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Gov. Kelly vetoes bill limiting emergency powers, leaves reopening plan up to counties

 Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions from reporters about the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak, Sunday, March 15, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Kelly joined the state's education commissioner in urging schools to remain closed for the week. (AP Photo/John Hanna)
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly answers questions from reporters about the state's response to the coronavirus outbreak, Sunday, March 15, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Kelly joined the state's education commissioner in urging schools to remain closed for the week. (AP Photo/John Hanna) (KWCH)
Published: May. 26, 2020 at 2:50 PM CDT
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5:20 p.m.

Senate President Susan Wagle released the following statement following Governor Kelly’s veto of the legislature’s COVID Relief Bill:

“Despite her derogatory politically motivated statements about the legislature, along with few downright inaccuracies, I’m very thankful she’s conceded to our position. She sent authority back to the counties. We’ve been saying it all along; one size doesn’t fit all and today locals won that right.

It is, however, a shame the Governor spent more than half her time at the podium today insulting her legislative partners who represent the people, rather than explaining specifically what this new order will mean for people’s daily lives and businesses.

Kansans crave stability and clear guidance. I hope this Governor has learned Kansans will keep pushing until their voices are heard.”

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5:15 p.m.

Gov. Laura Kelly announced Tuesday afternoon her plan to veto the

. The bill was passed by lawmakers last week in effort from the Republican-led Senate to limit the Democratic governor's powers in dealing with COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill, if signed by the governor, would have extended an emergency disaster declaration set to expire at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday.

Therefore, Gov. Kelly announced a new emergency disaster declaration. She said the new declaration will ensure that the state is able to continue to services vital to Kansas' COVID-19 response and comes as a "direct result of the political games that have been played up to this point."

"Regardless, it is necessary to protect Kansans from the current economic disaster, the economic threat to reopening if we are unable to mitigate and respond and respond to the additional spread of the virus and the imminent threat of surges in escalating cases if we don't conduct serious emergency response activities," said Gov. Kelly.

Along with the new declaration, the governor Tuesday lifted all executive orders on business restrictions and gathering size limits. She said her

will now only serve as guidance and specific orders are now up to individual counties.

"If a county wants to remain in Phase 2, with Phase 2 restrictions, it will need to issue its own emergency order," said the governor.

But she warned that the threat of COVID-19 remains imminent.

"Just because I am lifting most of the executive order does not mean the current threats from COVID-19 are any less than the threats we have faced over the last few months. Quite the opposite," said Gov. Kelly.

The governor mentioned the actions at the

which resulted in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) recommending Kansans who went to the lake self-quarantine for at least 14 days.

Under the governor's new disaster declaration, the use of state resources and personnel to assist with response and recovery operations in affected counties that meet certain criteria will continue.

"The new declaration is critical to allow KDEM (the Kansas Department of Emergency Management) and the (Kansas) National Guard to provide food support to Kansas communities, to protect our food supply, to deliver PPE to hospitals and first responders and to administer COVID-19 testing and to transport those test samples," said the governor. "These services are vital to Kansans and we cannot afford to have them delayed or discontinued. The consequences would be disastrous."

The governor issued a proclamation calling for the legislature to hold a special session in Topeka on June 3 in order to extend the new disaster declaration which will expire in 15 days, or June 10 at midnight. She said failure to do so would be disastrous to cities and counties in Kansas.

"There are those who will see the actions of the legislature and my actions as solely about power - who has it and who wants it - but this is not about power it is about leadership. Being a leader is about being able to do what's difficult and unpopular. It means standing up for what's right and not being bullied into taking action that would be disastrous to the people of Kansas."

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Governor Laura Kelly will hold a press briefing at 3 p.m. to discuss recent updates around COVID-19.

The briefing comes as the emergency declaration for the State of Kansas in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus) is set to expire at midnight.

The declaration authorizes the use of state resources and personnel to assist with response and recovery operations in affected counties that meet certain criteria.

Kansas is into its second emergency disaster declaration for COVID-19, and there are three options governor can take as the second is set to soon expire.

As part of the COVID-19 related declarations, Governor Kelly has issued more than 30 executive orders. They have been used to close Kansas schools, place limits on mass gatherings, the stay at home order and now the phased-in reopening.

If Governor Kelly does nothing, the disaster declaration expires and all off her orders would no longer be in effect.

Many Republicans say the best way to avoid that is to sign the

passed by lawmakers last week. It limits the Governor’s powers dealing with COVID-19 and oversees extending or issuing new emergency declarations.

"There are questions from the attorney general. He delivered a number of opinions the night before we wrote this will. He is questioning the authority she’s used to write her executive order and declare her emergency declarations," said Republican lawmaker and Senate President Susan Wagle.

Democrats say the governor should veto the bill and instead issue a third emergency declaration with revised executive orders.

"She tries to balance the safety of Kansas with the need to go back to work. That will affect their lives. This catfight between politicians, about who talks to who and when they talk, I think the governor vetos it and we move on," said Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Jim Ward.

The Kansas Attorney General and Kansas Chamber are encouraging Gov. Kelly to sign the COVID-19 bill.

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