The Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) voted 5-2 to revoke Gov. Laura Kelly’s new statewide mask mandate in an early afternoon meeting Thursday, April 1.
Kelly had issued Executive Order 21-14 establishing a face coverings protocol earlier that morning — reinstating the previous mask mandate which expired at midnight Wednesday, March 31.
Senate Bill 40 includes a provision that revoked all executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 31, but the governor retained the authority to re-issue the orders under the new process imposed by the bill.
Kansas no longer has a statewide mask mandate, but it does not affect local control. Counties still have the ability to keep their mask mandates in place if they so choose. Miami County commissioners have expressed no interest in adopting a mandate.
Kelly issued 13 executive orders Thursday morning that she said would ensure Kansas can maintain critical pandemic response efforts to keep Kansans healthy, keep businesses open, and keep kids in school. Most of the orders reinstated ones that had expired the previous day.
“Since the pandemic began, my administration has been laser-focused on supporting and protecting our communities and our economy,” Gov. Kelly said after issuing the orders Thursday. “Extending these orders will ensure that our efforts will not have been wasted, and that Kansans and businesses don’t lose the resources they need to get back to normal.”
The LCC’s 5-2 vote followed party lines, with the five Republican members voting to revoke the mandate and the two Democrats voting against revocation.
Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes of Lenexa, who cast one of the “no” votes, said she thinks revoking the mandate sends the wrong message at a time when “we are close to the finish line.”
Republican leadership, Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe), Majority Leader Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita), and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch (R-Ottawa), who cast three of the five “yes” votes, issued the following joint statement:
“Public health mandates should be short-term, data-driven and reserved only for pressing emergency situations. They should not be used to dictate Kansans’ daily lives year after year. If data is the real driver behind the Governor’s approach, then let’s rely on the numbers. In November, the Governor issued her last statewide mask mandate saying there was a “worrying spike” in cases. At that time, Kansas had 5,217 new cases and a 7-day average of 2,430 new cases. Now, Kansas has only 36 new cases and a 7-day average of 216 cases.
“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. With cases dropping and no data to support the need for another statewide mandate, the best approach has proven to be local control. We support the continued ability of communities to tailor solutions that work for them, and we urge all Kansans to continue to practice recommended measures of infection control for their health and the health of those around them.”
Local governments like the cities of Paola and Osawatomie still have the authority under home rule to issue their own mask orders. Both communities currently have such orders in place. Louisburg does not.
The Miami County Commission has made it clear in recent study sessions and meetings that it did not intend to put a new mask mandate in place after the statewide mandate expired March 31.
Commission Chair Rob Roberts said Wednesday, March 31, that he anticipated the LCC would revoke any attempt the governor made to issue a new mandate, which proved to be the case.
While the LCC revoked the mask mandate, it took no action on the other 12 executive orders issued Thursday. Those orders, listed below, will generally remain in effect until rescinded or until the statewide state of disaster emergency expires May 28, whichever is earlier:
- 21-09 — Extending professional and occupational licenses during state of disaster emergency
- 21-10 — Temporarily allowing notaries and witnesses to act via audio-video communication technology during state of disaster emergency
- 21-11 — Temporarily suspending certain rules relating to sale alcoholic beverages
- 21-12 — Licensure, Certification, and Registration for persons and Licensure of “Adult Care Homes” during state of disaster emergency
- 21-13 — Temporarily prohibiting certain foreclosures and evictions
- 21-15 — Requiring COVID-19 testing in certain adult care homes
- 21-16 — Provisions related to drivers’ license and identification cards during the state of disaster emergency
- 21-17 — Temporary relief from certain unemployment insurance requirements during state of disaster emergency
- 21-18 — Temporary provisions for employer payment of income tax withholding for work performed in another state
- 21-19 — Temporary relief from certain tuberculin testing requirements during state of disaster emergency
- 21-20 — Extending time for Kansas rural water districts to hold annual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic
- 21-21 — Temporary authorization for additional vaccinators during state of disaster emergency