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Why Kansas needs the new Emergency Management bill

“I think everyone understands where we were back in March and where we are now. We certainly see the need for a quick response but also want to move toward a system of increased oversight, and review. The public deserves to have checks and balances.”

This is a quote from New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins – a Democrat – as the New York Legislature prepares to pass a similar emergency management bill to the one being moved in our Kansas Legislature.

Under the new Kansas bill, a governor could declare a 15-day public health disaster emergency, which would could be extended for 30 days at a time by the full Legislature or by a 10-person emergency management committee of House and Senate members. Executive orders issued under the disaster declaration would be:

  • Submitted to the state attorney general for constitutional and statutory review.
  • Subject to approval or revocation by the Legislature or the emergency management legislative committee.
  • Prevented from adjusting the criminal code, limit religious gatherings, seize ammunition, modify election laws or take action interpreted as preferential to abortion clinics.

County or city commissions could adopt their own mandates separate from those issued by the governor based on appropriate evidence. Local school boards would have the only authority to close public schools or move to hybrid or remote learning.

The idea that the Kansas bill is “nakedly partisan” or somehow threatens the ability of the governor to save lives is simply not true.

Remember: back in April Attorney General Schmidt issued an opinion that Governor Laura Kelly’s ban on religious gatherings was unconstitutional and the Legislature agreed and overturned it. Kelly wasted taxpayer dollars fighting them in court and eventually lost. Under this new bill, those court battles could have been avoided.

Over the past year, we’ve seen in Kansas and across the country governors wielding historic power. Kansans deserve to have the final say, not one person. And Governor Kelly should not be afraid of oversight.

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson succinctly described why we need this bill during the floor debate:

“From restrictions on the freedom to worship to an unwieldly set of mandates that imposed unnecessary restrictions on people and even shut down businesses,” Masterson said, “the burdens imposed by various units of government called out the need to establish a new framework to deal with public health disasters.”