COVID-19: State action, Governor’s Orders continue to roll out

Updated as of 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 14

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly issued a State of Disaster Emergency Proclamation on March 12, 2020. This proclamation applies to all 105 counties in Kansas.

“I hereby proclaim, direct and order the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas to activate the disaster response and recovery portions of the Kansas Response Plan. The Adjutant General shall coordinate local and inter-jurisdictional disaster plans applicable to the political subdivisions of areas affected by this Proclamation.

Any or all of the powers conferred upon the Governor by the Kansas Emergency Management Act may be delegated to the Adjutant General as deemed appropriate during this period of proclaimed State of Disaster Emergency. This may be delegated by written orders, or oral orders subsequently reduced to writing with reference to this Proclamation.

I hereby suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business, or the order or rules and regulations of any state agency which implements such statute, if strict compliance with the provisions of such statutes, order or rule and regulation would prevent, hinder, or delay in any way necessary action in coping with the disaster as set forth in KSA 48-925(c)(1).”

Since the State of Disaster Emergency Proclamation, Governor Kelly has issued a number of Executive Orders and has signed multiple Senate Bills. The orders and senate bills are as follows:

March 16, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-03

Extending states of local disaster emergency relating to COVID-19.

This order directs and orders that, without requiring weekly votes by each local governing body, any declared state of local disaster emergency issued pursuant to K.S.A. 48-932 relating to COVID-19 is hereby extended for either the duration of the March 12, 2020, State of Disaster Emergency for the State of Kansas or until this order is rescinded.

March 17, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-04

Temporarily prohibiting mass gathering to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The order directed and ordered that, effective at 12:01 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, all public or private mass gatherings are prohibited in the State of Kansas. The ordered defined the term mass gathering, and also provided a list of activities or facilities that were exempt. The order also provided social distancing and health recommendation guidance for any public gatherings of less than 50 people.

March 17, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-05

Temporarily prohibited utility and internet disconnects

In order to mitigate the economic effects of the spread of COVID-19, this order directs that all Kansas utility providers not under the jurisdiction of the Kansas Corporation Commission temporarily suspend the practice of disconnecting service to Kansas citizens for non-payment. This directive covers all electrical, gas, water and telecommunications utilities as well as internet service providers who provide services to Kansas citizens.

March 17, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-06

Temporarily prohibiting evictions and foreclosures

This order directs all financial institutions operating in Kansas to temporarily suspend the initiation of any mortgage foreclosure efforts or judicial proceedings and any commercial or residential eviction efforts or judicial proceedings until May 1, 2020. This executive order was later rescinded. See Executive Order No. 20-10.

March 17, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-07

Temporarily closing K-12 schools to slow the spread of COVID-19.

This order directs and orders the following:

1. All K-12 school buildings or facilities, whether public or private-used for student instruction, are to close and cease in-person instruction until May 29, 2020, except as allowed below.

2. Any school building or facility operating with a total of fewer than 10 students, instructors or staff may continue normal operations so long as they comply with all directives regarding social distancing, hygiene and other methods to slow the spread of COVID-19.

3. The Commissioner of Education and the State Department of Education will formulate guidance for school districts to create and implement continuous learning plans as well as implement in-person instruction protocols and methods for small groups of students on subjects not reasonably susceptible to continuous learning. Adhering to this guidance and in consultation with local health departments, K-12 schools may conduct appropriate, limited in-person instruction in small groups of students so long as they comply with all directives regarding social distancing, hygiene and other methods to slow the spread of COVID-19.

4. All schools should work with their local governments and county health departments to determine appropriate meal provision, childcare or other community uses of school facilities or resources while complying with all directives regarding social distancing, hygiene and other methods of slowing the spread of COVID-19.

5. The Commissioner of Education is empowered to grant waivers to the terms of this order but only as needed to comply with federal law or to ensure eligibility for federal funds.

6. This order supersedes any contrary or less restrictive order by any local health department regarding the operation of schools and should be read in conjunction with EO 20-04 (“Temporarily prohibiting mass gatherings to limit the spread of COVID-19”). Any contrary or less restrictive language in EO 20-04 is superseded by this order.

