A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

AG Cameron challenges constitutionality of Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive orders related to COVID-19

Attorney General Daniel Cameron has filed a brief in the Kentucky Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Governor Andy Beshear’s COVID-19 executive orders.

The brief follows a July 20 ruling by a Boone County Circuit Court Judge finding many of the governor’s executive orders unconstitutional.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron

“Since the governor issued an emergency declaration in March, he has unilaterally made the law in Kentucky without input from the General Assembly, the Commonwealth’s law-making body,” said Cameron. “These laws have drastically changed how Kentuckians can live their lives, raise their families, operate their businesses, and make a living.  The fovernor simply does not have the authority to act as a one-man legislature, even during a pandemic.”

During the course of the pandemic, the governor has essentially created a new legal code by issuing more than 150 executive orders, guidance documents, and emergency regulations dramatically altering daily life for nearly every Kentuckian and Kentucky business, he wrote.  While the brief recognizes the governor’s intent to try to combat the coronavirus, the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth cannot be cast aside, even if it is done with good intention.

Cameron has repeatedly noted that while the pandemic does necessitate some changes to comply with recommended health practices and slow the spread of COVID-19, any changes must strike a balance between furthering public health and protecting the constitutional rights of Kentuckians.  Attorney General Cameron has offered his assistance and counsel to the Governor during the pandemic in order to strike this important balance.  Governor Beshear has refused such offers.

The brief argues that the governor’s actions disregard the constitutionally mandated separation of powers, which strictly prohibits a governor from exercising legislative power.  The governor’s executive orders also violate Sections 1 and 2 of the Kentucky Constitution, which afford Kentuckians the right to earn a living and protects them from the accumulation and exercise of absolute and arbitrary governmental power.

Many of the governor’s executive orders have led to legal challenges by Kentuckians, and courts at both the federal and state levels have ruled against the orders on numerous grounds.  The governor has not won any of these cases.

The case continues in the Kentucky Supreme Court, and oral arguments are scheduled for Sept.17.

Kentucky Today

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