It’s starting to become apparent that Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly has devised a new tool to use to run the state that is essentially managed by a Republican-heavy Legislature.

Of course, Kansas government is basically run, its policies set, its benefits delivered by a majority of a quorum in legislative committees and a majority of members of the House and Senate.

Barring a veto (see last year’s two tax bills) which drives up the votes needed to override the governor, probably one of the most subtle tools is creation by a two-  or three-page executive order which establishes “the Governor’s Council” on, well, whatever she wants.

In the first year of her administration, Kelly has made clear that she’s using that “Governor’s Council” to propose tax policy for the state and Medicaid expansion.

Now those councils are just advisory, they come up with policy for their assigned subjects and that policy is going to become the governor’s policy for the state. 

Nope, it doesn’t get anything passed, but those council recommendations become a fence for the Kansas Legislature, setting boundaries for lawmakers’ actions. Approve most of whatever those “Governor’s Councils” propose, and it’s likely those bills will become law.

Get outside that fence, and the governor can veto a bill and cite—at length—that a specialized study group (and because a handful of Republicans is on those councils, she can refer to them as “nonpartisan”) considered and rejected those provisions.

Not a bad tactic.

Kelly’s first council, dealing with tax reform, has started its exhaustive look at Kansas tax policy, whom is taxed, what is taxed and what isn’t.  It’s a big issue that will paint what tax changes produce…and what those changes may do to the state’s economy that most of us wouldn’t have thought of.

For example, continuing to under-fund the Kansas Department of Transportation doesn’t just take less money but it also is likely to damage the state’s economy through depreciating roads used for getting state products to out-of-state buyers, getting Kansans to their jobs, and even contributing to inadequate recreational bike trails to give cyclists a reason to stay in Kansas or come to Kansas to spend their lives.

Oh, and those roads that are now getting a little makeup with an inch or two of new asphalt and striping are actually deteriorating and will at some point require expensive rebuilding from the dirt to the road surface. 

Now, does that sound like tax policy? No, but roads that are deteriorating faster than they are being preserved call for tax money to be spent.

And this week Kelly gives an introductory welcome to the Governor’s Council on Medicaid Expansion. That panel will, of course, propose expansion of Medicaid–we call it KanCare–and what that expansion should look like. 

That’ll put some fences around the Legislature’s plans for expanding Medicaid which the House passed last session…and which the Senate never considered.

Look for the panel, of course, to deal with the social issues of caring for the health-care needs of the state’s poor, and then underline that expansion and accompanying federal funding with the possibility of more Kansas hospitals closing, jobs leaving small communities, and residents and workers leaving, too, with dire economic effects.

And look for the panel to disapprove legislative efforts to hinder that expansion through any number of provisions that would prohibit Kansans from becoming eligible for expanded Medicaid—like pre-existing conditions, or work requirements and such…

So, it’s just not the governor proposing tax and Medicaid plans, it’s a bipartisan council that helps draw fences around Medicaid legislation.

This governance by “council” might get interesting…