By Jack Brammer and Daniel Desrochers | January 8, 2021 | 3:22 PM EST | Updated 4:31 PM EST
Kentucky Republican lawmakers ignored cries of overreach from their Democratic colleagues Friday and approved in committee two major bills challenging Gov. Andy Beshear’s emergency orders to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
Separately, another committee did not act on a bill that would reshape the state’s courts system after Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. railed against it.
If the bills limiting Beshear had been in place since the pandemic started last March, “so many more of us could be dead or ill,” said Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington. “This is a wholly inappropriate way to move.”
No, if the bills limiting the Governor had been in place, he would have needed the consent of the legislature to issue executive orders which lasted longer than thirty days. He still could have issued them; he simply would have needed to get the General Assembly to approve extensions.
The Senate State and Local Government Committee signed off on House Bill 1, which would allow businesses to stay open during an emergency if they comply with guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Beshear warned later Friday that HB 1 could have an array of unintended consequences because the CDC’s guidance is often unclear, outdated or contradictory. For example, he said the CDC’s official guidance still suggests that most businesses should be shuttered because of rising cases, “which does not need to happen,” Beshear said. CDC guidance also suggests that businesses must offer paid sick leave for their employees, he noted.
Loath as I am to agree with the Governor, he’s right on this point: these decisions should not be farmed out to federal agencies. I approve of the idea that businesses could remain open if they followed state guidelines, and, of course the state Department of Health could structure those guidelines based on outside recommendations.
Meanwhile, the House State Government Committee approved Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Matt Castlen, R-Owensboro. It would limit the Democratic governor’s executive orders under a state of emergency to 30 days unless the legislature extended them.
Both bills are expected to receive final approval in the chambers Saturday and be sent to the governor for his consideration. He pledged Friday to veto them, even though Republicans have the votes to override him.
If that happens, Beshear pledged to challenge their legality in court.
Well, of course he did. Being used to exercising dictatorial power, and having gotten away with it as he has, why would he want to see his ability to rule by decree restricted?
Once a bill is sent to the Governor, he has ten days, not counting Sundays, to sign or veto it; if he takes no action, the bill becomes law after ten days.
Under the proposal, an executive order that places restrictions on the functions of schools; colleges; private businesses; non-profits; political, social or religious gatherings; places of worship; or imposes mandatory quarantine or isolation requirements shall expire after 30 days unless it receives legislative approval.
Here’s where I violently disagree. Neither the Governor nor the General Assembly should have any authority over religious meetings or churches, or anything which restricts the right of the people peaceably to assemble.
I might not get a bill with which I am 100% happy, but as long as the Reichsstatthalter’s power is restricted, I will be happy.
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