Gov. Kelly eyeing ‘Kansas-centric’ solution on vaccine mandate, spokesperson says

Kansas News

In this Monday, May 17, 2021, photo, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly tours a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for students aged 12 through 15 set up in a gym at Topeka High School in Topeka, Kan. The Democratic governor is under increasing pressure to end an extra $300 a week in benefits for unemployed workers, with critics of the aid arguing that businesses are having problems hiring enough workers because of it. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. — As Kansas lawmakers consider challenging President Joe Biden’s federal COVID vaccine mandate, a spokesperson for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s office, told KSNT’s Kansas Capitol Bureau in a statement Wednesday that the governor is exploring solutions for the state as well.

“We are reviewing the legislation Senator Masterson proposed yesterday. There are several lawsuits pending against the federal vaccine mandates; states are still waiting to receive clear guidance regarding implementation and enforcement expectations. While legislative leadership debates whether or not to call a Special Session, Governor Kelly continues exploring actions her administration can take to find a Kansas-centric solution, not a nationally mandated, one-size-fits-all approach.”

REEVES OYSTER, GOVERNOR KELLY’S SPOKESPERSON

While it’s unclear if the governor will approve of the special session or proposed legislation, she has been outspoken against the federal vaccine mandate.

Kelly released a statement last week, 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 President’s order. 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,” Waymaster said.

Some democrats have also supported the governor’s decision. Sen.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,” 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.”

In Kansas, efforts are underway 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 Dec. 8 as a condition of employment. The President’s mandate for businesses sets a deadline of Jan. 4.

Lawmakers on the state’s Special Committee on Government Overreach are planning to hold a special session to address the issue. To move forward, two-thirds of lawmakers in both the House and Senate would have to agree for a special session to take place.

Growing concerns over Biden’s federal vaccine mandate have prompted Kansas lawmakers to explore options of what can be done. One of the options is a “special session” to get legislation passed, before thousands of Kansans potentially lose their jobs in the coming months.

Lawmakers usually convene for a few months each year, starting in January. However, a special session occurs when the legislature is called to meet at a time outside the regular legislative session usually to address a particular topic or emergency. The most recent was in 2020 to enact the governmental response to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic in Kansas and provide certain relief during this time.

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