‘Kansans do not want to be forced’: Lawmakers react to Gov. Kelly, AG stance against federal vaccine mandate

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TOPEKA (KSNT) – Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and Attorney General Derek Schmidt are both taking a stand against the federal coronavirus vaccine mandate.

The Attorney General joined a lawsuit filed Friday, which will challenge the new federal vaccine mandate for private employers with more than 100 employees.

Shortly before, Gov. Kelly released a statement, condemning the mandate.

“Yesterday, I reviewed the new vaccine mandate from the Biden Administration. While I appreciate the intention to keep people safe, a goal I share, I don’t believe this directive is the correct, or the most effective, solution for Kansas. States have been leading the fight against COVID-19 from the start of the pandemic. It is too late to impose a federal standard now that we have already developed systems and strategies that are tailored for our specific needs. I will seek a resolution that continues to recognize the uniqueness of our state and builds on our on-going efforts to combat a once-in-a-century crisis.”

GOV. LAURA KELLY, D-KANSAS.

The statement is the democratic governor’s first official comment on the mandate. State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle responded to the move.

Representative Troy Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill, said the governor was “correct” in the comments that she made. The Republican representative said he encourages people to believe in their “own individual rights and liberties” and to “decide what they want to do.”

“Kansans do not want to be forced in taking a vaccination, just because it’s coming down from the federal government as a mandate,” Rep. Waymaster said.

While some Democrats have spoken in support of the mandate, Senator Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, said he agrees with the governor’s statement.

“I think that the governor has pointed out that maybe mandates don’t work as well as some of the things she’s trying to do, which is encouraging people to get the vaccine,” Sen. Hawk told the Kansas Capitol Bureau Friday. “I want people to know that I think getting the vaccine is a critical part of us putting the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview mirror… I think the critical thing is to try to encourage people to get the vaccine.”

The issue has even reached the nation’s capital. Kansas U.S. Senator Roger Marshall joined efforts to prevent U.S. servicemembers from receiving a dishonorable discharge if they choose not to get vaccinated.

“The mandate, of course, is unconstitutional, and we’re going to do everything we can to fight it and stop it,” the Republican senator said in an interview, speaking out against the mandate Thursday.

In Kansas, similar efforts are underway. Some state lawmakers are trying to find a way to protect thousands of workers set to lose their jobs in the coming months.

At least three state universities with federal contracts in place have announced that employees will be required to be fully vaccinated by December 8 as a condition of employment. The President’s mandate for businesses sets a deadline of January 4.

Lawmakers on the state’s Special Committee on Government Overreach are trying to plan the next steps on how to deal with the mandate in their next meeting, November 9.

There are talks of lawmakers coming back early for a special session to address the issue. However, some lawmakers believe it may not be the best solution.

“I don’t think a special session would really do much to address this particular issue,” said Sen. Hawk. “I know that some of the Attorney generals have tried to go the legal route, and I’d like to see how that plays out and wait and see where we are in January.”

Rep. Waymaster said he’s received “many emails” this week about a potential special session. Waymaster said he said he doesn’t see it “happening yet.”

“I really don’t think there’s a need for a special session, because if anything would be passed by the legislature, I would have to foresee that the governor would veto it,” he said. “Hopefully with the Attorney General filing suit against the Biden administration. We can work swiftly through the court system and decide whether or not that’s a legal precedent that the federal government can take.”

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