Kentucky governor calls special session on handling COVID-19

Published 6:37 am Sunday, September 5, 2021

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear announced Saturday that he’s calling Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature into a special session to shape pandemic policies as the state struggles with a record surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The return of lawmakers to the state Capitol starts Tuesday and marks a dramatic power shift in coronavirus-related policymaking in the Bluegrass State following a landmark court ruling. Since the pandemic hit Kentucky, the governor mostly acted unilaterally in setting statewide virus policies, but the state Supreme Court shifted those decisions to the legislature.

“Now, that burden will fall in large part on the General Assembly,” Beshear said Saturday. “It will have to carry much of that weight to confront unpopular choices and to make decisions that balance many things, including the lives and the possible deaths of our citizens.”

Beshear had sole authority to call a special session and set the agenda. At a news conference Saturday, he outlined pandemic issues he wants lawmakers to consider, including policies on mask-wearing and school schedules amid growing school closures due to virus outbreaks. But GOP House and Senate supermajorities will decide what measures ultimately pass.

Beshear told reporters Saturday he’s had good conversations with top GOP lawmakers and that draft legislation was exchanged.
Republican House Speaker David Osborne said the proposals offered by lawmakers were the “culmination of 18 months of research, discussion and input from groups and individuals directly engaged in responding to this pandemic.”

“While we are not yet in agreement regarding the specific language of the legislation we will consider, we are continuing discussions and have agreed it is in the best interests of our commonwealth to move forward with the call,” Osborne said in a statement.

Lawmakers will be asked to extend the pandemic-related state of emergency until mid-January, when the legislature would be back in regular session, Beshear said. They will be asked to review his virus-related executive orders and other actions by his administration, the governor said.