TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers moved Thursday to extend a state of emergency prompted by the coronavirus crisis and hashed out language to give the GOP-controlled Legislature oversight over the actions of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
The Senate approved a resolution 39-0 to allow legislative leaders to extend the state of emergency every 30 days. Kelly introduced a state of emergency last week. It also requires them to review all of Kelly's executive orders and allows them to overturn many of them within days. It also prohibits Kelly from having guns and ammunition seized or blocking their sale.
The House was expected to approve the resolution later Thursday. Without the resolution, the state of emergency would expire March 27.
Some conservative Republicans were upset with Kelly's order to close all K-12 schools for the rest of the spring semester and wanted to block her from using sweeping gubernatorial powers granted to deal with short-term disasters. But Democrats said going as far as they wanted could prevent Kelly from setting up quarantine zones or taking other essential actions.
Democrats said requiring legislative leaders' oversight is workable, though they were frustrated that conservatives moved to curb Kelly's power.
"I just think we've complicated things too much, but at this particular time, we need to pass this and go on about our business," said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat.
At least 34 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Kansas, according to the state health department. The state has had one COVID-19-related death.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.
Separately Thursday, Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said state standardized tests will be cancelled this year because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus, unless something changes "dramatically."
A Kansas education task force has rolled out guidelines to help school districts, teachers and parents navigate remote learning.
Also Thursday, Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids announced that she's self-quarantining after she came into contact with another member of Congress who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Davids said in a statement that she's following guidance from Congress' attending physician and working from home until March 26 "out of an abundance of caution." She said she doesn't have symptoms.
"We all have a role to play in reducing the spread of this virus, and that means self-quarantining when appropriate," she said.
Another four cases were recorded in Johnson and Wyandotte counties Thursday, according to the Kansas City Star, and The Joplin Globe reported a case in Cherokee County in southeast Kansas. Two positive cases were reported late Wednesday in Morris County in eastern Kansas. The county health department said the two Council Grove residents who recently traveled to the Caribbean tested positive. Information on the residents' conditions was not released.