Kentucky legislators prepared for Tuesday's special session on state's COVID-19 response

Andy Beshear
Posted at 10:47 PM, Sep 06, 2021

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is calling the general assembly to Frankfort for a special session Tuesday morning to look at the state’s response to COVID-19. Emergency orders, masks and schools are all on the agenda.

“These are heavy decisions and a tough time when so much is on the line,” Beshear said.

After a Kentucky State Supreme Court decision, much of the authority and power Beshear had to craft policy when it comes to the state’s response to COVID-19 was placed into the hands of the legislature.

“That burden will fall, in large part, on the General Assembly,” Boone County State Senator John Schickel (R) said. “We’re ready to pick up the ball, but the legislature operates very differently than the executive branch. I think we’re going to look at it quite differently than what the governor did.”

Kentucky’s top Republican lawmakers vowed to work with Beshear, a Democrat, to fight COVID-19.

The GOP-controlled House and Senate will avoid COVID-19-related mandates and instead offer recommendations and incentives, Schickel believes. He also said he’s open to deferring some decisions to local leaders.

“We need to get back to normal,” he said. “People can make their own decisions on the precautions they want to take.”

Lawmakers will only be able to address topics specifically laid out in the governor’s order for the special session.

Those topics to be discussed include:

  • Extending the state's state of emergency until January
  • Providing Beshear the authority to require masks in certain situations
  • Repurposing leftover federal funding
  • Providing schools with more flexible rules for non-traditional instruction.

“I think that the reality of what the Senate and House leadership and the governor think should happen is going to run into a brick wall of politics right now in the United States of America,” Northern Kentucky University associate professor of political science Ryan Salzman said.

Schickel said he does not personally support the extension of the state of emergency and he will be pushing for thorough debate during Tuesday’s special session.

“Once the legislature gets to Frankfort, there’s 38 senators and 100 representatives,” he said. “Are we going to be able to come to an agreement? Are we going to be able to come to a consensus? I think that’s a big question.”

It will ultimately be up to Republican supermajorities in both chambers to decide which measures suggested by Governor Beshear will pass.