Kansas Governor Gets Pushback on Her Virus Move

Republicans in Kansas seek to limit Laura Kelly's emergency powers amid coronavirus outbreak
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 19, 2020 7:57 AM CDT
Kansas Governor Gets Pushback on Her Virus Move
Kansas state Sen. Mike Thompson, R-Shawnee, speaks in favor of a proposal to curb Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's power to address the coronavirus pandemic.   (AP Photo/John Hanna)

As most of the US raced to get ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, conservative Republican lawmakers in Kansas moved Wednesday to limit their Democratic governor’s emergency powers, including the ability to establish quarantine zones if the need arises. Conservatives are angry with Gov. Laura Kelly's order to close all of the state's K-12 school buildings for the rest of the spring semester. They view it both as an overreaction that's fueling panic and a sign that she's willing to have state government move aggressively into people's businesses and lives, per the AP. The House approved a resolution last week, and the Senate on Wednesday passed its version limiting Kelly's power, 37-2, with most Dems reluctantly voting yes as failing to pass it risks jeopardizing federal disaster relief funds. The two chambers negotiated a compromise Wednesday, with final votes in both chambers expected Thursday.

Kelly declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic last week to mobilize state resources, but it will expire March 27 unless legislators pass a resolution extending it. Lawmakers are now set to have the GOP-controlled Legislature's leaders scrutinize all of Kelly's future coronavirus orders and to give them the power to revoke many of them within days. Conservatives argued that Kelly's bold moves, and similar actions in other states, are unnecessarily torpedoing the economy and isolating people. "They'll riot. They'll be breaking into people's houses to steal toilet paper," GOP Sen. Rob Olson said. GOP Sen. Mike Thompson urged caution in dealing with the pandemic as "it may not be nearly as bad as we think." Democrats warned the Senate's language could limit Kelly's ability to set up quarantine zones around communities in crisis. "There are good reasons for what the governor did," said Sen. Tom Holland. "We've all just got to get over it."

(More coronavirus stories.)

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