Kansas lawmakers pass bill curbing governor's power

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KWCH) UPDATE

Republicans have pushed a big package through the GOP-controlled Kansas Legislature that would shield businesses and health care providers from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

The bill they approved Friday also would shift control of the state’s pandemic response from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to legislative leaders.

The sweeping bill was approved by votes of 27-11 in the Senate and 76-34 in the House.

The measure reflects Republicans' view that Kelly is reopening the state's economy too slowly and has been too aggressive with restrictions.

“Governor Laura Kelly and her legislative allies pulled out all the stops to prevent the legislature from coming back. She wanted to keep control of her emergency powers for as long as possible so she can continue to pick winners and losers," Senate President Susan Wagle said in a press release.

Kelly accused GOP lawmakers of trying to “cram” the proposal through the Legislature and Democrats were skeptical of the provisions protecting businesses.

"The most embarrassing irresponsible display of governing that we have witnesses throughout this ordeal," Kelly said during a press briefing earlier Friday.

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7:55 a.m.
The Kansas House has passed the COVID-19 bill minutes before the deadline to adjourn. The vote was 76 to 34.
This also wraps up the work of the 2020 Legislative session.
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6:30 a.m.
The Kansas Senate has passed a COVID-19 and emergency powers bill 21 to 13.

It is now on its way to the Kansas House. They have until the extended deadline of 8 a.m. Friday to pass the bill.

4:50 a.m.
Nearly five hours after the midnight deadline had passed, the Kansas legislature is still waiting to adjourn its 2020 session. The final bill on their agenda centered around the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill curbs Governor Laura Kelly’s emergency powers and gives more oversight to the legislature.

Read: House Bill 2054 Here

The proposal gives the Legislative Coordinating Council appropriation power over the $1.25 billion in Federal money allocated to Kansas in the CARES Act.

On the issue of Disaster Declarations, the bill extends Governor Kelly's current declaration until May 31, 2020. It was initially set to expire on the 26th.

The governor would also not be able to issue a new COVID-19 disaster declaration unless at least six members of the State Finance Council sign off on it.

The governor is only able to close businesses for 15 days in the bill, which can be extended by the State Finance Council to up to 30 days.

The bill from Republican leadership also makes violations of the emergency declaration a civil penalty, not criminal.

That bill also works to protect businesses and health care providers from lawsuits related to COVID-19.

The final parts of the bill continue some of Governor Kelly's executive orders, including on the sale of alcohol and telemedicine.

Lawmakers gathered on Thursday for a one-day close to the legislative session, but Republicans in the house voted to continue past midnight.

Several lawmakers have expressed concerns that any bills passed after midnight could be considered unconstitutional if challenged because they did not meet the midnight deadline.

Lawmakers also passed legislation that would waive penalties and interest on late property taxes, a package of education bills and an economic recovery loan program.

All of those bills head to the governor’s desk. She can either sign them into law, veto them, or take no action - in which case, they would become law after ten days without her signature.



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