The Kentucky Supreme Court has unanimously ruled in favor of Gov. Andy Beshear’s power to issue emergency orders during the coronavirus pandemic.
The ruling comes after several Northern Kentucky business owners sued Beshear in late June over his orders, which affected their reopening during the pandemic.
Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron joined the lawsuit and expanded it, asking the court to rule on whether Beshear had the power to issue any orders during the state of emergency.
Justice Lisabeth Hughes wrote on behalf of the court, saying that the governor did have the power to issue emergency executive orders.
“The Governor’s orders were, and continue to be, necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of all Kentucky citizens,” Hughes wrote.
“This type of highly contagious etiological hazard is precisely the type of emergency that requires a statewide response and properly serves as a basis for the Governor’s actions under KRS Chapter 39A.”
The ruling is a victory for Beshear, but could be short-lived. Leaders of the Republican-led legislature have railed against Beshear’s actions, and say they will pass laws to strip some of his emergency powers when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.
Kentucky is reaching new highs of coronavirus infections each week; Wednesday, Beshear announced the highest one-day total of new coronavirus cases — 2,700 — after two weeks of sharply escalating spread of the virus.
Beshear has issued “red zone reduction” recommendations asking anyone in a county with rapid community spread to avoid any gatherings, eating inside restaurants or shopping other than essentials. The recommendations mirror the “healthy at home” restrictions Beshear enacted after coronavirus hit in March, but he hasn’t gone as far as issuing restrictions.