House passes resolution opposing mask mandate

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The House late Tuesday sent a strong message to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, calling on legislative leadership to reject any mask mandate the governor may reissue to replace the one that expires on Wednesday.

The House voted 84-39 to pass a resolution addressing the mask mandate that was  introduced by Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch.

“The imposition of a new and uncessary mandate will only serve to sow dissension, encourage resistance and harden Kansans against even those locally tailored policies that might otherwise be effective against this pandemic,” Finch said.

House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer said now is not the time for the public to let down its guard against the COVID-19 pandemic.

He feared that failure to continue to be vigilant might lead to a new spike in COVID-19 cases.

“We are so close to defeating this COVID disease,” Sawyer said. “We made a lot of progress. It would be a big mistake to go backwards right now. Last thing we want do is spike the ball on the five-yard line.

“Now is not the time to give up the fight,” he said

House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. said the resolution, which will only be debated in the House, was intended to give the chamber a chance to vote on the issue.

“I think she knew where we were,” Ryckman said. “Our members for a while wanted a vote on that. I think our members wanted to have their voice heard on that.”

The House debated the resolution Tuesday morning, but didn’t pass it until early in the evening after plowing through a series of bills.

The resolution urged the Legislative Coordinating Council to revoke any executive order issued by the governor that establishes new protocols for masks.

Last week, Gov. Laura Kelly signed new emergency management rules into law, which revoke any executive orders she issued related to the pandemic on Wednesday.

The governor immediately announced that she would reissue 12 executive orders on Thursday – including a statewide mask mandate – that will remain in place until the emergency declaration ends on May 28 or the orders are rescinded.

Republican leadership promised immediately it would move to revoke any mask mandate that the governor might reissue.

Any executive orders issued after Wednesday are subject to being revoked by the Legislature or the Legislative Coordinating Council, which is now made up of  eight members of House and Senate leadership.

The Legislature would make the decision if it’s in session. The Legislative Coordinating Council would make the decision if the Legislature is not meeting.

The Legislature is anticipated to be out of session for the holiday weekend, starting Thursday through next Tuesday.

The new law requires the chair of the LCC to call a meeting within 24 hours of the governor issuing a new executive order so it can be reviewed and potentially revoked.