Special session

Lawmakers return to the State Capitol in Frankfort on Tuesday for a special session dealing mostly with COVID-19 issues.

FRANKFORT (KT) – With COVID-19 cases increasing at the fastest rate of the pandemic, Gov. Andy Beshear announced on Saturday he is calling a special session of the General Assembly starting Tuesday at 10 a.m., to deal with issues that have resulted.

Earlier this year, lawmakers enacted legislation that severely limits a governor’s power to issue emergency executive orders, which was upheld last month by The Kentucky Supreme Court.  So, he has called lawmakers to Frankfort next week to extend the pandemic state of emergency, which he says provides administration and public health officials with the tools and measures needed to slow the spread of the virus and save lives.

Beshear noted during a Capitol press conference that up until now, the Governor was empowered to act, to do what is necessary to stop the spike and flatten the curve, in order to save lives. 

“The recent state Supreme Court decision has changed that,” he stated.  “Now, that burden will fall in large part on the General Assembly.  They’ll have to carry much of that weight, confront unpopular choices, and make decisions that balance many things including the lives and possible deaths of our citizens.”    

The bills included limiting any states of emergency to 30 days, which cannot be renewed without legislative approval.

Referring to the skyrocketing number of new cases, and record hospitalizations that are straining Kentucky’s healthcare system, he said, “This is one of the most dangerous times we’ve experienced this entire pandemic, with the delta variant burning through Kentucky and taking more of our loved ones and neighbors. It’s also overwhelming more and more of our hospitals and shutting down our schools,” the Governor said. “We need as many tools as possible to fight this deadly surge in order to save lives, keep our children in school and keep our economy churning.”

He wants lawmakers to address extending the state of emergency until Jan. 15, 2022, when they are back in regular session; setting forth the criteria regarding the Governor’s authority to require facial coverings in indoor settings in certain circumstances; providing additional flexibility for school districts; and making an appropriation from the American Rescue Plan Act to support mitigation and prevention activities, such as testing and vaccine distribution.

While in Frankfort, the governor is also asking lawmakers to extend a state of emergency declared by the governor, in response to the flash flooding in Nicholas County and the City of Carlisle, on Aug. 3, for another 30 days. The action is necessary to ensure any emergency services that may be required are provided to residents and businesses, as the state’s request for federal assistance submitted to President Joe Biden through FEMA remains under review.

He wants additional flexibility in the manner incentives can be provided to economic development projects with more than $2 billion in investment, which would constitute the largest in Kentucky’s history.  The Cabinet for Economic Development is currently pursuing at least five projects of this size, and the changes would allow Kentucky to be competitive with other states.

A total of 7,845 Kentuckians have died from COVID-19 during the pandemic, with case numbers spiking due to the delta variant.  In the last two days, the governor announced 69 deaths and more than 10,500 new cases.

Beshear will have a COVID update press conference Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m, EDT.