Sep 15, 2020 10:05 AM

HAWVER: The theatrics of Kan. emergency declaration

Posted Sep 15, 2020 10:05 AM
Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report.
Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report.

Look back at the three hours of theatrics that led to the essential approval of the continuation of Gov. Laura Kelly’s COVID-19 pandemic emergency declaration by the State Finance Council, and what words might come to mind? Maybe “acting out.”

It was entertaining for a time, but depending on how long you want a Republican candidate for the House or Senate standing on your doorstep or shouting through his/her mask from the sidewalk in front of your home that they have “saved” your job or schools or health, it probably lasted a little longer than necessary.

The issue last week, just days before expiration of the governor’s declaration of an emergency that enables the state to receive federal funds to battle the pandemic and for the governor to issue executive orders to reduce the spread of the deadly disease, she was forced to say she doesn’t intend to close businesses in the state to reduce transmission of the disease.

Hmmm… It came down to the governor adding language to the extension of her executive order that says…well, that she doesn’t want to close businesses. Now, of course, neither does anyone, but Republicans sought that language that is pretty much implicit in life in Kansas.

It’s a little like having the governor — in order to respond to the pandemic – being forced to say she sure hopes that business closures won’t be necessary to prevent more deaths from the disease.

But Republican legislative leaders wanted to hear her affirm it and see it written down in an official state document (filed with the Secretary of State) that is notarized. That way, they can say that they have forced the governor to declare she doesn’t want to close businesses, with the ensuing loss of jobs, paychecks and such.

The leaders wouldn’t settle for Kelly stating that intention not to close businesses in a press release, or at press conferences. They wanted to see it in that new executive order. Nope, legislative leaders didn’t demand that the governor’s intent not to close businesses be printed in bold face type in that new order, just that it be printed there above her signature. They might require it be printed in bold face type on Oct. 15, when the just-approved order expires and has to be renewed.

Practically, when Kelly this spring issued the executive order that closed all “nonessential” businesses and gatherings, she wasn’t happy about it. In June, the Legislature passed a law which allows county commissions to overturn provisions, such as business closings, in Kelly’s executive orders. But her overall pandemic executive orders are vital, because with no emergency, well, there are no federal funds to help Kansas respond to the pandemic. It essentially turns a deadly virus into a mere “inconvenience.”

After the Finance Council meeting, Republicans touted that they had forced the governor to officially hope she doesn’t have to close businesses again. Democrats? They basically said, of course, that they were shocked and offended that Republicans forced that concession by the governor, likely for political purposes—meanwhile, Republicans said the power to close businesses is a political power.

We’re now going to be listening to see how thrilled voters are as Republicans campaign for election and re-election in the next couple months. Will that change your vote? Would you vote for a candidate who doesn’t want the governor to shut down businesses if they become dangerous locations for the spread of the pandemic?  Or who doesn’t say she is disappointed that she may have to?

And…do those Republicans remember that if they don’t continue to approve the governor’s emergency powers that her executive orders under the emergency go away? Like the one that permits drive-through purchase of margaritas as long as there is an emergency?

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com