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Kentucky Judge Blocks Bills Limiting Beshear’s Pandemic Powers

Ryland Barton

A judge has temporarily blocked parts of three bills that would limit Gov. Andy Beshear’s powers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled Wednesday that the legislation would “undermine, or even cripple, the effectiveness of public health measures” during the pandemic, though the lawsuit against the measures will continue to play out.

“The Court expects the Governor to continue to adjust the requirements set forth in Executive Orders and Emergency Regulations to relax those requirements as conditions warrant and the public health concerns abate,” Shepherd wrote.

“But the Court believes those decisions should be made based on medical and scientific evidence, not on arbitrary deadlines imposed by statutes irrespective of the spread of the virus.”

The ruling affects three bills that passed out of the Republican-led legislature earlier this year:

House Bill 1, which would allow businesses and schools to reopen as long as they follow CDC guidelines.

Senate Bill 1, which limits the governor’s emergency orders to 30 days unless renewed by the legislature.

And Senate Bill 2, which would give the legislature more oversight over the governor’s emergency regulations and limits them to 30 days.

In a statement, Beshear wrote that he appreciates the order.

“The ability to act and react quickly is necessary in our war against this ever-changing and mutating virus. Recently, we have been having productive conversations on a wide range of topics with legislative leaders. We will attempt to work with them on this and other topics now and in the future,” Beshear wrote.

Republican lawmakers passed the bills early in this year’s legislative session, saying voters had given them a “mandate” to limit Beshear’s powers after last year’s elections gave them record-high majorities in the legislature.

Beshear sued to block the bills last month, shortly after the lawmakers voted to override his vetoes of the legislation.

Shepherd temporarily blocked parts of House Bill 1 shortly after Beshear filed the lawsuit. The order on Wednesday extends that injunction against House Bill 1 and issues new ones against Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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