March 19, 2020: Senate Bill 27

This bill extends unemployment eligibility for workers who started to file unemployment insurance claims on or after Jan. 1, 2020. These workers would be eligible for a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits, instead of the current effective maximum of 16 weeks.

March 19, 2020: Senate Bill 142

This bill expands education waiver authority during disaster emergencies. Under current law, students are required by statute to attend at least 1,116 school hours per school year. This bill allows local school boards to receive waivers for this requirement under a state of disaster declaration, with the understanding that they will utilize continuous learning for their students during this time. Additionally, the bill codifies legislative intent that school districts continue to pay all hourly employees during a disaster shutdown.

March 19, 2020: Senate Bill 102

This bill expands authority of the judicial branch in time of disaster, permitting the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to issue an order extending statutory deadlines or time limitations on court proceedings and authorizes video conferencing.

March 22, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-08

Temporarily expanding telemedicine and addressing certain licensing requirements to combat the effects of COVID-19.

The order temporarily expands capacity in the healthcare system by:

1. Allowing doctors to prescribe medication after an appropriate telemedicine consultation.

2. Authorizing out-of-state doctors to provide telemedicine services to Kansans, provided they are licensed in another state.

3. Permitting temporary emergency licenses for healthcare professionals regulated by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts.

“By allowing more doctors to practice in Kansas – and more patients to be seen remotely – we can alleviate the increasing burden on our healthcare system,” Governor Kelly said. “Expanding the use of telemedicine for non-emergency-related assessments like routine check-ups and prescribing medication frees up additional time, resources and physical space in our hospitals and clinics.”

March 22, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-09

Conditional and temporary relief from certain motor carrier rules and regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This order provides conditional and temporary relief from certain motor carrier rules and regulations to allow for quick and efficient delivery of resources needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order specifically lifts certain weight restrictions and permitting requirements to allow needed supplies to get to Kansas or move through Kansas as quickly as possible. These exceptions apply only to motor carriers actively participating in COVID-19 response efforts.

“Expediting the transport of resources into the state will enable us to meet the increasing demand for medical supplies, groceries – and yes, even toilet paper,” Kelly said.

March 23, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-10

Governor Kelly rescinded Executive Order No. 20-06 and replaced it with Executive Order No. 20-10, which temporarily prohibits certain foreclosures and evictions. The executive order explicitly requires that a financial hardship indirectly or directly caused by COVID-19 be the reason a homeowner or renter can’t make payments. In addition, no landlords can evict a residential tenant when all defaults or violations of the rental agreement are caused by financial hardships due to COVID-19. These measures are especially important because housing disruption inhibits the ability of the state and local communities to effectively respond to COVID-19 and the public health dangers it presents.

March 23, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-11

This order prevents all Kansas waste removal providers, trash and recycling, from canceling or suspending commercial or residential waste or recycling removal services for Kansas residences and businesses, as a result of non-payment due to significant loss of income or increase in expenses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ensuring that waste and recycling services continue is essential to maintaining public health, especially when personal hygiene and staying at home are the primary methods for slowing the spread of COVID-19.

March 23, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-12

This order extends deadlines for driver’s licenses and vehicle registration renewals and regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic. All driver’s license renewals and vehicle registrations extended by this executive order must be completed within 60 days of the expiration of Executive Order No. 20-12.

Many Kansans may be unable to renew their driver’s license or vehicle registration during this time, but delivery drivers and other critical employees must be able to continue critical operations and drive without fear of licensing or registration issues.

March 23, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-13

This order extends tax filing deadlines to July 15, 2020, and waiving any interest and penalties for returns and payments made on or before July 15, 2020. In the event that the State of Disaster Emergency, originally proclaimed on March 12, 2020, is lifted or expires prior to July 15, 2020, the Department of Revenue shall continue to exercise appropriate discretion to make effective the waivers of penalties and interest for payments made up to July 15, 2020.

This order is intended to bring Kansas’ tax filing procedures in line with federal IRS measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

March 24, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-14

This order limits mass gatherings in Kansas to 10 persons, which replaced the previous order, Executive Order No. 20-04, limiting mass gatherings to 50 persons.

