Kelly kept a stay-at-home order in place for five weeks last spring, defending it as necessary to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases from overwhelming hospitals, as it had in Europe. She later sought a phased reopening of the economy, but lawmakers forced her to accept local control of such decisions to keep a state of emergency for the pandemic in place.
Ryan Kriegshauser, an attorney for a Wichita fitness studio and its owner, who sued the state in December over pandemic restrictions, said the federal law cited by Kelly is “incredibly ambiguous.” He said the bill also had a provision nullifying its contents if they were found to violate federal law.
Supporters of the bill were short of the two-thirds majorities in both chambers necessary to override a veto when the bill passed earlier this month because Republicans were split and Democrats opposed the measure. Lawmakers have been out of session since May 8 and have only one more day scheduled for possible business this year, Wednesday.
“She could have let it go into law, and all of this would be sorted out,” Kriegshauser said. “She is using this as an excuse to play politics.”
Kelly did sign budget legislation Friday that included several provisions favored by Republican lawmakers.
One provision gives top legislators more say in how Kansas spends its federal coronavirus relief funds, outside of the business compensation program. Another prevents the state from tracing the close contacts of people infected with COVID-19 unless their participation is voluntary, and a third bans state agencies from issuing vaccine passports — something Kelly has said she’s not interested in doing.