Republican lawmakers shut down Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s new statewide mask mandate

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Gov. Kelly // Courtesy Laura Kelly for Governor

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly issued a new statewide mask mandate Thursday but the Legislative Coordinating Council, a panel of legislative leaders, shut it down. If lawmakers are not in session, orders like this can be overturned by the LLC.

Eight top legislatures had the power to revoke Kelly’s mandate and voted 5-2 to reverse the mask policy according to KMBC. One of the two Democrats who opposed overturning the mandate included Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes.

“There’s a variant out there,” Sykes says. “I think this is sending the wrong message.”

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch said in a joint statement there was no longer a need for mask mandates because coronavirus cases have dropped, according to KCUR.

“Public health mandates should be short-term, data-driven, and reserved only for pressing emergency situations,” says the House leaders. “Kansans have banded together for over a year to successfully reduce the spread of COVID — and they’ve done so during a time when most counties had opted out of the Governor’s mask mandate.”

Kelly says she wanted to issue executive order No. 21-14 to ensure her administration’s efforts to protect Kansans and the economy would not be wasted.

This mandate required people to wear masks in public spaces, indoor businesses, and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. Counties would have the final say, but Kelly’s order ensured county commissions would have to take a specific vote to opt-out. Also, COVID-19 testing in certain adult care homes would have been required and some alcohol beverage sales rules would be suspended.

Republican Sen. Mark Steffan referred to masks as a “pacifier” and said the falling COVID-19 cases and deaths in Kansas show the order was not needed.

“If it makes you more comfortable to wear a mask, please continue to do so,” Steffan says during a Senate debate Wednesday. “Otherwise, I’d invite you to step forward, Kansas strong, and move ahead without a mask mandate.”

It is true that numbers from the state health department say COVID-19 cases have fallen significantly since winter and are at a low that has not been seen since last summer. Some see masks as the primary reason case numbers are falling. Democratic Sen. Mary Ware says she continues to wear a mask to ensure people’s safety even though she is tired of wearing them.

“The bottom line question for me is: How many deaths are acceptable?” Ware asked on the Senate floor. “For me, one Kansan lost more is one too many.”

KMBC has provided a list of the orders Kelly has issued, which will most likely remain in effect until rescinded or the statewide state of disaster emergency expires.


Categories: Politics