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Legislature sends new coronavirus bill to Gov. Kelly’s desk

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – A new coronavirus response bill is heading to Governor Laura Kelly’s desk.

The new bill passed out of the Senate with a 26 to 12 vote on the last day of the year for the Kansas Legislature. On Wednesday, House members approved the bill, 107 to 12.

The bill has many of the same things a previous bill, that was vetoed by Governor Laura Kelly, had including liability protections for hospitals and businesses and more local control for counties. It also extends the state of emergency until September 15.

On Thursday, Senators went back and forth in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday morning and if more should be added to the bill. It was eventually passed out with no changes.

“We need the business protections, but we also need it for the nursing homes, the community colleges,” Olathe Senator Rob Olson said.

On the Senate floor, lawmakers narrowly voted to not allow debate on the bill. Some senators were hoping to vote on amendments that they believe would have improved it.

“I’m so sorry for them people that I wasn’t able exercise my voice and divide this bill,” Olson said.

Andover Senator Ty Masterson also said the debate should have taken place.

“We ran an entire marathon and then cheated in the last block, did all this work that was valuable, and then demeaned the process,” Masterson said.

The bill was developed after the governor vetoed the previous bill last week. Kelly met with leadership from both parties in the House and Senate to get a bill that could become law.

“We did preserve or we improved the majority of House Bill 2054,” Emporia Senator Jeff Longbine, who serves as vice president of the Senate, said.

Many of the 26 senators that voted for it, said it wasn’t perfect, but it was the best that they could do to get something passed.

“This bill does help the governor and agencies continue to move forward due to unprecedented circumstances created by COVID-19 pandemic,” Kansas City Senator Pat Pettey said.

The bill also limits the governor’s emergency powers in regards to business and school closings.

Governor Kelly applauded the bipartisan passage of the COVID-19 response bill and released a statement Thursday.

“Today’s bipartisan passage of the COVID-19 response bill is a victory for Kansans. Our communities have faced unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic and I am proud of the compassion and resiliency they have shown during this difficult time,” the Governor said. “While there are parts of this legislation that I oppose, HB 2016 provides the tools and resources for Kansas families, communities, and businesses to begin the path to economic recovery. I will sign this legislation when it comes to my desk, and will continue to honor my commitment to work across the aisle and move our state forward.”

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