Kentucky governor calls special session on handling COVID-19

Sep 4, 2021, 2:35 PM | Updated: Sep 5, 2021, 9:32 am

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — 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.

On the issue of masks, the governor said his call will “ask them to determine my ability to require masking in certain situations, depending on where the pandemic goes and how bad any area is.”

Beshear ordered statewide mask mandates to confront previous virus surges and said Saturday he sees that authority as “absolutely necessary” to tackle the delta variant. Acknowledging the issue will be contentious, he suggested a more targeted approach.

“If they won’t consider providing that authority in general, my hope is that they will consider a threshold to where they will provide me that authority,” the governor said.

Beshear also asked lawmakers to provide more school scheduling flexibility as many districts have had to pause in-person learning because of virus outbreaks. Several ideas are being considered, he said, including allowing local school leaders to use a more tailored approach when shifting to remote learning, allowing them to apply it to a single school or even a classroom rather than the entire district. That idea was discussed at a recent legislative committee hearing.

Key GOP lawmakers have signaled their preference for policies favoring local decision-making over statewide mandates to combat COVID-19.

Lawmakers also will be asked to appropriate leftover federal pandemic aid to “further the fight” against the coronavirus, the governor said. The funding would support pandemic mitigation and prevention efforts, including testing and vaccine distribution.

More than 7,840 Kentuckians have died from COVID-19, include 69 deaths announced on Thursday and Friday. The delta variant has put record numbers of virus patients in Kentucky hospitals, including in intensive care units and on ventilators. The state reported Friday that nearly 90% of ICU beds statewide were occupied.

“The delta variant is spreading at a rate never seen before, impacting businesses, shuttering schools and worse causing severe illness and death,” Beshear said Saturday.

“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 added.

Various emergency measures issued by Beshear are set to expire as a result of the court decision issued two weeks ago. Lawmakers will decide whether to extend, alter or discontinue each emergency order, while putting their own stamp on the state’s response to COVID-19.

Throughout the pandemic, Republican lawmakers watched from the sidelines as Beshear waged an aggressive response that included statewide mask mandates and strict limits on gatherings. Republicans criticized the governor for what they viewed as overly broad and stringent restrictions, most of which were lifted in June.

The state Supreme Court recently shifted those virus-related decisions to the legislature. The court cleared the way for new laws to limit the governor’s emergency powers, which he used to impose virus restrictions. The justices said a lower court wrongly blocked the GOP-backed measures.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

This combination of photos show LL Cool J hosting the iHeartRadio Music Awards in Los Angeles on Ma...
Associated Press

LL Cool J, Nicki Minaj and Jack Harlow to host MTV Awards

NEW YORK (AP) — The MTV Awards later this month will have not one host but three, with rap stars LL Cool J, Nicki Minaj and Jack Harlow all set to anchor the ceremony. They’ll introduce and present the famous Moonmen trophies alongside performers including Lizzo, Anitta, BLACKPINK, J Balvin, Måneskin, Kane Brown, Marshmello with […]
8 hours ago
FILE - A "sold" is posted outside a single family home in a residential neighborhood, in Glenside, ...
Associated Press

US home sales fell again in July as housing slowdown deepens

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes slowed for the sixth consecutive month in July, deepening the housing market’s slide under the weight of sharply higher mortgage rates, surging inflation and slower, but still solidly rising home prices. The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that existing home sales fell 5.9% last […]
8 hours ago
FILE - This is a home for sale in Mount Lebanon, Pa., on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021.  After several mo...
Associated Press

Average long-term mortgage rates retreat slightly this week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates came back down slightly this week after the key 30-year loan rate jumped nearly a quarter point last week. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the 30-year rate fell to 5.13% from 5.22% last week. Last year at this time, the rate stood at 2.86%. The […]
8 hours ago
Shoppers enter a Crocs store, Thursday, July 7, 2022, in Pembroke Pines, Fla.  On Wednesday, Aug. 1...
Associated Press

Kohl’s cuts 2022 outlook, closing mixed week for retailers

Kohl’s slashed its expectations for the year after sales slumped in the second quarter, sending shares down 9% at the opening bell Thursday and closing out a mixed week for retailers. The company that owns Coach and Kate Spade also issued an sales outlook for the year that fell a bit short of Wall Street […]
8 hours ago
Michael Cheuk, Under Secretary for Hong Kong's Security Bureau speaks during a press conference hel...
Associated Press

Hong Kong seeks citizens caught in Southeast Asia scams

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong officials said Thursday they are seeking the return of citizens who traveled to Southeast Asia for jobs that entrapped them in scams and virtual slavery. The victims, who also came from Taiwan and mainland China, took jobs in call centers that sought to cheat Chinese speakers into making payments […]
8 hours ago
Migrants gather on a beach after their arrival on the southern island of Kythera, Greece, on Thursd...
Associated Press

3rd sailboat carrying migrants reaches southern Greek island

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities say another sailboat carrying dozens of migrants arrived Thursday at Kythera, the third in just under two days to make it to the southern island that isn’t on the usual route for asylum-seekers trying to reach the European Union. Greece’s coast guard said 67 people had been on board […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Kentucky governor calls special session on handling COVID-19