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Court: Kansas Can Enforce COVID-Inspired Limits On Officials’ Power

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Kansas News Service/File photo
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The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the state can, for now, enforce a COVID-19-inspired law restricting the power of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and county officials in emergencies.

TOPEKA — People who oppose mask requirements or restrictions on public gatherings imposed by Kansas counties can challenge them in court and obtain a ruling within 10 days because of a decision Tuesday by the state Supreme Court.

The court said the state for now can enforce a COVID-19-inspired law enacted in March by the Republican-controlled Legislature to restrict the power of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and county officials in emergencies. A judge in Johnson County declared last month that the law violated the state constitution, but GOP state Attorney General Derek Schmidt appealed.

Schmidt also asked the Supreme Court to block the judge’s order while the justices considered the appeal. The Supreme Court’s order said only “granted,” without explanation.

The law allows people to sue specifically over mask mandates, limits on public gatherings and restrictions on business operations or religious gatherings. It requires a hearing within three days and a ruling seven days later.

The law does not apply to school board decisions. A previous version of the law did apply to schools, but those provisions expired when Kansas ended its state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic in June. Republican legislative leaders ended it over Kelly’s objections just days before new COVID-19 cases began rising because of the faster-spreading delta variant.