Kelly on work requirements: I think I'm right, but it's not worth the fight

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Saying it was not worth the cost of a prolonged legal battle, Gov. Laura Kelly will change her policy that allows some adults without children to receive welfare even if they don't meet work requirements.

Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt had given Kelly a deadline of Friday to act.

In a Thursday news conference at the Statehouse, Kelly did say her Office believed their changes were legally defensible, but they chose not to take it to court. Kansas Secretary for the Dept. of Children and Families Laura Howard said her agency thinks a lawsuit would be a distraction.

"The lawsuit going forward not only wasn't a good use of resources but maybe more importantly it was really a distraction from being able to have this larger policy conversation," Howard said.

In the news conference, Kelly criticized the state's restrictions on welfare, which lawmakers placed into law under former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

"GOP leadership would rather see us continue on the disastrous path of the Brownback-Colyer administration, whose policies did significant harm to Kansans, instead of working to improve families' health and growth," Kelly tweeted afterwards.

The policy at issue represents an attempt to minimize welfare restrictions through agency action after unsuccessful attempts by Democrats to make changes through the legislative process.

“The governor’s decision this morning is a victory for the rule of law," Schmidt said. I appreciate that rather than test the current law’s boundaries the governor instead announced her intention to seek her desired policy changes through the legislative process.

Schmidt confirmed he received from Howard confirmation that DCF has withdrawn the policy.

Top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature argued that the policy change made in May violated a 2015 law imposing work requirements and other restrictions on food and cash assistance recipients.

Senate President Susan Wagle called it "disappointing" that it took a threat of a lawsuit for Kelly to change her plans.

"Her desire to expand welfare to adults without dependents who are capable of working is repulsive to hardworking Kansas taxpayers," she said.

The state extended food assistance this month to 5,500 adults due to lose it. Kelly's administration had planned to help them again in August and September.