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GOP pushes back on Kansas governor for closing schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Republican legislators in Kansas moved Wednesday to limit Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s power to address the coronavirus pandemic after she closed the state’s K-12 schools for the rest of the spring semester.

Conservatives said Kelly’s action was an overreaction. Kansas has at least 18 confirmed coronavirus cases and one COVID-19-related death. Most infected people recover but some can develop serious problems.

They included language from GOP conservatives in a resolution that would extend a state of emergency declared by Kelly last week to prevent her from invoking a state law giving the governor broad powers to act to “promote and secure the safety and protection of the civilian population.”

And at the urging of Republican Sen. Dennis Pyle, of Hiawatha, senators added a provision to prohibit Kelly from confiscating guns. Kelly has not suggested taking such action.

The governor’s declaration of an emergency makes it easier to mobilize state resources but is set to expire March 27. The resolution extending it passed, 37-2.

As approved by the House last week, the resolution would extend the state of emergency into January 2021. Senators’ version extends it only until May 1 but gives the GOP-controlled Legislature’s leaders the power to keep extending it every 30 days.