Kansas AG seeks to keep limits on governor’s COVID-19 powers

Kansas capitol building

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt is taking his fight to curb the power of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and local officials to impose COVID-19 restrictions in Kansas to the state’s highest court.

Schmidt announced Tuesday that he has asked the Kansas Supreme Court to keep in place a law that limits Kelly’s power and local officials’ authority even though a Johnson County trial-court judge struck it down last month. Schmidt is appealing District Judge David Hauber’s ruling and wants the decision put on hold in the meantime.

The Republican-controlled Legislature enacted the law earlier this year to prevent Kelly from closing businesses or schools, limiting public gatherings or imposing a statewide mask mandate. The law curbed the power of county health officers, leaving decisions about pandemic restrictions to elected county commissions. It allowed people to sue over restrictions and required court decisions within 10 days.

Hauber ruled that the law violated the state constitution by infringing upon the power of the courts and by denying state and local officials due legal process.

Schmidt has defended the law as valid and contends Hauber’s decision has created confusion about what power Kelly and local officials now have. Schmidt is running for governor next year.