Lawmakers debate putting more restrictions on governor’s power during emergency

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Legislators are debating how much power the governor has during a state of emergency.

Whether it’s wildfires, tornadoes, or a pandemic, members of the Special Committee on Kansas Emergency Management Act are working to figure out what authority the governor should have when times get tough.

Some legislators have said the state is operating under a patch-work approach to the pandemic because the law doesn’t account for something like the coronavirus outbreak.

The governor’s office told lawmakers not to put too many restrictions on the executive branch.

Some lawmakers think that Governor Kelly needs more oversight and should be working with others more.

“I think if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this pandemic and this long-duration emergency declaration, that as long as these things progress, you need those checks and balances be reinserted,” said Hesston Representative Stephen Owens.

Owens said some changes could be beneficial going forward no matter who the governor is.

“In times of an emergency, and especially and extended declaration, there’s concentrated power that I think can get out of hand, and I think during this pandemic we have seen some of that occur,” Owens said.

The committee is also meeting Wednesday and Thursday hearing from stakeholders that could be affected.

“We’ll look at what the powers ought to be over the next couple of days. We need to look at what kind of oversight that will continue to exist on decisions that the governor makes,” said Lawrence Representative Mike Amyx. “Is it going to be the legislature’s responsibility in all of the decisions and what is our oversight responsibility.”

He said legislators need to understand how this can affect the future.

“What are the powers we want the governor five years from now or 10 years from now, I mean let’s face it, the act has been around since 1948, I think, so I think it’s been pretty good,” Amyx said.

Any proposed changes would head to the full legislature and be voted on next year.

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