Kelly names recovery council

Gov. Laura Kelly on Tuesday announced the formation of a Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) taskforce to lead the state economy’s recovering from the COVID-29 pandemic.  

The task force will work in conjunction with the Recovery Office announced earlier this month. That office is led by Executive Director Cheryl Harrison-Lee, a member of the Kansas Board of Regents, and Chair Lyle Butler, retired Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce CEO. 

The SPARK Taskforce membership will feature several state legislators, including retiring Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, House Minority Leader Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, Rep. Troy Waymaster, RBunker Hill, and Rep. Kathy Wolfe-Moore, D-Kansas City. 

Additional members appointed by the governor include representatives of the business community and economic development officials. 

Members of the Legislature complained vociferously last week that they’d received little to no information on who would help lead the state’s economic recovery efforts. Several Republican committee chairs, including Appropriations Chair Waymaster, said lawmakers should be involved, especially in legislative oversight of the $1.2 billion in federal CARES Act funding to be distributed in the state.  

Kelly’s announcement came as Senate Judiciary Chair Rick Wilborn, R-McPherson, said his committee will debate a bill tomorrow (Wednesday) giving the Legislature greater control over federal COVID funding. (See related story.) 

Also Tuesday, Kelly announced the state will move into a modified Phase II of its COVID reopening plan on Friday. Mass gatherings of more than15 individuals (the current level is 10) will be prohibited; all businesses and activities slated to open during Phase 2 will be allowed, except bars, night clubs and swimming pools. Those will be moved to Phase 3 

Phase 3 was originally scheduled to begin June 15, but Kelly said public health reports indicate that phase can now start June 8. The “phase out” of the statewide lockdown could begin June 22 rather than June 29 as previously projected. 

Kelly said throughout all phases, Kansans should continue to adhere to hygiene and social distancing protocols, including: washing hands frequently, while avoiding contact with one’s face; remaining home when sick or running a fever; following isolation and quarantine orders issued by state or local health officers; wearing a cloth face mask when in public; and working remotely, if possible. 

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