Kansas Senate passes resolution opposing mask mandate

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The Kansas Senate Wednesday night passed a resolution calling on legislative leadership to revoke any mask mandate that Gov. Laura Kelly plans to reissue after the existing one lapses Wednesday.

The Senate voted 29-11 to approve the resolution a day after the House passed a similar measure on Tuesday.

The resolution was introduced at the last minute Wednesday.

The resolution urges 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a statewide mask mandate – that will remain in place until the emergency declaration ends on May 28 or the orders are rescinded.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.

Lawmakers were left wondering why the governor had not issued new executive orders since the existing one expires at 11:59 Wednesday.

“I hope we’re not subject to the most elaborate April Fool’s joke I’ve ever seen,” said Senate President Ty Masterson.

“Supposedly we’re going to get something tomorrow. We don’t have anything now. I’m not sure why they’re going to let it lapse.”

The governor’s office could not be reached for comment.

Democrats said this was not the time for the state to drop its guard against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The reason we’re winning this war on a pandemic is because we have practiced protocol that led to a remission in both the transmission of the virus and, indeed, the deaths that have ensued,” said Democratic state Sen. David Haley.

“We should stay the course. It won’t be long now before there will be no need for masks and social distancing,” Haley said. “I just wished we could be a little more patient.”

Republican state Sen. Mark Steffen of Hutchinson said masks have been nothing more than a “pacifier” during the pandemic.

“Please, if it makes you feel more comfortable to wear a mask, please continue to do so. That is your perogative and we want you to do it if you feel better,” Steffen said.

“Otherwise, I’d invite you to step forward Kansas strong and move ahead without a mask mandate.”

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 will 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.