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Kansas Republicans call for a special session over Biden administration COVID-19 mandates

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Posted at 5:11 PM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 23:11:34-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — All Republicans in the Kansas legislature have signed a petition to start a special session on Nov. 22, according to a release from several state House and Senate leaders.

Speaker Ron Ruckman, House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch released the statement Thursday, which outlined the motives for the special session.

“This is a historic moment as the legislature calls itself back into a special session for the first time in the history of our state," the release said. "This unprecedented action is necessitated by equally unprecedented actions from the Biden administration that enacted these mandates unilaterally, without respecting the constitutional law making power reserved for Congress. Never before has the federal government forced Kansans to choose between their personal beliefs and their livelihoods.”

The petition will be delivered to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly Friday morning, according to the release.

To call such a legislative session in the state, either the governor has to call one, or 2/3 of the senate and 2/3 of the house would have to vote to have one.

Republicans hold the necessary supermajority in both groups, so if every Republican representative votes in favor of the session, as the release indicates, the session will go forward.

Republicans have been looking for ways for Kansas to resist vaccine mandates announced in September by President Joe Biden that cover more than 100 million workers. Senate President Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, has proposed measures to make it easier for workers to claim religious exemptions to the mandates from their employers and to provide unemployment benefits to workers who are fired for not getting inoculated.

"We're not going to let the Biden Administration force businesses to play God or doctor and determine whether a religious or medical exemption is valid or not. We're going to trust individual Kansans," Masterson said in a news release.

The full Legislature has been out of session since May and wasn't scheduled to reconvene until January.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly last week expressed opposition to Biden's vaccine mandates but was non-committal Wednesday about bringing lawmakers back to Topeka.