Lawmakers move forward sending message not to extend mask mandate

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – On Tuesday, the House voted to move forward with a resolution urging legislative leadership to reject a new mandate by the governor.

Legislative leaders will bear that responsibility if the legislature is adjourned for three days or more, or not in session. Otherwise, the full legislature can vote down an order from the governor during a disaster declaration.

The current statewide mask mandate that counties can opt out of expires Wednesday. Governor Laura Kelly will re-issue the mask mandate on Thursday. The legislature is expected to hold a vote on whether to keep it in place shortly after.

Many lawmakers said Kansans have learned how to stay safe during coronavirus.

“Over the last year, businesses, community institutions, and local governments have demonstrated their ability to determine what restrictions are necessary or proper in their communities,” said Ottawa Representative Blaine Finch. “They know that what works in Wichita may not work in Wichita county, and what is necessary in Kansas City may not be good for every other Kansas City.”

But other lawmakers said this isn’t the way to go.

“We are so close to defeating this COVID disease, we’ve made a lot of progress, it would be a big mistake to go backwards right now,” said House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer. “The last thing we want to do is spike the ball at the five-yard line.”

He said it’s just too early.

“We are so close to the end, let’s just keep doing what we’re doing until we get enough people vaccinated, we can get herd immunity, and we can defeat this disease, now is not the time to give up the fight.”

House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer

Supporters said people are ready to move on from the past year.

“But Kansans also value their freedom and their independence, they understand that we can have both public health and protect our liberty, but one size fits all mandates are not the way to do it,” Finch said.

The governor responded by saying the following.

“The legislature threatening to revoke my order to reissue the facemask protocol is unnecessary because county commissions can still opt-out. These political games have nothing to do with Kansans’ freedoms.”

Governor Laura Kelly

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