WATCH: Governor Kelly sues over revoked limits to religious gatherings, announces progress on unemployment help

KNSS News
April 09, 2020 - 6:40 pm

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says her administration is suing after a legislative council revoked her executive order that limited the size of religious gatherings.

Kelly said during a news conference Thursday afternoon, that she has instructed her chief counsel to file suit against the legislative council and to request that the Kansas Supreme Court expedite the matter.

“The actions of the Republican legislative leaders jeopardized both the health and safety of Kansans,” she said. “We do not have time to play political games during a pandemic.”

The Legislative Coordinating Council voted 5-2 Wednesday to topple the order that limited in-person religious services and funerals to 10 people.

The now-overturned order had rescinded an earlier order barring any gathering with more than 10 people, raising questions about whether large gatherings are now legally permitted. Kelly said the council’s vote had “created confusion.”

Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe), Majority Leader Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita), and Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch (R-Ottawa) issued a statement after the Democratic governor’s news conference.

They said they are disappointed. They say they tried to work out a compromise that is both legal and protects the health and safety of all Kansans.

“That solution does exist,” the statement reads. “Unfortunately, the Governor’s office was insistent that Executive Order #20-18 continue to contain a provision that would make church attendance in Kansas a crime. Under the advice of the Attorney General, that provision is unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

Kelly said she spoke to Vice President Mike Pence Thursday. He assured her he knew what Kansas has been doing to stop the spread of the coronavirus. She says he also told her that the Trump administration supports her attempt to limit the size of gatherings, including religious gatherings.

Pence also told Kelly the administration would do everything it could to fulfill Kansas’ most urgent needs for personal protective equipment (PPE).

Kelly also announced Thursday that the Kansas Department of Labor has made some improvements in order to process unemployment claims more quickly.

The KDOL unemployment line shattered a record Monday with 1.6 million calls. Kelly says 78 workers from other state agencies have been brought in to help with the phones. The second wave of staffers was trained Wednesday and is now on the job.

She also aid the KDOL launched a new phone system. As of noon Thursday, workers were able to handle more than 1,300 calls. On Monday, it took all day to handle that many calls.

The governor said the fastest way to file unemployment is through the website GetKansasBenefits.gov.

Kelly said she is issuing two new executive orders Thursday. One extends professional and occupational licenses for the remainder of the pandemic and 90 days after the declaration expires. The other temporarily allows notaries and witnesses to do their job remotely.

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