On Wednesday, the Kansas Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) voted to revoke Kelly Executive Order 20-18, a temporary limit to mass gatherings of 10 or fewer people. This unprecedented action by the LCC to overrule a governor’s emergency response authority puts every Kansas life at risk amid a global health pandemic. In response, the Kelly administration today announced it has taken legal action to ensure politics do not continue to impede on the state’s ability to save Kansas lives.
“The last thing I want right now is a legal battle,” Kelly said. “But Kansas lives are on the line, and I took an oath to uphold and defend the constitution. What the LCC did yesterday – in concert with the Kansas Attorney General – weakened and confused our emergency response efforts, putting every Kansan at risk. I cannot stand for that.”
The Kansas Emergency Management Act empowers the Legislature with certain checks upon gubernatorial authority in the time of an emergency. However, those checks are allocated to the Kansas Legislature as a whole – not the seven-person Legislative Coordinating Council. If the Legislature seeks to amend the Kansas Emergency Management Act, it must do so by way of the constitutionally prescribed legislative process— not by issuing a mere concurrent resolution. Under the Kansas Constitution, laws are made by passing bills through both houses of the Legislature and presenting them to the Governor for signature. The Legislature bypassed that process when it attempted in the waning hours before adjourning to change the Kansas Emergency Management Act through a resolution.
As such, the LCC’s actions yesterday conflict with both the Kansas Constitution and Kansas statute, which explicitly states that revocation of emergency orders resides with the Legislature as a whole – not with the LCC.
“Throughout my time as governor, my administration has actively engaged the Kansas Legislature in our decision-making processes,” Kelly said. “I have invited lawmakers to provide input on various initiatives, to participate on various gubernatorial task forces, and I have always welcomed diverse voices and ideas to the table, no matter what the issue at hand. I will continue to do so – especially as it pertains to this public health pandemic and the necessary work that will soon be upon us to reopen and rebuild our economy. But there’s a difference between collaboration and control. My action today is about protecting our government’s constitutionally protected separation of powers, so that we can respond effectively to the worst public health emergency of our lifetimes.”
The suit was filed with the Kansas Supreme Court to provide a conclusive, swift decision.