Lawmakers target governor’s powers in new emergency act proposal

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Lawmakers are debating who should have authority and how much power the governor should have during a public health disaster.

The current disaster declaration for coronavirus runs through the end of March.

A new bill in the Kansas Senate would restrict the governor during a state of emergency. If passed, she would lose some of the powers she currently has.

“This is moving at a breakneck speed,” said Kansas City Sen. David Haley. “There is an attempt to limit or muzzle the ability of a governor, specifically in this case, a Democratic governor.”

But Republicans feel like this is necessary oversight.

“When we have an elected official held accountable, somebody is held accountable to the people for the orders that are put in place,” said Leawood Sen. Kellie Warren, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee where the bill is being debated.

The governor was criticized for closing businesses during the first part of the pandemic. A new bill would not allow churches to be closed, and would also take away the ability to close schools, leaving it up to local school boards.

It would also create a new committee that can decide whether to approve the governor’s executive orders and put them in place. Haley said the committee would hamper Kelly’s powers.

“Will certainly cause a disparate impact on the ability for the governor to govern,” Haley said.

Republicans said decisions by the governor need to be reviewed.

“The body closest to the people who can review the orders, is their justification for it, is there scientific evidence behind it, and the people, the citizens can know where this order is coming from,” Warren said.

The House is also working on a separate bill that is less restrictive of the governor. It was discussed for the first time Wednesday.

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