Kansas Senate, House Pass Bill Limiting Governor’s Executive Powers
Joe Denoyer - May 22, 2020 8:06 am
TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – 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.
Kelly accused GOP lawmakers of trying to “cram” proposal through the Legislature and Democrats were skeptical of the provisions protecting businesses.
Bill limits the governor’s emergency powers by making her apply to the state finance council to proclaim any new COVID-related emergencies. Six yes votes from the council would be required.
County commissions could make health orders that are less strict than statewide orders if local health officials determine them not necessary to protect the health and safety of the county.
Bill limits the governor’s ability to close businesses or commercial activity to only 15 days. The state finance council can approve for an additional 30 days.
Bill lessens penalties for defying orders from a misdemeanor to a civil penalty.
Bill makes businesses not liable for COVID-19 claims if the business was following “federal or state statute, regulation, or executive order passed or issued in response to the COVID19 pandemic.”
The liability protection would be retroactive to March 12.