OPINION

Fairchild explains position and parts of three legislative bills in Kansas House discussion

Brett Fairchild
Pratt Tribune
Brett Fairchild, St. John, is the Kansas 113th District House Representative. He can be reached by email at fairchild_2@hotmail.com.

We’re starting to get busy in the Kansas legislature. We’ve now completed the fourth week of the legislative session, and there have already been several important bills that have passed. 

First, the Kansas house and senate both passed SB 14, which would extend our state’s emergency declaration until March 31st, 2021. I voted in favor of the bill. I’m a staunch civil libertarian who has been strongly opposed to policies like shutting down private businesses, stay at home orders, forcing people to wear masks, shutting down churches, etc. Therefore, there may be some people who are surprised that I voted in favor of extending the emergency declaration. After studying this issue, I've concluded that the current emergency declaration places limits on Governor Kelly’s power, and because of that, allowing the emergency declaration to expire would actually give Governor Kelly more power than she has right now. If the emergency declaration were to expire, Governor Kelly would once again have the power to shut down private businesses and churches, and the counties would no longer have the ability to opt out of mask mandates.

Under Kansas law, even if the emergency declaration weren't extended by the legislature, Governor Kelly would still have the authority to issue her own emergency declaration, which would last for 15 days. Then, she could extend the emergency declaration every 15 days simply by making changes to the wording of the declaration and issuing a new declaration. If this were to happen, Governor Kelly would no longer be prohibited from closing down private businesses and churches, and the counties would no longer be able to opt out of her statewide mask mandate. Therefore, passing this bill was necessary to keep these restrictions on Governor Kelly's power in place. 

Additionally, there are many positive provisions in this bill that needed to be extended. This bill authorizes the use of telemedicine, which allows physicians to have the ability to prescribe medication without an in person visit. The bill allows a physician who's under quarantine to practice telemedicine. The bill includes provisions which protect private businesses from Covid related lawsuits. The bill also reduces regulations on businesses. 

Overall, the bill contained many positive provisions which will help our state. 

Additionally, last week the Kansas house passed the Value Them Both amendment, HCR 5003. This Constitutional Amendment was in response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision a couple years ago which created a Constitutional right to an abortion. 

The Value Them Both amendment is actually a very pragmatic amendment. It simply overturns the Kansas Supreme Court’s opinion which created a Constitutional right to an abortion, and it puts the issue before the voters of our state on the 2022 August primary ballot. If the voters vote to approve it, it will simply allow the Kansas legislature to regulate abortion going forward. As a general principle, I believe we should go further and provide equal protection under the law to all unborn children.

Finally, the house of representatives passed HB 2071, which increases the criminal penalties for stalking a minor. The bill was authored by representative Megan Lynn, after a constituent requested that she introduce the bill. The bill was introduced after an Olathe school district teacher received a minor sentence for stalking an 11 year old girl. 

Kansas law currently provides a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a misdemeanor offense for stalking a minor. This bill would increase that penalty to a felony with a maximum prison sentence of 34 months. I’m glad that we were able to pass a bill in the house that will help keep our children safe.

Look for additional legislative updates from me throughout the legislative session.