Kansas governor makes to-go alcohol permanent, vetoes short-term health insurance expansion

Titus Wu
Topeka Capital-Journal
Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed a bill that would have expanded use of short-term, limited-duration health insurance plans.

Gov. Laura Kelly signed into law multiple pieces of legislation on Wednesday and Thursday.

However, she vetoed one bill on Thursday, Senate Bill 29, which would expand usage of short-term, limited-duration health insurance plans. 

Such insurance policies are intended as stop-gap measures, intended to provide low-cost insurance for folks in between jobs or nearing retirement. Due to this nature, short-term plans also provide less coverage than normal health insurance. 

More:Expansion of short-term health insurance plans sent to Kansas governor's desk

Currently in Kansas, such plans can only last either six or 12 months with one renewal allowed.

In 2017, former President Donald Trump issued rules letting stop-gap insurance go up to three years, and the Senate bill would take advantage of this expanded timeframe for short-term plans.

Sen. Beverly Gossage, R-Eudora, had sponsored the bill and said it would make coverage more affordable for folks as insurance costs increase. But critics have labeled it as "junk insurance," and the bill would increase reliance on plans that don't cover pre-existing conditions.

The Democratic governor sided with critics.

"Signing this bill would cause more Kansas families to go bankrupt over medical bills," said the governor. "If the Legislature wants to get serious about improving access to health care, they should join 38 other states and the District of Columbia and pass Medicaid expansion."

GOP lawmakers will look to override her veto on Wednesday, with Gossage likely to lobby hard in the Kansas House, where more votes need to be flipped.

To-go alcohol in Kansas is now permanent.

You can now take out your alcohol

The only other notable bill that the governor took action on was a series of regulation changes to the state's alcohol industry, aimed at boosting the sector in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and a 2019 law shifting beer sales away to grocery stores.

Within that and of most relevance to the general public is the fact laws allowing for to-go or drive-thru alcohol, which were temporarily enacted to help businesses combat the pandemic's effects, are now permanent.

More:Affected by COVID-19 and 2019 law, Kansas alcohol seeks loosened regulations for industry

"While we are recovering (from the pandemic), this is one reform that can accommodate the shifting attitudes and habits of customers," said Scott Schneider, of the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association, calling the to-go provision a major "lifeline" for many businesses.

Those to-go sections, which are limited to on-premise alcohol products, dictate selling to-go alcohol to end at 11 p.m. and be sold in tamper-proof, transparent bags. There must also be a dated receipt, among other limitations.

Opponents have brought up concerns whether legalizing to-go drinks would encourage more drunken driving.

Another notable alcohol law change: Liquor stores now will be able to sell on Sunday mornings and on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Previously, this was illegal.

It's a notable step forward as more alcohol laws are loosened, in a state with a history of one of the strictest alcohol rules in the nation.