Kansas lawmakers approve bill limiting governor's emergency powers during pandemic

Posted at 8:16 AM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 16:13:38-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the final day of the Kansas legislative session, lawmakers approved a bill limiting Gov. Laura Kelly's emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic.

After more than 20 hours of debate, HB 2054 passed in both chambers of the GOP controlled legislature by a vote of 27 to 11 in the Senate and 76 to 34 in the House.

The bill requires Kelly to get permission from lawmakers to keep businesses closed or to exercise other broad powers granted to governor's during emergencies after May 31st.

Legislative leaders would also have final say over how the state spends $1.25 billion in coronavirus relief funds.

Late Wednesday night, Republican state Attorney General Derek Schmidt suggested Kelly has been on "legally suspect" ground for three weeks.

Before the session, Kelly's office released a response to the vote.

"This is not an honest conversation about reviewing and modernizing KEMA, or the Kansas Emergency Management Act. If it were, the attorney general would not have released his legal opinion in the middle of the night before the last day of the legislative session," the statement read.

The bill now heads to Kelly's desk where it's expected to be vetoed.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, Kelly said she would not announce her plans on legislature's action yet because she hasn't had adequate time to reflect on what she called a "spectacle."

Kelly said the legislature's actions were "indefensible from start to finish, and there is no way for me to sugarcoat that."