Kansas lawmakers closer to special session on COVID mandates

Kansas Capitol.jpg
Posted at 2:58 PM, Nov 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-09 15:58:57-05

TOPEKA, Kan. — Support is growing among Republicans to call the GOP-controlled Kansas Legislature into a special session before Thanksgiving to enact new laws for protecting workers who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Senate President Ty Masterson said Tuesday that he wants lawmakers to reconvene Nov. 22 to consider proposals he outlined to make it easier for workers to claim religious exemptions from vaccine mandates and to give workers unemployment benefits if they’re fired for refusing to get inoculated. The measures are a response to vaccine mandates imposed by by President Joe Biden.

Masterson, an Andover Republican, and other GOP leaders had previously been wary of pushing for lawmakers to reconvene before their next scheduled regular session begins in January. The Republican-controlled Legislature can convene a special session without Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly if two-thirds of lawmakers sign a petition, but an earlier effort by GOP conservatives didn’t get much traction.

“What changed is, we now have a plan,” said Rep. Stephen Owens, a conservative Hesston Republican.

Masterson outlined his proposals during a meeting of a joint legislative committee set up to look for ways for Kansas to resist the federal vaccine mandates.

Kelly first expressed her opposition to the Democratic president’s mandates last week but hasn’t yet advocated specific state policies.