Legislative Update from Brenda Dietrich

May 16, 2020
At the Capitol

At the Capitol - Update
As you probably know, the Legislature will return for one day, May 21, to finish our work and to deal with some additional questions regarding legislative oversight of federal funds and the language in Executive Orders and the Emergency Declaration Statute. The fact that this last day will also be Sine Die, which means the end of the legislative session, makes this a very unusual circumstance for us. It means any bills we pass in our respective Chambers and send to the Governor to sign can be vetoed with no opportunity for us to try to override the veto. 

This may be a very long day as we will be in session until the Speaker adjourns us.  There are several House and Senate Committees meeting prior to the 21st to recommend some potential legislation that was either left on the table when we departed on March 19th, or has become important based on the unique conditions connected to the pandemic and would be important to state functions and local governments in the off-session. Many of you have emailed me asking for us to convene sooner, believing that one day may not be enough time to do our work.  These are definitely unusual times, but legislative rules give the authority to convene and set the calendar to legislative leadership.  They believe we can finish our work on the 21st

Ad Astra: A Plan for Re-opening KANSAS

Ad Astra: A Plan for Re-opening KANSAS
Governor Kelly developed this plan in phases to allow us to transition out of the “Stay at Home” Executive Order that expired on May 3.  The plan is based on state data regarding COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations and being able to manage community transmission.  It has been very disruptive to our economy and our general way of life, but things are slowly moving forward.
Here is a link to the detailed plan.
This was originally a 3-phase plan that would adjust every 2 weeks depending on the spread of the virus.  Instead of moving to Phase 2 on Monday, the plan now calls for loosening of some restrictions on businesses such as nail salons, barber shops, beauty shops and other personal-service businesses, but only if customers have appointments for services…no “walk-ins” - creating what the Governor is calling Phase 1.5 of  the plan to gradually reopen the state.


Transportation Programs - KDOT

The Kansas Department of Transportation announced the first 40 new projects it will start working on as part of the legislative approved and funded Eisenhower Transportation Legacy Program (IKE). Those new projects will start after remaining T-Works projects of the previous plan are completed. You can visit to see which projects were selected and learn more about the IKE program.

The good news for Topeka is that the stretch of I-70 in downtown Topeka…. MacVicar to 4th Street (Polk-Quincy)… will become a 6-lane freeway. The existing bridge will need to be replaced.  This 6-lane expansion will improve a sharp curve and general safety overall. The schedule will begin with letting contracts for the first of those new projects by Dec. 31, 2021.
A benefit to the IKE program is the flexibility built into the plan with two-year time frames for planning road projects, rather than the previous 10-year cycle that couldn’t react to economic or demographic changes that might occur over the length of 10 year schedule.

Department of Labor and
Unemployment Benefits

I spend the majority of my time answering questions for constituents who are having trouble either filing their unemployment claims or trying to just speak to a real person about benefits.  There are thousands of Kansans trying to connect to the KDOL to file claims.  I have a legislative “hot line” that connects me to staff in the Governor’s Office that are very helpful.  If you still need assistance, please contact me……and I will do my best to help you.
The Kansas Department of Labor is now accepting applications and weekly claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program at  PUA is being rolled out in phases with the next phase being payment of the PUA benefits, which is slated to begin by May 25, 2020.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides an additional $600 weekly payment for unemployment insurance claimants, went live starting Thursday, April 23.  The retroactive payments for prior weeks after the law went into effect on March 29, 2020, began paying out on May 7, 2020.

Continue to monitor the Kansas Department of Labor’s web-site for new information about benefits.

The Kansas Department of Labor’s IT system has been struggling due to the heavy load placed upon it by enormous claims volumes. The benefits site,, is now accessible, however you may still experience delays when filing your claims and we know how frustrating this can be.  The system is antiquated and staffing levels were not able to handle the initial requests.  I do believe it is getting better… keep the faith and let me know how I can help.

COVID-19 Resources

The state aggregated all the information from across state departments related to COVID-19 into one website:
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has a map that will let you see coronavirus statistics for each county as well as state numbers.  It is up-dated on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  This is the map link:

The Daily Case Summary for Friday, May 15th can be seen at
Kansas House Republican Leadership created a web-site on COVID-19 information called Kansas Together. "Kansas Together," @ which is a resource site for Kansans.

Voting during the Pandemic

It is not too early to think about how you want to cast your ballot in the August primary on Tuesday, August 4th, or in the General Election on Tuesday, November 3.  All 165 Legislators….House and Senate…..are on the ballot.  We have no idea what August and November will look like, especially when you think about going to your polling location to vote in the Primary or General Election. 
Some counties are sending out applications to all voters to request a ballot mailed to their house so they do not have to leave their homes to go a polling place. It does not appear Shawnee County will be doing that.  So, if you are concerned about voting in person, and want to ensure your voice is heard in this year’s elections, please click here to request a ballot be mailed to your home for the August and November elections.

Graduation 2020

Graduations in May are a rite of passage and a time of celebration filled with lots of families and friends gathering together to watch high school and college seniors walk across a stage, shake hands, and receive a diploma amid cheers and applause. It was my special honor to be on that stage for 19 years as Superintendent of Schools, certifying that the diploma candidates seated before me had met the requirements for graduation from high school. My daughter graduated on this very day (May 16th) in 2004.  Graduations have always been my very favorite event of the school year and I am so sorry the pandemic has disrupted that long-held tradition for thousands of students across our state.  Graduation ceremonies have been postponed and all of the pomp and circumstance, family gatherings, putting on that cap and gown, will have to wait for our high schoolers in Shawnee County until either July 25th or August 2nd, depending on the particular high school’s schedule.  There is no doubt the end to this school year, whether high school or college, was not what anyone would have expected. However, because of the unpredictable last year of school, I think our graduates are going to be more adaptable, more innovative, and better equipped for the world.  I hope our 2020 graduates will look back on this time knowing that their work, their accomplishments, and their achievements still stand and that their families and communities are thinking of them.  They will have quite a story to tell when they reminisce about their last year of school!

Contact Me

If you have any questions about what is happening in Kansas or Shawnee County that I can help you with or want to share your views on any of the issues before the legislature, please feel free to email me at or call my home phone listed below.  Please stay well and stay in touch!

Representative Brenda S. Dietrich
Room 165-W State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th St.
Topeka, KS     66612
785-861-7065 (Home phone)

Contact Brenda

Room 165-W
300 SW 10th Street
Topeka, Kansas 66610
Phone: 785 296-7648
Email Brenda

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