As enterprise house owners within the state recuperate from the financial fallout from COVID-19, there may be one route they’ve but to take: submitting swimsuit towards the state for misplaced income related to pandemic-related enterprise shutdowns.
However Lawyer Normal Derek Schmidt instructed lawmakers Wednesday that he wouldn’t be shocked if that adjustments sooner or later.
He added that the matter may very well be one for lawmakers to look into as they assessment potential choices for bolstering the state’s financial restoration, in addition to revise emergency administration statute, within the wake of the pandemic.
“It is in all probability one thing price having a look at from a enterprise financial restoration standpoint: Ought to there be as a matter of public coverage, some mechanism for public compensation for these non-public entities, industrial entities, no matter, that bore a disproportionate quantity of the monetary value of preventing this pandemic,“ Schmidt instructed members of the Particular Committee for Financial Restoration.
A method of doing that, floated by Rep. Les Mason, R-McPherson, was to permit enterprise house owners to obtain a property tax credit score for when their operations have been shut down.
Present statute permits for residents affected by catastrophe response to hunt compensation — however solely in slim circumstances.
Schmidt used the instance of a farmer whose area is utilized by personnel dealing with a wildfire as somebody who would possibly go to court docket to hunt compensation for broken crops.
Most concern over lawsuits associated to COVID-19 has been directed at giving companies and well being care suppliers legal responsibility shields beneath the logic that they’re in danger for fits from patrons who could have contracted the virus.
And Schmidt mentioned after the listening to that he was unaware of instances during which enterprise house owners had sought damages for shutdown-related losses.
As issues return to regular within the state, he mentioned he anticipated some form of problem to return as companies regain some sense of stability.
“I might anticipate, as time passes, extra individuals will give attention to that,” Schmidt mentioned, though he mentioned the slim method during which state legislation is written would possibly discourage such fits.
Extra broadly, Schmidt once more urged lawmakers to take a more in-depth have a look at refining the state’s emergency administration legislation to be able to grant extra readability for future politicians, in addition to for companies and Kansans.
Schmidt blamed the construction of the Kansas Emergency Administration Act for contentious debates over the state’s pandemic response.
That features a heated three-hour State Finance Council meeting over whether or not to increase the state’s emergency declaration, which members broadly agreed was essential to seamlessly proceed the state’s emergency response operations.
However Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican lawmakers clashed on the advantage of together with language stopping the governor from closing companies.
If legislators, both through statute or constitutional modification, have been to limit what powers have been granted through the emergency declaration, Schmidt mentioned, that debate will probably be much less acrimonious sooner or later.
“There is no cause that, you understand, (statute) cannot say that after you get by way of the gate to the backyard, there are additional limitations on whether or not you decide the pumpkins or the beans or no matter it could be,” Schmidt mentioned.
Different legislators objected to the diploma to which the state has leaned on the State Finance Council through the response.
As a result of the Legislature hasn’t been in session, lawmakers have used the SFC as a verify on the governor’s powers when that wasn’t essentially its preliminary operate.
Below Home Invoice 2016, a compromise over govt powers between Kelly and Republicans handed in June, the SFC has purview over a wide range of areas, together with extending the catastrophe declaration.
However some lawmakers consider that they may use that energy to take actions that needs to be topic to assessment by the total Legislature.
“Now we have problems with illustration,” mentioned Rep. Stephanie Clayton, D-Overland Park. “After I forged my vote in favor of HB 2016 I gave the facility to the State Finance Council to make an up or down vote, to not make any adjustments.”
Clayton proposed exploring the feasibility of permitting the Legislature to fulfill remotely through a video conferencing platform. Different states have used the same system, which has allowed for votes through the pandemic.
Schmidt mentioned his workplace was formulating a authorized ruling on the matter to find out whether or not that might be potential going ahead.
Parsing out constitutional questions involving trendy know-how wasn’t straightforward, he mentioned.
“We’re attempting to interpret with a clean slate what phrases written 150 years in the past would possibly imply right this moment,” Schmidt mentioned.