GOP vow to thwart Gov. Kelly on masks

Top Republican lawmakers in Kansas are promising to thwart Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to encourage county officials to maintain mask mandates to help control COVID-19, declaring a statewide policy unnecessary after steep declines in new cases this winter.

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March 26, 2021 - 9:27 AM

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly puts on a mask after a news conference on June 22. Photo by Jim McLean / Kansas News Service / kcur.org

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republican lawmakers in Kansas are promising to thwart Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to encourage county officials to maintain mask mandates to help control COVID-19, declaring a statewide policy unnecessary after steep declines in new cases this winter.

GOP leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature announced their next potential move after Kelly signed a measure rewriting laws on managing the coronavirus pandemic and future emergencies. The measure took effect Thursday and gives eight legislative leaders, six of them currently Republicans, the power to rescind a governor’s orders during an emergency. It also extends the current state of emergency until May 28 — something Kelly saw as crucial — instead of letting it expire Wednesday. 

Kelly announced in signing the emergency management bill that on April 1, she will reissue a dozen orders imposed last year. They include one requiring people to wear masks or other face coverings in indoor businesses and public spaces, and outdoors if they can’t stay at least 6 feet apart. That order allowed counties to adopt their own policies but required elected county commissions to vote on opting out of her order.

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