Governor Wants COVID Control in State Hands

Governor Laura Kelly says that Kansas should stop giving local officials the final say over the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic because experience has shown “a patchwork approach” does not work.

The governor also said she would like legislators to rewrite a law that allows people exposed to COVID-19 to avoid providing information that would allow health officials to trace their close contacts.

The law was enacted to protect people’s privacy, but health officials said it hinders disease tracking.

The Legislature already has committed to considering changes in emergency management laws after opening its annual 90-day session January 11th.

Lawmakers enacted a law in June covering the current pandemic, but its provisions and a state of emergency for the pandemic expire January 26th if lawmakers do nothing.

Kelly is likely to face strong resistance from Republicans for returning power to manage a pandemic to the governor’s office, particularly the authority to close businesses or impose statewide restrictions such as mask mandates.

GOP leaders have argued repeatedly that local officials are best positioned to decide what works.