The decision was based on updated guidance from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and modeled from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), which projected cases of COVID-19 in Kansas could sharply rise to a range of 300 to 900 by the end of the month.

“While none of us wanted to see this Executive Order further limiting the size of gatherings, it is necessary to help slow the spread of the coronavirus within our communities,” said Governor Laura Kelly. “We learn more about this virus every day and we are seeing serious cases in every age group – not just among our seniors. The most effective way we can slow down the spread is to stay home and practice good hygiene techniques.”

March 24, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-15

This order details the Kansas Essential Functions Framework (KEFF) that counties will be required to use if local officials determine it is necessary to issue stay-at-home orders.

Stay-at-home orders require residents to not leave their homes unless they are engaged in activities essential to the health and safety of themselves, family members or friends. Essential activities include, but are not limited to, seeking medical attention, purchasing food or filling up gas tanks.

March 25, 2020: Senate Bill 66

Senate Bill 66 is the state’s budget bill for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021. Governor Kelly issued no line item vetoes.

“I appreciate the bipartisan work of lawmakers to approve a budget swiftly in the midst of an unprecedented global public health pandemic,” Kelly said. “I particularly commend legislators for approving $65 million to help support our coronavirus response efforts in Kansas.”

While Kelly applauded legislators’ work and for approving a budget “swiftly,” she warned against adding any unnecessary new spending when the Legislature returns for its annual wrap-up session in April. Excluding coronavirus-related expenditures, the Kansas Legislature spent more than $100 million more from the State General Fund than Kelly initially recommended in January, with another $100 million in potential enhancements delayed until the omnibus budget.

March 28, 2020: Executive Order 20-16

Executive Order 20-16 directs Kansans to stay home unless performing essential activities.

Essential activities include the following: obtaining food, medicine and other household necessities; going to and from work at a business or organization performing an essential function as identified in the Kansas Essential Function Framework; seeking medical care; caring for children, family members or pets, or caring for a vulnerable person in another location; and engaging in an outdoor activity, provided individuals maintain a distance of six feet from one another and abide by the 10-person limitation on gathering size.

Kelly said the action is necessary for three key reasons: to provide statewide uniformity in response efforts; to prevent from overwhelming hospitals – especially rural hospitals that may not have the same capacity to handle an influx of COVID-19 patients; and to buy Kansas more time as state officials work with federal partners to secure badly needed protective personal equipment (PPE), additional ventilators and COVID-19 testing supplies.

See the entire executive order at https://governor.kansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EO20-16.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3cysPXQ_59bjO-mawdu0gfvFS9eyn5pQlGev_VmRlEpNdrIuO86mdOzC4.

March 31, 2020: Executive Order 20-17

This order ensures Kansas can draw down millions in federal dollars under the federal CARES Act.

The federal stimulus will expand unemployment insurance to include self-employed, 1099-independent contractors, gig and low-wage workers who can no longer work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The agreement also increases weekly benefits for all unemployed workers by $600 a week for up to four months.

Executive Order 20-17 makes three, temporary changes to Kansas employment security law:

• The waiting week requirement for unemployment benefits is temporarily waived for all claimants;

• The requirement that Kansans receiving unemployment benefits actively seek work each week is temporarily waived for all claimants to allow Kansans to continue the necessary social distancing practices;

• All Kansas employers, as required by the federal Department of Labor, must notify separated employees if they qualify for unemployment insurance.

April 7, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-18

This executive order replaces Executive Order No. 20-14

This order primarily brings our religious institutions and religious and non-religious funerals in line with the previous order that limited public gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

Although religious institutions and funerals previously were exempt from this 10-person limit, they now will need to comply with this rule, effective at 12:01 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, 2020.

Executive Order No. 20-18 does not ban religious gatherings or funerals. Instead, both conducting and attending religious services and funerals remain designated “essential functions” and cannot be prohibited by local orders. However, gatherings must be limited to 10 individuals at a time, and clergy, staff and attendees must adhere to appropriate safety protocols as outlined in the statewide stay-at-home order – including social distancing, hygiene and other efforts.

