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Republicans in Kansas Senate oppose statewide mask policy

April 1, 2021 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas Senate made a point Wednesday of publicly opposing Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan for encouraging counties to retain COVID-19 mask mandates.

The Senate voted 29-11 along party lines for a resolution urging legislative leaders to revoke any order issued by Kelly setting a statewide mask policy. The House passed a similar resolution Tuesday, also along party lines.

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GOP senators argued that a statewide policy is unnecessary because of declining numbers of new COVID-19 cases in recent months. Democrats argued that a state policy still will help check the spread of the virus.

A new law extended a state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic from March 31 until May 28, but it also allows eight top legislative leaders to rescind orders issued by the governor. Six of the leaders currently are Republicans and have said they intend to revoke a mask order.

Kelly issued such an order in November that expired Wednesday, and she has said she will issue a new order Thursday.

State law leaves the final decision about mask mandates to counties. But Kelly’s planned order would require their elected county commissions to take a specific public vote to opt out of a statewide policy.