Lawmakers react to challenges governing bodies face with new law, SB40

TOPEKA, KS (KCTV) — The challenges to a mask mandate at Blue Valley School District and other schools is possible because of a piece of legislation signed into law by Governor Laura Kelly, known as Senate Bill 40.

The law gives people the right to sue over any order that “aggrieved” them within 30 days from the mandate being issued.

Three parents or guardians filed complaints with the Blue Valley Board of Education over the mandate it’s had in place all year. A hearing over the complaints was still held on Wednesday, in spite of it not meeting the requirements in the law.

KCTV spoke with lawmakers at the Kansas State Capitol on Wednesday about the challenges schools are facing because of the state’s new emergency management law. Representative from Overland Park, Brett Parker (D-19) was absent the day the bill was voted on, but says he would have begrudgingly voted ‘yes’ on the measure. Parker says he would have voted in favor of the state disaster emergency extension through late May for PPE and other COVID-19 related resources included in the law, but opposes some provisions.

“The provisions in the bill, pushed by the Republican majority, really created a hard time for some of the local governments,” explained Rep. Parker, alluding to challenges schools and other governing bodies may face.

Representative Kristey Williams (R-77) says her constituents in Butler County, in southern Kansas, have opted out of a mask mandate at every chance. She, along with Governor Laura Kelly, believe the bill was a bi-partisan compromise.

“Each county, each commissioner, and each governing body has to decide what’s most important for their constituents and that makes them be a little more thoughtful when making a mandate. [They have to] make sure the mandate is based on real numbers in their community, real time,” said Rep. Williams.

Representative Stephanie Clayton voted ‘yes’ on the bill out of fear that a more restrictive bill could develop. Rep. Clayton is in talks with area superintendents who may face challenges from parents or guardians. According to her, districts with mandates will likely uphold those measures, in spite of challenges.

Only three Kansas City metro state representatives voted down the bill, including Representative David Haley of the Unified Government of Wyandotte and Kansas City, Kansas.

“I know one size does not fit all,” emphasized Rep. Haley.

The KCK representative says even though each county is unique, he wants more uniformity to keep all Kansans safe, instead of what he calls “a patchwork of measures” varying from county, to city, to school district.

Lawmakers are not aware of any further legislation that would alter mask mandates or the challenges people can currently make.