AG Derek Schmidt statement on passage of new COVID-19 relief bill

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Office of the Kansas Attorney General

TOPEKA – (June 4, 2020) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today issued the following statement on final passage by the Legislature of House Bill 2016, the COVID-19 relief bill:

“I supported the previous COVID-19 relief bill and was disappointed the governor vetoed it. This new bill is largely the same, and I support it as well and am encouraged the governor has indicated she will sign it this time. Both bills address most of the constitutional and legal concerns about the Kansas Emergency Management Act identified in Attorney General Opinion 2020-6 and place the state’s emergency response on a much stronger legal foundation.

“This bill has clearer restrictions on the governor’s use of emergency powers to close businesses, churches, schools and otherwise to limit gatherings in a one-size-fits-all, statewide manner. Most other provisions of this new bill are the same as before, including legislative ratification of the state of emergency that has been in place since March 12, codification of some of the policies previously adopted only by legally questionable executive orders and strengthening local decision-making in the COVID-19 response going forward. Under this bill, Kansans may no longer be threatened with arrest, criminal prosecution and imprisonment for violating statewide executive orders. This bill, like the previous one, also ensures important legislative oversight of how $1.25 billion in federal assistance is used for Kansas. While this new bill unfortunately weakens a few important provisions – including nursing home inspection requirements and liability protections – most are the same or stronger now than before.

“These discussions need to be ongoing, and more review of these issues will be required in the coming months. But for now, it is time to make these changes law and move forward, and I commend all who have worked so hard on this legislation.”