History of the Kansas Emergency Management Act
The Kansas Emergency Management Act (KEMA), codified at KSA 48-920 et. seq., contains provisions governing the state’s response to disasters occurring within the state. This article will provide a brief history of KEMA, recent changes to the act, and its application in the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Civil Defense Acts of 1951 and 1955
The first modern statutes related to emergency management were enacted by the Civil Defense Act of 1951, and later amended by the Civil Defense Act of 1955. The 1951 enactment created a state civil defense advisory council and allowed each city and county to establish local councils of defense to carry out all state emergency functions. Notable provisions in the 1955 enactment included granting authority to cities to purchase accident insurance to protect volunteer civil defense workers (currently found in KSA 48-922) and the creation of a Civil Defense Division within the Office of the Adjutant General.
Kansas Emergency Preparedness Act (1975)
In 1975, the Legislature enacted the Kansas Emergency Preparedness Act (Act), which would later become KEMA. Under this Act, the Civil Defense Division was abolished and replaced with the Division of Emergency Preparedness within the Office of the Adjutant General. The process of the governor declaring a state of disaster emergency by proclamation with possible ratification by the Legislature and extension by the State Finance Council was established in this Act.
1994 HB 3055
In 1994, the Legislature abolished the Division of Emergency Preparedness and replaced it with the Division of Emergency Management (KDEM). This legislation also provided designation of disaster agency roles for cities located in more than one county and succession of duties pursuant to KEMA when the Governor is unavailable.
2001 Senate Sub. for Sub. for HB 2468 and 2002 SB 395
In 2001, the Legislature added to the Governor’s authority to issue a state of disaster emergency proclamation upon a finding or when notified that a quarantine or other regulations are necessary to prevent the spread of any contagious or infectious disease among domestic animals, and provided a different timeline and extension process for such emergencies. In 2002, the Legislature expanded the Governor’s authority to proclaim a state of disaster emergency to prevent the spread of contagious or infectious disease among plants, raw agricultural commodities, animal feed, or processed food.
2020 Senate Sub. for HB 2054
On May 21, 2020, the Legislature convened for its Sine Die Session and passed Senate Sub. for HB 2054, a response to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic in Kansas providing certain relief related to health, welfare, property, and economic security during the public health emergency. The bill also created new provisions related to emergency management and amended several provisions in KEMA. The Governor vetoed HB 2054 on May 26, 2020.
2020 HB 2016 (Special Session)
The 2020 Special Session was convened June 3, 2020, pursuant to a proclamation issued by the Governor on May 26 following her veto of HB 2054. The Legislature passed, and the Governor approved, HB 2016 on June 4, 2020. The bill contains many modified provisions of HB 2054. Among other provisions, the bill creates and amends law related to state of disaster emergencies and KEMA.
New Sections of Law Created
The bill ratifies, continues, and extends the current state of disaster emergency related to COVID-19 through September 15, 2020, and prohibits the Governor from declaring a new state of disaster emergency unless approved by an affirmative vote of at least six legislative members of the State Finance Council (Council).
The bill also provides on and after September 15, 2020, the Governor may not order the closure or cessation of any business or commercial activity for more than 15 days during any state of disaster emergency declared under KEMA. At least 24 hours prior to the issuance of such order, the Governor must call a meeting of the Council to consult with the Council regarding the conditions necessitating the issuance of the order. After an order or orders have resulted in 15 days of such closures, the Governor may not order such closure, except upon specific application by the Governor to the Council and an affirmative vote of at least six legislative members of the Council. The Governor may order such closure, as approved by the Council, for specified periods not to exceed 30 days each. This section expires January 26, 2021.
The bill creates a section of law providing that the Governor may not issue an executive order pursuant to KEMA that has the effect of closing public or private schools unless affirmed by the Kansas State Board of Education.
Amendments to KEMA
The bill makes several amendments to the statute governing the powers of the Governor during a state of disaster emergency (KSA 48-925), all of which expire January 26, 2021.
The bill also amends a statute governing states of local disaster emergency to allow any state of local disaster emergency declaration to be reviewed, amended, or revoked by the Board of County Commissioners or the governing body of the city, respectively, at a meeting of the governing body.
The bill also amends the section governing violations of KEMA to change the penalty from a class A misdemeanor to a civil penalty of up to $2,500 per violation, enforced through an action brought under Chapter 60 of the Kansas Statutes Annotated, by the Attorney General or the county or district attorney in the county in which the violation took place. The bill also allows the Attorney General or any county or district attorney to bring an action to enjoin, or to obtain a restraining order, against a person who has violated, is violating, or is otherwise likely to violate KEMA.
Special Committee on the Kansas Emergency Management Act
On June 18, 2020, the Legislative Coordinating Council approved the creation of a 13-member Special Committee to review KEMA, 2020 Special Session HB 2016, and oversight and emergency management approaches utilized in other states, and to make recommendations to the Legislature on any improvements or changes that should be considered.
The Special Committee met on August 24-26, 2020, and September 22-24, 2020. At the August meeting, the Special Committee heard presentations from the Office of Revisor of Statutes, a presentation on legislative oversight of emergency management in other states from representatives of the National Conference of State Legislatures, and a briefing on the Wolf Creek Generating Station operations from a representative of Evergy. In addition, the Special Committee heard testimony from the Adjutant General, the Secretary of Health and Environment, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Education, the Chairperson of the House Committee on K-12 Education Budget, and the Kansas State Fire Marshal. Representatives of Kansas Association of Counties, Kansas Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Businesses, Kansas Department of Agriculture, League of Kansas Municipalities, and Kansas Medical Society also testified before the committee, offering their thoughts and suggestions on KEMA and HB 2016.
At the September meeting, the Special Committee heard presentations from the Office of Revisor of Statutes, the Kansas Legislative Research Department, and the Legislative Division of Post Audit. The Governor’s Chief of Staff, the Special Counsel to the Chief Justice, the Jefferson County Attorney, the Sedgwick County District Attorney, and the city manager of Dodge City testified before the Special Committee, offering thoughts and suggestions on KEMA and changes made in HB 2016. Representatives of Kansas Hospital Association, Americans for Prosperity, Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, Kansas Sheriffs Association, Kansas Peace Officers Association, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas Emergency Management Association, Kansas Advocates for Better Care, and Kansas Health Care Association also testified at this meeting.
Following testimony at the September meeting, the Special Committee discussed a list of 37 topics raised by conferees and members during the Special Committee’s 6 days of meetings. While the Special Committee did not propose any specific legislation for the 2021 Legislative Session, it recommended several items be studied further by the appropriate standing committees of the 2021 Legislature. Those items are included in the Special Committee’s Interim Report to the 2021 Legislature, which can be found at http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/Publications/CommitteeReports/2020CommitteeReports/ctte_spc_2020_ks_emerg_manage_act_1_complete_report.pdf.
Natalie Nelson, Principal Research Analyst
Jordan Milholland, Senior Research Analyst