Faced with the imminent threat of litigation from her own attorney general, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) has dropped her effort to allow thousands of Show Me State residents to continue receiving food stamps without meeting state-mandated work requirements.
Kelly announced in June she would allow approximately 5,500 childless Kansans to keep receiving food assistance in July even though it would be in violation of a 2015 Sunflower State law that limits able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49 without dependents to three months of assistance within a three-year period if they aren't working at least 20 hours per week or enrolled in job training. The federal government, however, does grant states the discretion to waive the work requirements for some recipients.
Citing humanitarian motivations, Kelly said she was prepared to do just that, allowing the assistance to continue into August and September. Kelly said the exceptions were being made to help two specific groups: the state’s homeless population and foster children who were aging out of the system and would be left to mostly fend for themselves.
But critics note that the Department for Children and Families was planning to use a total of 16,500 exemptions over the next few months, more than necessary for just those populations.
That prompted state Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) to threaten a lawsuit to stop it. Although Kelly felt her plan was on firm legal footing, she opted against fighting it out in court.
“While my team believes the policy we put in place is legally defensible, we have determined that it isn’t worth the cost to Kansas taxpayers to engage in a protracted court battle,” Kelly said during a press conference, adding, “How unfortunate that the attorney general saw fit to embrace such a mean-spirited position, rather than acknowledge the good we were trying to achieve in helping those less fortunate.”
Schmidt, however, called her decision “a victory for the rule of law.”
GOP lawmakers also lauded the decision. Senate President Susan Wagle (R) called Kelly’s effort “repulsive,” while House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins (R) said Kelly “was breaking the law and the Attorney General deserves our thanks for holding her accountable.”
Kelly, however, vowed to keep up the fight by other means.
“I don’t have anything in mind right now,” she said. “But you can trust that we are looking, doing a deep dive on all policy. And where there are things that we can change by executive order, we’ll do that if it’s in the best interest of Kansans.” (WICHITA EAGLE, ABC NEWS)