April 8, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-18 revoked

On Wednesday, April 8, the Kansas Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) voted to revoke Governor Kelly’s Executive Order 20-18, a temporary limit to mass gatherings of 10 or fewer people.

“This unprecedented action by the LCC to overrule a governor’s emergency response authority puts every Kansas life at risk amid a global health pandemic,” Governor Kelly said.

April 9, 2020: Governor Kelly takes Legal Action on LCC

In response, the Kelly administration announced Thursday, April 9, it has taken legal action to ensure politics do not continue to impede on the state’s ability to save Kansas lives.

“The last thing I want right now is a legal battle,” Governor Kelly said. “But Kansas lives are on the line, and I took an oath to uphold and defend the constitution. What the LCC did yesterday – in concert with the Kansas Attorney General – weakened and confused our emergency response efforts, putting every Kansan at risk. I cannot stand for that.”

According to a press release issued by Governor Kelly’s office, the Kansas Emergency Management Act empowers the Legislature with certain checks upon gubernatorial authority in the time of an emergency. However, those checks are allocated to the Kansas Legislature as a whole – not the seven-person Legislative Coordinating Council. If the Legislature seeks to amend the Kansas Emergency Management Act, it must do so by way of the constitutionally prescribed legislative process – not by issuing a mere concurrent resolution.

Under the Kansas Constitution, laws are made by passing bills through both houses of the Legislature and presenting them to the Governor for signature. The Legislature bypassed that process when it attempted, in the waning hours before adjourning, to change the Kansas Emergency Management Act through a resolution.

The suit was filed with the Kansas Supreme Court to provide a conclusive, swift decision.

April 9, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-19

This order extends professional and occupational licenses for the remainder of the pandemic.

Under the order, all state agencies shall extend renewal deadlines for any occupational or professional license that has expired – or will expire – during this disaster. Licenses will remain valid as long as the disaster declaration is in effect, and for 90 days after it expires.

The measure also waives any late penalties or expiration fees, and it extends deadlines for continuing education requirements.

April 9, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-20

This order temporarily allows notaries and witnesses to do their jobs remotely, through audio-video communication technology.

“Our economy is at a standstill at the moment,” Governor Kelly said. “But to the extent that we can, it’s important to find ways for Kansans to continue safely entering into contracts, filing marriage licenses, updating wills and handling other personal health care directives while still adhering to social distancing protocols.”

April 11, 2020: Kansas Supreme Court Overrules LCC Decision

On Saturday, April 11, the Kansas Supreme Court invalidated the LCC’s April 8 revocation of Governor Laura Kelly’s COVID-19 Executive Order 20-18.

After hearing arguments electronically, the Court ruled swiftly and narrowly, relying on the plain language of House Concurrent Resolution No. 5025. The Court said the revocation could not stand, because the resolution failed to give the LCC the necessary power to override the Governor’s order.

The majority opinion, written for the Court and not signed by an individual justice, said: “As ultimately acknowledged by all counsel during oral arguments today, even if we accept House Concurrent Resolution 5025 as an otherwise valid exercise of legislative authority, its plain text did not authorize the LCC to revoke Executive Order 20-18.”

“I want to thank the Supreme Court for its expedited review under difficult circumstances,” Governor Kelly said, referring to the Supreme Court meeting for the first time in the court’s history by video conference. “Our response to this unprecedented pandemic has necessitated that even our most fundamental institutions find alternative methods that preserve public health. Today’s ruling does not change my commitment to maintaining open lines of communication and collaboration with the Legislature. The only way to get through this is by working with — not against — each other in a bipartisan fashion.”

April 13, 2020: Executive Order No. 20-22

This order will extend temporary relief for motor carriers from certain rules and regulations. It is an extension of motor carrier rules and regulations put in place by Executive Order No. 20-09.

The order lifts certain weight restrictions and permitting requirements to allow needed medical supplies, food shipments and other items to move through Kansas as quickly as possible. These exceptions apply only to motor carriers actively participating in COVID-19 response effort.

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The Sabetha Herald has been serving Sabetha since 1876.

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