The governor of Kansas and top state lawmakers will meet Thursday to consider a proposed legal settlement between the state and the owner of a Wichita fitness studio that was forced to close in the first months of the pandemic. coronavirus and subsequently operating under restrictions.
The approval of the settlement by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, six Republican leaders of the GOP-controlled Legislature and its top two Democrats will end a state court lawsuit filed in December 2020 by Ryan Floyd and his business, Omega Bootcamps Inc. to go to trial in Sedgwick County District Court in Wichita, and a judge is considering the state’s request in 2021 to dismiss it. Kansas law requires the approval of the governor and top lawmakers in the settlement.
The lawsuit argues that the state used the private property of Floyd and his business “for the benefit of the general public” when it and local officials imposed restrictions to check the spread of COVID-19. The statewide restrictions began with Kelly’s order to close most businesses for five weeks, beginning in late March 2020.
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The lawsuit cited a section of the state’s emergency management law that says people can seek compensation in court if their property is “commanded or used” by state or local officials. There is no ruling on whether the closing or foreclosure of a business represents the use of its property.
According to the US Small Business Administration, Omega Bootcamps received two pandemic relief loans totaling $24,000 in 2020 and 2021. Regarding his lawsuit, Floyd said he wants an appraiser appointed to determine the amount of damages. .
State officials did not disclose details of the settlement before Kelly’s meeting with top lawmakers, and state Attorney General Kris Kobach’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking details. Ryan Kriegshauser, an attorney representing Floyd and his business, said he could not discuss details of the settlement before the meeting.
Kobach, a Republican, was elected attorney general last year but served as secretary of state, Kansas’ top election official, from 2011 to 2019, and Kriegshauser worked for him as a lawyer and policy representative. in 2011-12. Attorneys outside the attorney general’s office are handling the state’s defense of the case.
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The meeting in Kansas came on the same day as the formal end of the US public health emergency for COVID-19. In Kansas, Republican legislative leaders are pushing to end a state of emergency in June 2021, about three months earlier than Kelly wanted. The Legislature also took away the power of the governor and local officials to close or restrict businesses or impose mask orders during the pandemic.
The state health department reported 485 new cases and 18 new deaths in the seven days ending Wednesday, an average of 69 new cases a day. The state has reported nearly 946,000 cases and more than 10,200 deaths since the first reported case in early March 2020 – one case for every three residents and one death for every 287 residents.
The case was put on hold by the judge in 2021 so that Kriegshauser could urge Kansas lawmakers to use federal COVID-19 relief funds to compensate small businesses for their financial losses during the pandemic. Republican lawmakers approved a plan that would have appropriated tens of millions of dollars, but Kelly vetoed it, arguing that the “well-intentioned” measure violated a national relief law. of the coronavirus.
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In 2022, Kelly and lawmakers agreed to provide up to $50 million worth of local property tax refunds paid to “storefront” businesses that were closed or restricted during the pandemic. But critics say the process for getting help is difficult and a $5,000 cap prevents businesses from applying.