Special session planned for Nov. 22; How will lawmakers take on Biden’s vaccine order?

Kansas

TOPEKA, (KSNT)— Kansas lawmakers are planning to return to the statehouse early for a special session to challenge President Biden’s federal vaccine mandate. Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, told the state’s Government Overreach committee Tuesday that a tentative date they’re looking at is November 22.

“Putting someone else in the place of God isn’t that place to be,” Senator Masterson said during Tuesday’s meeting. “What we’re trying to get to is the core of someone’s first amendment rights and freedom of religion.”

The panel voted unanimously to move forward with plans to call the Legislature back in early to discuss Masterson’s two bills. One bill is a “religious freedom” bill. The proposal would allow employees to submit a written waiver request to employers requiring the mandate under certain conditions. It would also allow employees to bring civil action to employers over damages brought on by such violation. The second bill would guarantee unemployment benefits for those laid off due to the vaccine mandate.

According to a spokesperson for Republican leadership, those two bills would be the main items brought to the floor, and they will be discussed in an informational hearing scheduled for Friday morning.

“The bills would be discussed on Friday and would be subject to amendment and debate on the floor, as well, just like any bill”

SPOKESPERSON, KANSAS SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP

The spokesperson told Kansas Capitol Bureau in an email Wednesday that it’s unlikely that other proposals will be made, but it’s always possible, and that right now, the plan is for the two bills to be discussed. To move forward, two-thirds of lawmakers in both the House and Senate would have to agree for a special session to take place.

In separate statements shortly after Tuesday’s announcement, President Masterson and House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, said the special session is necessary to protect Kansans and is meant to coincide with lawsuits filed by Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

“Kansans are fortunate to have an Attorney General who is aggressively taking on the illegal overreach in the courts, and we are optimistic those efforts will ultimately be successful. Meanwhile, to protect Kansans suffering under the Biden Administration’s overreach, the Kansas Legislature must also act by quickly adopting these two targeted measures – one which will strengthen medical and religious exemptions which already exist in Kansas law; and the other which ensure Kansans denied exemptions receive the unemployment benefits they are entitled to.”

KANSAS SENATE PRESIDENT TY MASTERSON, R-ANDOVER

“Kansans should not be forced to choose between their personal beliefs and their jobs. It’s clear that federal overreach on a vaccine mandate has placed many working families between a rock and hard place. We have a duty to protect our citizens and our economy, and we urge Governor Kelly to fulfill that duty by calling a Special Session of the Legislature. If the Governor is unwilling to call the Legislature back so that we can take swift action, we are prepared to call a Special Session by petition.”

KANSAS HOUSE SPEAKER RON RYCKMAN, R-OLATHE

Some Democrats in the state have also been outspoken against President Biden’s vaccine mandate. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, released a statement, condemning the mandate last week. Kelly said she doesn’t believe the order is “the correct, or the most effective, solution for Kansas.”

Other Democratic lawmakers have also said the mandate may not be the best route to take.

Senator Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, said he agrees with the governor’s statement.

“I think that the governor has pointed out that maybe mandates don’t work as well as some of the things she’s trying to do, which is encouraging people to get the vaccine,” Sen. Hawk said. “I want people to know that I think getting the vaccine is a critical part of us putting the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview mirror… I think the critical thing is to try to encourage people to get the vaccine.”

Growing concerns over President Biden’s federal vaccine mandate have prompted Kansas lawmakers to explore options of what can be done. One of the options is a “special session” to get legislation passed, before thousands of Kansans potentially lose their jobs in the coming months.

Lawmakers usually convene for a few months each year, starting in January. However, a special session occurs when the legislature is called to meet at a time outside the regular legislative session usually to address a particular topic or emergency. The most recent was in 2020 to enact the governmental response to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic in Kansas and provide certain relief during this time.

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December 31 2021 11:59 pm