News Update - Mar. 24, 2020
03/24/2020 - Weekly KRWA E-News
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the impacts and changes to federal, state and local requirements are also changing rapidly. Todd Luckman at KRWA's counsel, Stumbo Hanson, LLP, provided summaries of the following items which apply to communities and public water suppliers and other governmental entities.
Executive Order No. 20-05, (3-17-20)
This Order stops all Kansas utility providers (electrical, natural gas, water and ISP/telecommunications) from disconnecting utility service of Kansas citizens for nonpayment. It is in effect until May 1, 2020, or until the statewide disaster proclamation is withdrawn, whichever is sooner. The Order applies to all types to users, and is not limited to consumers. It does not forbid the sending of late notices, the charging of late fees or reminders of past due payment—it just prohibits shutoff. It does not require utilities to re-establish service that was shut off prior to the Order. [Executive Order No. 20-05]
Kansas Open Meetings Act (3-20-20)
The Kansas Attorney General has issued new temporary regulations in light of the health emergency, but these changes do not waive any significant rules. The AG has indicated that the provisions of KOMA still apply, and thus municipalities cannot restrict public meeting attendance citing health concerns. The AG is encouraging the use of teleconferencing and live video to allow the public to attend meetings in progress without being present in the meeting room. Most governing bodies are aware that individual board or council members can appear by phone or teleconference, as long as all present at the meeting can hear them. This still applies, and phone or video conferencing can be used to limit the number of persons present. However, having several individuals present by phone can be difficult to manage, as the presiding officer must still manage the meeting and the members are required to clearly identify themselves prior to speaking and votes must be recorded properly—usually by roll call vote. Thus, while these electronic methods can be used, municipalities should try to limit the agenda as much as possible to avoid extended and confusing meetings. Note also that if materials are provided such as written agendas or resolutions to be passed, they must be distributed to the public accessing the meeting online or remotely.
U.S. House Resolution 6201 (3-20-20)
This bill amended the Family Medical Leave Act to apply to all municipalities and provides application to employees who have been employed for at least 30 days. Prior to this, a quirk of the statute left municipalities with less than 50 employees out of the Act, but this changes that language. The new Act gives 12 weeks of leave with the first 10 days being unpaid. The employee is allowed to use sick or vacation time during the initial 10-day unpaid leave period. Thereafter, the Employer is required to pay 2/3rds of the employees’ regular pay during remainder of the leave, which is capped at $200.00 per day and $10,000 in total. Special withholding rules may apply. Generally, the employee must be restored to their prior position upon return. In addition, the Act establishes Emergency Paid Sick Leave for governmental employers of any size. It applies to employees except for healthcare providers and emergency responders. An employee can obtain leave if they are diagnosed with Covid-19, when they have symptoms similar to Covid-19 or are quarantined based upon symptoms, diagnosis or contact. It also is allowed for employees caring for a child of the employee if school is closed and no childcare is available due to Covid-19 conditions. The paid sick leave is limited to 80 hours for full time employees and is based upon hours worked over a two-week period for part-time employees. Similar to the new FMLA provisions, there are daily and aggregate caps for these employees. Also, the employer cannot require the employee to find a replacement worker, and cannot require use of other paid leave prior to the use of this emergency leave. The employer will also be required to post notices of these rights by March 25th. [H.R. 6201]
Mass Gatherings: Executive Order No. 20-04
On Monday, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced that she would rescind Executive Order No. 20-04 and replace it with a new one on Tuesday, temporarily limiting public gatherings to not more than 10 people, statewide. The decision was based on updated guidance from the CDC, and modeling from KDHE, that projected cases of COVID-19 in Kansas to sharply rise to a range of 300 to 900 by the end of the month. Many communities across the state had already taken this action. The new Executive Order will reportedly also include guidance that counties will be required to use if local officials determine they find it necessary to issue stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders. The guidance will provide information on how to include these orders for essential infrastructure and businesses.
Visit the KDHE COVID-19 Resource Center for current updates of cases and response activities in Kansas.
E-News is compiled and edited by Ken Kopp, KRWA. Subscribe to this weekly newsletter by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject "subscribe krwa e-news."