FRANKFORT, Ky. — Lawmakers sent the governor six bills in a rare Saturday session, including many proposals that would limit his power.
The top priority bills for both the House and Senate now await Gov. Andy Beshear’s likely veto: Senate Bill 1 limits his executive orders to 30 days unless he requests an extension from the General Assembly, and House Bill 1 allows businesses, schools, and other entities to stay open as long as they abide by CDC guidelines or the governor’s coronavirus orders, whichever is less strict.
Republicans have argued for months that Gov. Andy Beshear has gone too far with his coronavirus orders.
“Decisions that were often made that were uneven in their application,” said Sen. Ralph Alverado, R-Winchester. “Decisions that produced confusion and anger, economic destruction, instability, and division.”
During the Senate’s floor debate on HB 1, Alvarado criticized Beshear for voicing his opposition to the bill in a press conference Friday instead of talking to lawmakers.
“I would advise the governor: this is a cell phone. You can contact us,” Alvarado said while holding up his phone. “The Capitol Annex is 200 yards from the Governor’s Mansion. Walk on over and have a chat with us if you have some concerns about this.”
Republicans changed HB 1 following the governor’s statements Friday, allowing businesses to follow either the CDC or the governor, depending on which one is less strict.
Beshear was critical of the bill for having unintended consequences by putting CDC guidance into law, especially since the agency has revised its guidance several times since the pandemic started and in some ways recommends tighter restrictions.
Democrats say the bill will just add more confusion to the coronavirus and has been passed too quickly.
“We’ve all experienced this pain and we all want to help,” Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey. “The problem is nothing in this bill actually helps.”
The House and Senate also worked out a version of Senate Bill 1 to send the governor.
“As I see this legislation, this is about balancing the power between the executive and the legislative branch,” said Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville.
Again, Democrats voiced opposition to the bill, saying it will just add more red tape to the coronavirus response.
“You couldn’t get all of us to agree on hamburgers for lunch, let alone what to do with an emergency on short notice after 30 days,” said Rep. Pamela Stevenson, D-Louisville. “Don’t tie his hands.”
Beshear has promised to veto the two proposals, but both bills passed with veto-proof majorities, consisting of mostly-Republican votes.
Taking a look at other bills sent to the governor Saturday:
- Senate Bill 2, a companion piece to Senate Bill 1, requires more legislative oversight and public input on the governor’s emergency orders.
- Senate Bill 9 is Sen. Whitney Westerfield’s born-alive bill which requires doctors to do everything they can to keep an infant alive if they survive an abortion attempt.
- House Bill 2 removes moves power to enforce abortion regulations from the governor’s office to the attorney general’s office.
- House Bill 5 prohibits any executive officer, including the governor, from reorganizing any state boards. Republicans targeted this power after issues with the way Gov. Beshear handled reorganizing the Kentucky Board of Education and the dismissal of the Department of Fish and Wildlife commissioner.
The House also approved House Bill 10 on Saturday, which gives businesses protection from lawsuits for COVID-related matters. The bill now moves to the Senate for approval.
Republican leaders extended the first part of this year’s legislative session so they will also meet Monday through Wednesday before taking a couple weeks off, as scheduled.
House Speaker David Osborne said lawmakers plan on starting budget work in committee Monday morning.