Emergency Declaration Amid Coronavirus Epidemic
On March 17, Governor Laura Kelly announced the closure of all K-12 school buildings, private and public, in the state for the remainder of the school year. This order is an attempt to counter the spread of the Coronavirus, COVID-19 with an Executive Order.
The emergency declaration closes only the buildings of K-12, it does not halt the education of students in the Kansas. The intent is that by cleaning schools and restricting contact the spread of the Novel Coronavirus will be slowed or, hopefully, halted.
The Governor announced this executive order after consulting with Kansas Department of Education, Kansas Board of Education, Kansas Association of School Boards, Kansas School Superintendents Association, United Administrators of Kansas and Kansas National Education Association.
This executive order by the Governor is one of many last week, intending to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Kansas. The other significant executive declaration was announced on March 12, and it established the State of Disaster Emergency Proclamation for Kansas due to the Coronavirus.
This order empowers the State Adjutant General with the powers of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management (KDEM) to coordinate state and local disaster plans for all counties in Kansas and to activate disaster response and recover portions of the Kansas Response Plan.
We will be monitoring these in the coming weeks before we return on April 27.
Eisenhower Legacy Highway Plan
Last week the Senate and House conferenced on, and passed, House Substitute for Senate Bill 173. This bill, known as the Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Plan, will establish the next 10-year state highway plan for Kansas.
The conference committee worked diligently on the bill from Monday through Wednesday. We debated several important details of the bill, such as alternative delivery, reporting requirements for projects, bonding provisions, completion of the delayed T-Works projects, and distribution of projects across Kansas. The Eisenhower Transportation Plan keeps the promise of T-Works and it ensures stability and certainty for Kansans in the quality of our state highway infrastructure for the future. I voted, “yes.”
State Budget Passes
On March 19, the Legislature passed out the base state budget for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021, with the addition of emergency funding to combat the Novel Coronavirus.
The intent of passing out this base state budget is to provide certainty for our state agencies and citizens. By having funds allocated prior to further spread of COVID-19 and decline of commodity and stock values, our state agencies will be able to function and assist Kansans during the current epidemic of the Coronavirus.
The passage of this base budget, however, is not the end of the budget process. The House Appropriations Committee will be coming back April 24 to consider any Governor Budget Adjustments, Tax Revenue Consensus data, and other important details of the state budget.
Hopefully, with additional time and new information since the Coronavirus onset, the House Appropriations Committee will then consider omnibus budget items the following week. With the new information, we will be able to determine the necessity of these items and the fiscal position of the state of Kansas at that time.
Those omnibus items determined necessary will be put into an omnibus budget that will then be considered by the Legislature and passed, hopefully, shortly after we return to the Statehouse for the Veto Session that begins on April 27.
This is not a political issue. This is a public health issue. The health and safety of all Kansans comes first, and it is the highest priority for me and my fellow legislators at this time.
We are working with the members of the governor’s public health team and other legislators in both chambers to make sure our first responders, health care providers and communities have all they need to help slow the spread of the virus and treat those who may have it.
I encourage every Kansan to follow basic good health practices:
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
· Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
· To keep from spreading respiratory illness to others, you should:
o Stay home when you are sick.
o Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
o Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
The most comprehensive and up to date information about the coronavirus in Kansas can be found at kdhe.ks.gov. I encourage anyone who has questions and who wants the facts to go there for information.
The legislature has one job that must be done each year, the passage of a budget. As already mentioned, the House and Senate passed a basic budget so that the state is ready and able to serve Kansans throughout this rapidly changing situation.
By following sound public health practices and each of us doing our part we will meet this challenge with resolve and as Kansans always do, make it through together. As our state motto states: Ad Astra per Aspera, to the stars through difficulties.
Anytime that one would like to participate and listen to the developments of committee hearings or discussion on the House floor, one can tune in by listening to the audio footage at www.kslegislature.org.
As always, if you have any concerns, feel free to contact me (785) 296-7672, follow on twitter at #waymaster4house, or email me at [email protected]. Also, if you happen to visit the statehouse, please let my office know.
It is a distinct honor to serve as your representative for the 109th Kansas House District and the state of Kansas. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts, concerns, and questions. I always appreciate hearing from the residents of the 109th House District and others from the state of Kansas, as well.