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Gov. Beshear vetoes five bills, calling them ‘unconstitutional,’ ‘put Kentucky lives at risk’

Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed five bills Monday, including House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1, allowing him to continue taking bold, effective actions to save lives, and ensuring future governors have the tools they need to address new emergencies quickly.

The Governor said his efforts to stop COVID-19 are widely supported by Kentuckians: 86% support asking people to stay at home and avoid gathering in groups; 78% support limiting restaurants to carry-out only; and 73% support prohibiting K-12 schools from teaching in-person.

“What this says is no matter what party you’re in, no matter who you voted for for president, the people of Kentucky support the ability to take steps necessary to protect us,” said Gov. Beshear.

He said he would be working with legislators on a resolution to these issues.

Normalized by population, Kentucky has a lower number of deaths than all neighboring states. The state has crushed or plateaued three different surges in cases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consistently has backed the effectiveness of Gov. Beshear’s restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in restaurants and bars, gyms, schools and other venues.

Gov. Beshear also reminded Kentuckians that even the director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, advised against any bill that writes public health guidance into law.

“I want to make it clear that CDC guidance should not be interpreted as regulation; rather, they are meant as recommendations. It should be used in consideration for specific state and/or local regulations, but this guidance is meant to be flexible and adaptable,” Dr. Redfield said. “It is not meant to be prescriptive or interpreted as standards that can be regulated.”

These bills are unconstitutional: the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled “our examination of the Kentucky Constitution causes us to conclude the emergency powers the Governor has exercised are executive in nature, never raising a separation of powers issue in the first instance.”

“This is a way of saying under the Kentucky Constitution, this is the executive branch’s job,” said Gov. Beshear. “I certainly hope we wouldn’t think that in the middle of a battle, in the middle of a war, you would have a legislative branch debate and vote on tactics – that’s just not how the Constitution is set up.”

The Governor said Senate Bill 1 interferes with the Governor’s power and constitutional responsibility to confront emergencies; allows the General Assembly to exercise power outside of session and forces the Governor to call it back into session in the event of an emergency; and, the bill provides an inferior executive officer, the Attorney General, the power to approve or disapprove of the Governor’s decisions.

The Governor also said Senate Bill 1 would also be costly for taxpayers. If the General Assembly approved the Governor’s emergency action in 30-day increments, with no Saturday meeting days and five days to pass a bill or resolution through both chambers, special sessions would cost $65,000 per day. That would be $325,000 per five-day session and $3.25 million for 10 sessions.

The Governor emphasized that House Bill 5 is unconstitutional as well, because it would: “…prevent [the Governor] from executing new laws passed by the General Assembly or the United States Congress that require new or different governmental structures to carry out. It would also disqualify the Commonwealth from federal grants that may require a new office or commission.”

The Governor said moving forward he would be working with lawmakers on a resolution to the legislation.

Governor’s office

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