TOPEKA – (May 22, 2020) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today issued the following statement regarding the COVID-19 relief bill (Second Conference Committee Report on House Bill 2054) approved by large majorities in the Legislature after an overnight session just before adjourning its annual regular session:
“Many Kansans are eager to get back to work, to provide for their families, to send their children back to school – to return to a sense of normalcy, and to do it safely. Kansans have risen to this COVID-19 challenge and sacrificed for the health and safety of their fellow citizens, and now is the time to move from the initial emergency response to a sustained and cautious recovery effort. Having now preliminarily reviewed the COVID-19 relief bill passed by the Legislature, I consider it a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to fixing many specific problems that need immediate attention.
“This bill does not reduce the state’s ability to protect the health and safety of Kansans – rather, it simply requires that important decisions be made through structured bipartisan collaboration, even while the Legislature is adjourned. These decisions – such as how best to reopen Kansas and use $1.25 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds – affect all Kansans, so it is critical diverse perspectives be represented in this process. Kansas took a similar approach after the 2007 Greensburg tornado and again after the 2008 financial crisis, and current law already requires this sort of check and balance for animal-disease emergencies.
“As the state’s chief legal officer, I particularly appreciate that the bill removes a cloud hanging over important decisions made to date by affirming that a state of disaster emergency has been properly in effect since March 12. This was a top legal concern I identified in my formal Opinion earlier this week, and it is the most important action I recommended the Legislature accomplish. I also appreciate the bill’s greater flexibility to address local needs and conditions rather than one-size-fits-all statewide mandates.
“Importantly, the bill also would codify in law policies contained in several emergency orders that have strong support, removing lingering questions about their legality. This includes important measures regarding telemedicine, out-of-state doctors and other medical providers, hospitals and medical care facilities and notaries public.
“The bill strengthens inspections of adult care homes and requires that personal protective equipment, sanitizing supplies and testing kits be available. It provides first responders better information about whether they are being called to a COVID-19-positive environment. And, it provides greater legal certainty for healthcare providers and suppliers asked to contribute to the emergency response and for re-opening businesses that adhere to health and safety rules.
“Many of these provisions are temporary, and all should receive more review and discussion before the next legislative session when further changes no doubt will be advisable. But for now, these seem reasonable actions to bring a greater sense of order, certainty and collaboration to the state’s COVID-19 recovery efforts. Overall, the bill maps a reasonable and cooperative path forward for our state, and I hope it becomes law.”