TOPEKA – (March 12, 2021) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued the following statement on today’s one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 state of disaster emergency, which was declared by the governor on March 12, 2020, and has been extended by legislative action until March 31, 2021:
“One year ago today, Kansas began its emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tumultuous past year has seen nearly 5,000 Kansans die with this disease, many more left to deal with lingering after-effects, countless livelihoods disrupted or destroyed, and ordinary life interrupted for everybody from our youngest children kept from school to our oldest seniors trapped alone in their homes. Thankfully, the development of vaccines has brought more-ordinary times into sight.
“On this anniversary, we also should reflect on how our institutions have operated. Emergency-management systems and executive orders should never become long-term substitutes for our familiar institutions of self-government. Yet during calendar year 2020, our system of lawmaking was turned on its head as the governor decreed by emergency executive order nearly four times as many ‘laws’ as the legislature enacted.
“In the absence of effective checks and balances, some of those executive orders predictably overstepped legal or constitutional bounds. A federal judge subsequently blocked closing churches, the legislature blocked closing businesses, and the state board of education blocked closing schools. Those actions became necessary because, as I said soon after this state of emergency was declared, ‘The Constitution protects our liberties especially during times of crisis, when history reveals governments too quick to sacrifice rights of the few to calm fears of the many.’
“On this somber anniversary, my heart goes out to all who have suffered loss during this pandemic. And I commend the dedicated legislators drawing lessons learned from the past year to thoughtfully reform emergency-management laws. I encourage all involved to redouble efforts to get that job done.”