KASB Legislative Roundup, Wed. May 20Scott Rothschild
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a package of bills prompted by the COVID pandemic and the state’s response, sending to them to the full Senate tomorrow for an unusual one-day session to wrap up the 2020 Legislature.
The measures were amended into House bills, which means if passed by the Senate, the House can either agree to Senate positions without amendment or request a conference committee to negotiate changes. There are also several bills already in conference committee, which could be used to bring legislation to final action by the full House and Senate.
The specific wording of bills advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee were not made available but appeared to include the following provisions.
One bill would extend legal liability protections against certain COVID-related lawsuits to medical providers, business and higher educational institutions if they follow recommended safety standards. It does not appear to apply to elementary and secondary schools.
A second bill deals with the governor’s disaster emergency powers. It would ratify all disaster declarations and executive orders issued by Gov. Laura Kelly from the beginning of the COVID crisis through May, when her current declaration expires. However, it would prohibit any new COVID-related declarations in 2020 unless approved by a supermajority of the State Finance Council.
The bill would also prohibit the governor or state employees from closing business or commercial activities for more than 15 days cumulative in 2020. However, local health agencies could issue such orders. Supporters of the measure said they want to leave these decisions to local officials who can respond to local circumstances, rather than statewide policies.
The bill would also require approval of the Legislative Coordinating Council to spend federal funds related to COVID costs, after a review by the Legislative Budget Committee, rather than having exclusive authority with the governor.
There are a number of other provisions approved by the committee today. House committees also discussed these issues over the past week but did not take any action. In addition, the House and Senate tax committees have proposed legislation and were holding a tax conference committee Wednesday night.
Both the House and Senate convene at 8 a.m. Thursday for what is expected to be a very long day. The 2020 session is scheduled to end at the conclusion of that legislative day.