The battle between Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (D) and the state’s Republican Legislature escalated Thursday. The governor sued the state Supreme Court after GOP congressional leaders lifted their orders to ban meetings of ten or more people in the church.
In her petition, she targeted the machinery by which members of the legislature revoked their order: the Legislative Coordinating Council, a group of seven congressional leaders that act while the entire legislature is absent. The chambers have not met as a whole since mid-March, when the COVID-19 pandemic worsened.
Kelly argued that the Kansas Emergency Management Act provides full legislative controls over the governor’s orders, but that the resolution passed on March 19 does not constitutionally transfer those oversight powers to the LCC.
“This action not only threatens the life of Kansans, but also directly violates the Kansas Constitution,” wrote Kelly’s lawyers in a lawsuit. “If lawmakers seek to change the Kansas Emergency Management Act, they must do so through the constitutional legislative process – not just by resolving them simultaneously.”
“As such, any attempt by the LCC to exercise the power of revocation over Governor Kelly’s emergency orders, which the Kansas Bylaws expressly delegate to all legislature or the Kansas Finance Council, is unconstitutional,” they added.
The council consists of five Republicans and two Democrats, and Kelly’s executive order was overturned in a vote across the party line.
The governor’s lawyers asked the court to come to an expedited decision before Easter Sunday when Christians of all kinds would normally flock to church.
The Republicans, who overturned their order and pleaded a violation of the constitutional right to religious freedom, tried to do so in both directions in their public statements.
Susan Wagle, president of the Senate, who is also running for Pat Roberts’ seat in the US Senate, took to Twitter to criticize Kelly for “closing our churches” and encourage her supporters to stay home.
Likewise, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) described the contents of the order as “sound public health advice,” while telling law enforcement officers and prosecutors across the state not to enforce it.
“I am confident that Kansan’s faith can be trusted to take this important advice without facing criminal sanctions from their government for disobedience,” he said.
Read the governor’s court records here: