Kansas has a new border security mission and tougher penalties for killing police dogs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly could be headed toward a court fight with the Republican-controlled Legislature over a newly enacted measure that says Kansas will help Texas in its dispute with the Biden administration over border security.

Republican legislators overrode Kelly’s veto of budget provisions on immigration before adjourning their annual session early Wednesday. They also enacted a new law increasing the penalties for killing police dogs and horses, also over Kelly’s veto, and finished work on a $25.4 billion state budget for the 12 months beginning July 1.

Action on notable issues of this year’s session:


The immigration provisions task the Kansas National Guard with helping Texas officials and also set aside $15.7 million to pay for sending personnel and equipment to the U.S.-Mexico border.

But it’s not clear it will happen.

Kelly said this week that she doesn’t have to spend the money as directed because the state constitution makes her the guard’s commander, and legislators don’t control its operations.

“I don’t work for them,” she said in a brief interview.

In response, Sen. J.R. Claeys, a Salina Republican who championed the provisions, said they will have the force of law when the budget takes effect July 1. Claeys, also an adviser to GOP state Attorney General Kris Kobach, said a lawsuit is an option if Kelly ignores the directive.

“My hope would be that we would just simply send support for the Texas border mission,” Claeys said. “I believe that the governor will act rationally when it comes to that.”

Kobach declined to comment Friday, saying he might eventually have to issue a legal opinion.

Texas’ Republican governor Greg Abbott championed a law allowing state officials to arrest migrants they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally. That’s led to a court battle with Democratic President Joe Biden, whose administration argues that the federal government controls border security.


GOP legislators passed a bill that would restrict the ownership of commercial property by foreign nationals or companies they control, but they didn’t appear to have the two-thirds majority necessary in the Senate to override a potential veto.

Backers of the bill said they are concerned about potential spying and other activities by people from China or other nations “of concern” as identified by the U.S. government, including Cuba, Iraq, North Korea and Venezuela.

The bill would prohibit more than 10% ownership of any non-residential property within 100 miles of any military installation — which is most of the state — by foreign nationals from those countries.

Critics suggested that the measure, which is most likely to affect immigrant small business owners, was driven by xenophobia.

A Kansas State University report for lawmakers last fall said foreign individuals or companies owned only 2.4% of the state’s 49 million acres of privately held agricultural land and Chinese ownership accounted for only a single acre.

The Senate failed to override Kelly’s veto of another GOP bill touted as a security measure. It would have barred government agencies from buying drones with critical parts made in countries of concern. She called it “well-intentioned” but said its “overly broad” provisions would burden agencies.

Kelly allowed a third related bill to become law without her signature. It requires the state pension system and other agencies to have no investments tied to countries of concern by the start of 2026.


Starting July 1, people convicted of harming or killing law enforcement dogs and horses in Kansas could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The new law was inspired by the November 2023 death of Bane, an 8-year-old Wichita police dog, and was championed by House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican.

Increased penalties have had bipartisan support across the U.S., but Kelly vetoed the measure, describing it as flawed and saying the issue needed more study. Legislators overrode the veto.

Hawkins called Kelly’s veto “political pettiness” and posted a meme on the social platform X depicting the governor as the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz,” along with, “I’ll get you, Law Enforcement, and your little dogs too!”


Republicans who wanted to tighten up state election laws failed to enact several major proposals. Lawmakers argued that they’re addressing constituents’ concerns about state elections integrity, though there is no evidence of major problems in either 2020 or 2022.

Under one measure, starting in 2025, voters would no longer have had three extra days after polls closed on Election Day to return mail ballots. That failed narrowly in the Senate.

Republican lawmakers passed a bill to prohibit state and local officials from using federal funds for election administration or promoting voting unless the Legislature specifically authorized it. Kelly vetoed the measure and the Senate failed to override her action.

Kelly also vetoed a bill designed to lead to more aggressive enforcement of a 2021 state law limiting people to delivering absentee ballots for 10 other people. There was no attempt at an override.

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