May 20, 2020 1:00 PM

Kan. Gov. not taking political baggage to meeting with Trump

Posted May 20, 2020 1:00 PM
Governor Kelly will meet with President Trump in the White House Cabinet Room along with the Republican Governor of Arkansas
Governor Kelly will meet with President Trump in the White House Cabinet Room along with the Republican Governor of Arkansas

WASHINGTON — Governor Laura Kelly is in Washington and will attend a meeting with President Trump at 3p.m. CDT Wednesday in the White House Cabinet Room, according the daily White House schedule.

During her Tuesday afternoon news conference, Kelly said, "My bottom line in what I hope to achieve with the President is...he understands that state and local governments need assistance well beyond stimulus three, the Cares Act, that will allow us to pay the bills for COVID-19 but will not allow us cover any of the revenue losses that both the state government and local entities are experiencing. 

That's imperative if we are going to save not only the Kansas economy but the national economy. That's the conversation I want to have with the President. I think he will use his position to work with Congress and get that done."

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is also scheduled to attend Wednesday's meeting with Trump, according to the White House schedule.

"I'm not asking for them to take care of any problems we created by mismanagement," Kelly said Tuesday. " I am asking them to help us out here as our revenues decline through no fault of our own."

Kelly said her trip, meeting and the issues are not  political at all. "This is a public health and economic health issue. It's all about the state of Kansas, the people of Kansas. I have no intention of playing politics there. I don't play it here in the statehouse so I don't have that baggage to take with me to Washington."

When asked if she was concerned about the virus outbreak among several staffers at the White House, Kelly said she would get a test as she goes in for her meeting.

"I think it's one of those quick answer (virus) tests that will be given. I will have a mask and I plan to wear that. I'm assuming there won't be that many people in the room so we'll be able to socially distance. I will do what I can to protect myself and others."

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May 20, 2020 1:00 PM
Mask use divides Kan. lawmakers as they prepare to convene
Kansas Senate Commerce Committee working last week. Some wore masks and others did not-photo courtesy Senator Susan Wagle

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers appear divided on the importance of wearing masks as they prepare to convene for the final day of the session on Thursday, generating concerns that the gathering could fuel a coronavirus outbreak in the Legislature and further complicate efforts to reopen.

Governor Laura Kelly wore a mask as she arrived at her Tuesday  press conference

Gov. Laura Kelly meanwhile announced Tuesday that Kansas is ready to move on to the next phase of reopening Friday, instead of June 1. The maximum size of mass gatherings will increase from 10 to 15 people, and state-owned casinos can reopen, along with theaters, museums, bowling alleys and other indoor leisure places. Sports tournaments and practices also can resume, with some exceptions. But bars, nightclubs and swimming pools must stay closed for now, and individual communities can approve stricter rules.

The final day of the legislative session is scheduled for Thursday, and that is a cause of disquiet for some. Republican Rep. Don Hineman, a farmer from Dighton, said some lawmakers have attended open-up rallies at which social distancing and other safety protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus weren’t followed, and that they could be carriers who aren’t yet showing symptoms. He said those lawmakers could also be the ones least likely to wear masks in the Legislature Thursday, because in some circles doing so has “become a political issue.”

Lawmakers will mostly watch the session from their offices, only leaving to cast votes in groups and speak. Although masks will be provided and lawmakers are strongly encouraged to wear them, they will not be required, according to an email from House Speaker Ron Ryckman, explaining the protocols for the one-day meeting.

Sen. Dennis Pyle, a conservative Hiawatha Republican, didn’t wear a mask Tuesday for a committee meeting at the Statehouse. He said he doesn’t criticize colleagues for wearing them — most did, some wore gloves — but he questioned how effective they are in blocking the coronavirus.

“I wash may hands and I take care of myself,” he said. “Putting up a chain link fence won’t stop a mosquito.”

But Hineman said the risk then is that people could become infected during the session and take the virus home to their districts.

“That,” he said, “would be a terrible outcome.”″

Hineman said he is 72 and that his wife has heart issues, putting them at increased risk if they catch the virus. About two-thirds of the legislative body is considered vulnerable.

“If I feel it is not safe, I might not stay,” he said. “I think the worst thing is to drop our guard while in Topeka.”

The Legislature began its annual spring break on March 20, about two weeks early, because of the pandemic. The wrap-up session will focus on a variety of issues, including the governor’s power.