Kansas AG: changes to profiteering laws

Kansas AG Derek Schmidt: End to the state of emergency brings changes to KOMA, profiteering laws.

TOPEKA, KS (STL.News) The expiration of the state’s emergency declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic also brings an end to temporary provisions of Kansas law regarding open meetings and profiteering put into effect to address the emergency, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.

Kansas has been operating state government under a declaration of a state of disaster emergency since March 12, 2020.  Today, the Legislative Coordinating Council declined to consider a request by the governor to extend the state of emergency, meaning the emergency will expire at midnight.

“Public health issues related to the pandemic remain, but the emergency is ending,” Schmidt said.  “That means ordinary laws and procedures, not emergency orders and rules, will now be fully in effect.”

Schmidt highlighted two of those changes.

First, Schmidt said that the expiration means public bodies and agencies subject to the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) must now allow the public to attend meetings in person.  Following the state of disaster emergency declaration last March, Schmidt adopted a regulation allowing public bodies and agencies to comply with the KOMA while conducting meetings virtually, as long as members of the public were able to, without cost, listen to and, if available, observe a video of the meeting.  With the expiration of the state of disaster emergency declaration, that regulation will no longer apply.  Schmidt noted that this does not preclude public bodies and agencies from continuing to provide virtual access to meetings to members of the public who are unable to or uncomfortable attending a public meeting in person.

Second, Schmidt noted that the operation of a Kansas law regulating the prices of goods and services during a state of disaster emergency would also expire.  The law, known as the “profiteering from a disaster” statute, generally prohibits unjustifiably raising prices for goods and services for which consumer demand is likely to increase because of an emergency.  In response to the emergency declaration in 2020, Schmidt’s office launched a special online form for consumers to report suspected profiteering.  With the expiration of the emergency declaration, this special complaint form will no longer be in use.

More information on open government can be found on the attorney general’s website at www.ag.ks.gov/open-government.  More information on the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division, including ways to file a general consumer complaint, may be found at www.InYourCornerKansas.org.