Governor Kelly to veto bill limiting disaster declarations, issue new declaration

Gov. Laura Kelly says she will veto a bill passed last week meant to limit the  governor’s powers in dealing with COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Kelly says she will reissue a new emergency disaster declaration as the current order is expected to expire at midnight.  The  Ad Astra Plan is now only offered as guidance only and specific orders are now up to individual counties.

No orders from the governor will be used to restrict businesses from opening or people from gathering, said the governor.   The new order from the governor will allow the state to continue to receive federal assistance.

The governor will also be ordering the legislature to return on June 3 and pass new legislation.  A news release from the Governor’s office provides details on what happens next:

The new state disaster declaration addressing the current emergency enables Kansas to provide the following services through the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Kansas National Guard and the federal government:

Allows National Guard members supporting numerous field missions throughout the state to serve communities in response to the disaster and threat. To date, a total of 678 National Guard personnel are supporting these missions.

Allows KDEM and National Guard to provide vital food support to communities and protect against threat of food supply shortages. Guard members have packed more than two million meals which are being distributed to food banks across Kansas.

Allows KDEM and National Guard to swiftly provide medical and non-medical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to hospitals, first responders and many more to combat the imminent threat of COVID-19 surges. To date, over 7,000 cases of PPE have been delivered across the state, which includes 3.2 million individual pieces of PPE. More will be needed to address the imminent threat of new outbreaks.

Allows KDEM to assist the Kansas Department of Corrections to provide support personnel – including medical and food preparation personnel.

· Allows KDEM to make deliveries of Remdesivir to counties across Kansas. So far, KDEM, along with their state agency partners which include the Kansas National Guard, Kansas Highway Patrol and Civil Air Patrol, have made 26 deliveries of Remdesivir to 10 counties. Remdesivir is delivered to hospitals to treat critical patients, and this service is potentially life-saving for those patients. KDEM makes these deliveries immediately when needed for patients throughout the state.

· Allows KDEM to continue providing non-congregate shelter for positive and exposed persons who are essential workers. There are currently 50 contracts related to non-congregate sheltering needed for the present disaster. Continuing to provide this support will mitigate the threat to the food supply and the threat of surges in COVID-19 infections.

· Allows medical workers and first responders to rely on the Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System to decontaminate their PPE. This system is provided by FEMA and continuing to provide this service will mitigate the threat of surges in COVID-19 infections.

· Allows KDEM to manage donations and warehouse space necessary to store PPE. This storage is necessary due to the threat of new COVID-19 outbreaks as statewide restrictions are lifted and the economy reopens.

· Allows KDHE to provide community-based testing under the State Emergency Response Plan. Increased testing will help the state mitigate the threat of, or respond to, future outbreaks and allows businesses, employees, and customers to resume economic activity with increased confident that outbreaks will be prevented or mitigated.

· Allows KDEM to continue transporting testing samples. KDEM has transported over 1,000 samples to state labs since April 29, 2020. By transporting the tests via KDEM couriers, the tests arrive at the lab the same date they are collected, and results are provided the following day. Without this same-day service, the results of the tests will be delayed and the ability to contact-trace will be severely limited, risking additional illness and death as well as economic insecurity.

· Allows KDEM to provide translation support. Currently, KDEM is providing 16 translators to support contact-tracing operations to mitigate the current and imminent threat of a new COVID-19 outbreak.

· Allows the Civil Air Patrol to continue to provide needed emergency transportation.

If the state disaster declaration is not extended by the Legislature within 15 days, the following significant problems will likely occur:

Possible closure of meat processing plants;
Inability to assist hog farmers with the euthanasia and disposal of excess hogs;
The loss of unemployment benefits;
Significant delay and possible frustration entirely of the economic recovery of the State;
Reduced PPE inventory for healthcare workers and first responders;
KDEM would be unable to receive, sort, package, and transport PPE and other commodities to health care workers and first responders;
Food shortage and an inability of state agencies to provide the various food programs needed to assist Kansans;
Reduced testing and a lack of timely test results;
Inability to conduct contact-tracing missions;
Increased outbreaks of COVID-19 in the prison population;
Increased outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes;
Inability to service or transport ventilators or anesthesia machines;
Inability to coordinate mission assignments or take emergency actions necessary to deal with issues related to the current disaster;
No immunity for state employees or volunteers providing vital services;
Inability to initiate and maintain the Kansas Response Plan; and
Increased costs to the State of Kansas as a result of losing federal funding.

Under the new disaster declaration, the operative provisions of the following Executive Orders will be reissued:

20-08: Temporarily expanding telemedicine and addressing certain licensing requirements to combat the effects of COVID-19
20-12: Driver’s license and vehicle registration and regulation during public health emergency
20-13: Allowing certain deferred tax deadlines and payments during the COVID-19 pandemic
20-17: Temporary relief from certain unemployment insurance requirements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
20-19: Extending professional and occupational licenses during the COVID-19 pandemic
20-20: Temporarily allowing notaries and witnesses to act via audio-video communication technology
20-23: Licensure, Certification, and Registration for persons and Licensure of “Adult Care Homes” during public health emergency
20-27: Temporarily suspending certain rules relating to sale of alcoholic beverages
20-32: Temporary relief from certain restrictions concerning shared work programs
20-33: Extending conditional and temporary relief from certain motor carrier rules and regulations in response to COVID-19