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Kansas GOP ends state’s mask mandate hours after Dem governor extended it

Republican lawmakers in Kansas voted to end Gov. Laura Kelly’s short-lived statewide coronavirus mask mandate extension last week under a new law that allows legislators to repeal the governor’s executive orders, according to reports.

The governor, a Democrat, had prolonged the mandate through May 28 but the state’s Legislative Coordinating Council voted 5-2 to cancel it just hours later in a party line, the Kansas City Star reported.

The mandate has been in place off and on since last summer. 

Republican Speaker Pro Tem Blaine Finch said the revocation of the “one-size-fits-all statewide mandate” won’t impact local orders. “The numbers don’t support a statewide mandate at this time,” he said. 

Counties in Kansas can opt out of the statewide mandate and a new law that rewrote the state’s emergency powers law gives the Legislative Coordinating Council the power to repeal Kelly’s executive orders. The governor signed the bill into law last month.

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In a joint statement, Finch and Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman, a Republican, said health mandates should be “short-term, data-driven and reserved only for pressing emergency situations.”

“They should not be used to dictate Kansans’ daily lives year after year,” the statement said according to KSAL-TV in Salina, Kansas. 

Kelly said in a statement she was disappointed that Republican leaders are “more motivated by political publicity stunts than working together to protect Kansans and our economy.”

She said she understands people want to get back to normal, but stressed the importance of wearing masks to “help protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors from the new COVID-19 strains that are wreaking havoc in other states.”

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Kansas was among 17 states with a mask mandate, according to the Star. 

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