Kansas House, Senate pass bill limiting governor’s executive powers

Coronavirus

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Both sides of the Kansas legislative branch have passed a bill to limit Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive powers Friday morning.

Over 22 hours into the one day Kansas legislative wrap-up session, the Senate passed the bill to the House to vote. Around 8 a.m. the House passed the bill in a 76 to 34 vote. This would prevent the governor from proclaiming another coronavirus emergency declaration without checks in place from the state finance council.

The Senate substitute for HB 2054 would create and amend the law and make appropriations regarding the governmental response to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic in Kansas.

You can find the 25-page brief here. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Bill limits the governor’s emergency powers by making her apply to the state finance council to proclaim any new coronavirus-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 COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • The liability protection would be retroactive to March 12.

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