, she said.
"I feel strongly that any legislation that places more guns in the hands of those with little or no expertise in their safe use is detrimental to the people of Kansas," Hanson said.
Workers' comp dispute
Sebelius' veto of the workers' comp bill prompted quick criticisms.
"Businesses across Kansas needed this legislation to grow their companies and jobs in an economy that languishes behind the nation's ongoing fiscal recovery," said Lew Ebert, chief executive officer of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.
Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, who is running for governor, said the veto proves that Sebelius "is and forever will be in the pocket of the trial bar."
Business groups and insurance companies said they needed the bill so that when a worker is injured they don't have to pay for the impairment caused by injuries that happened in the past and were unrelated to work, such as a high school football injury.
But military veterans, labor groups, trial attorneys and injured workers said the bill would reduce or eliminate payments because of pre-existing conditions even if those injuries were caused by job-related wear and tear on the body - injuries that were previously unknown and had never been reported.
"Veterans have told me they're appalled that the physical hardships they endured during their military service would be used against them, and I share their concerns," Sebelius said.