With Kelly’s compromise, battle over mask mandate expected in Kansas Legislature

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MISSION, Kan. — This week, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed Senate Bill 40 into law. It allows the governor to extend the state of emergency but also gives the Legislature final say as to what executive orders can be included.

Kansas Republicans are planning to use it to get rid of Kansas’ mask mandate, even though the governor wants to keep it in place.

Being under a state of emergency allows Kansas to benefit from federal funding and other opportunities only afforded to states in that position.

But in what some legislators are calling a compromise, S.B. 40 gives the Republican-led Legislature the ability to exclude executive orders from the emergency declaration.

“We’ve heard from all over the state, people are just tired of the mask mandate, are ready to move on and they’re ready for it to stop,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard Hilderbrand, who plans to vote against a statewide mandate moving forward.

“The variation between a mask mandated county and a no-mask mandated county is very minimal,” he said. “So until you can prove some verifiable prove out in the real world that these are working or not working, I think that’s what we need to have.”

Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes disagrees.

“I actually got emails this morning from constituents saying, ‘Please do not eliminate the mask mandate because we are able to see our kids at a school performances,'” she said.

Sykes said there wasn’t a lot Democrats could do to stop S.B. 40 from becoming law. The governor was willing to giving up some of her power to allow other important benefits that come along with a state of emergency to continue.

“I think it will continue to be more and more political,” Sykes said. “We are not really caring about how we can keep our businesses open and how we protect Kansans. It’s going down to politics, and I think this is just gearing us up for the governor’s race next year.”

The law doesn’t prevent local governments from imposing their own rules. On Thursday, Johnson County commissioners voted to extend the county’s mask mandate through April 30.

But under S.B. 40, if a citizen contests a local rule that is contrary to the State’s emergency order, the local government is required to have a hearing on the objection within 72 hours.

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