Democratic Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday vetoed a bill to limit the power of state health officials to mandate measures for contagious diseases, including face masks and vaccine passports.
Kelly said the bill went beyond COVID-19 and would considerably limit government response to any infectious disease outbreak.
Senate Bill 34, brought by the Republican-controlled Legislature, sought to curb the power of government agencies as well as state and local health officials in response to COVID-19 mandates imposed during the pandemic.
Officials and government entities would also not be able to require COVID-19 vaccine passports for any purpose within the state.
The bill would also require judicial review of certain emergency actions to occur without unreasonable delay and limit the powers of the secretary of health and environment related to enforcement of quarantine and student inoculation requirements.
In vetoing the bill, Kelly said it posed “significant safety concerns” for workers, employers, and the economy.
“I have consistently opposed vaccine passports and mandating any COVID-19 vaccination. However, this bill goes beyond COVID-19 and implements a one-size-fits-all approach for all infectious diseases. It significantly limits any government entity’s response to any infectious disease outbreak,” she said in a veto message.
The vetoed bill, she said, would mean that schools, businesses, and the agricultural sector could not adequately respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases such as measles, tuberculosis, or avian flu.
“We have a responsibility to protect our critically important agricultural industry and the farmers and ranchers who feed the nation,” Kelly said.
“We need to be prepared for what’s down the road to best protect Kansans. This bill puts the safety of all Kansans and our economy at risk,” she added.
The bill, which struggled to pass last month, would also prohibit law enforcement officers from enforcing orders from state and local health officials.
GOP leaders faced an uphill battle to win support for the bill in both houses, with some Republicans reportedly identifying some unintended consequences.
Senate Bill 34 would also prohibit the health secretary from mandating inoculations as a requirement for first-time enrolment at schools, preschools, or daycare programs operated by a school without full FDA approval.
Kelly has in the past opposed President Joe Biden’s requirement that businesses with 100 or more employees get the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to regular testing.
She has spoken in support of a measure to force businesses that require COVID-19 vaccination to give broad exceptions to workers who don’t want to get the vaccine.