Kansas will remain under a COVID-19 emergency after lawmakers voted Wednesday to extend the order for another 30 days.
The vote was significantly less contentious than debate in September, when the State Finance Council last signed off on the emergency declaration.
That meeting, which lasted over three hours, grew heated as Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, and Republican legislators clashed.
The primary topic of consternation during that hearing was whether language should be added to the mandate to comfort residents that the governor wouldn’t again seek to close businesses, something she had said she will seek to avoid.
Wednesday’s vote, however, was unanimous and essentially without debate.
Without action, the emergency order would have expired Oct. 15 under House Bill 2016, the compromise approved in June between Kelly and legislators to limit her powers during the pandemic.
Advocates say the declaration is necessary to ensure that federal relief funds continue to flow from Washington, D.C., although Republicans dispute this claim. The order is also required to ensure the state’s emergency management operations continue seamlessly.
Adjutant Gen. David Weishaar said the mandate was vital for continuing to house those working with or exposed to high-risk individuals.
And the National Guard, which Weishaar said is currently transporting test kits to Ford and Seward counties, will be needed when the state sees an influx of rapid test kits from the federal government in the coming months.
"We’ve got 870,000 test kits coming in from (the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)," he said. "Without a disaster declaration we will struggle to distribute those throughout the state."
District attorneys across the state have also said the declaration is needed to continue to suspend requirements for a speedy trial.
Not renewing the order would potentially free those who are awaiting trial as the state’s court system slowly recovers from the pandemic.
"Without the extension, and until we have approval and a procedure to safely have juries into the courtrooms, we continue to run the risk of having trials dismissed," Leavenworth County District Attorney Todd Thompson said in an email Tuesday. "This is not something we feel is fair to the justice system or safe for our communities."
Lawmakers will likely find themselves back in the same spot next month as the new order is set to expire Nov. 15.