Kansas’ Democratic governor on Tuesday vetoed a sweeping coronavirus measure passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, ratcheting up a partisan dispute over her response to the pandemic and possibly setting up a court fight over her power to direct it. Gov. Laura Kelly not only vetoed the measure approved by lawmakers in the last moments of their 2020 session to curb her emergency powers, but promised to issue a new emergency declaration to replace one that was set to expire. Many Republicans believe she doesn’t have the legal authority to do that. Kelly is also heightening the conflict by calling the Legislature back into special session on June 3 to tackle coronavirus measures, the AP reports.
The bill passed Friday was meant to shield businesses and health care providers from coronavirus-related lawsuits and take control of the state’s pandemic response from the governor, including decisions about how to spend $1.25 billion in federal relief funds. The lawmakers’ last day in session lasted 24 hours straight. Kelly has called it the “most embarrassing, irresponsible display of government that we have witnessed throughout this ordeal.” Democrats had objected to curbing Kelly’s power and shielding substandard nursing homes and manufacturers of defective personal protective equipment from liability. Republicans believe Kelly has moved too slowly to reopen the state’s economy and has too aggressively imposed restrictions. (Read more Kansas stories.)