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Gov. Beshear Announces Special Legislative Session On COVID-19

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear gives a media briefing at the State Capitol Building on July 14, 2020.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear gives a media briefing at the State Capitol Building on July 14, 2020.

Governor Andy Beshear has called the Kentucky General Assembly to a special legislative session focused on COVID-19 measures.

Beshear announced the session late Saturday afternoon and said it will begin Tuesday, Sept. 7, at 10 a.m.

Earlier in the pandemic, Beshear used his executive powers to mandate masks and limit business capacity, but now much of that power has been stripped due to a recent decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

“This session will be about COVID, about the general assembly — under the Supreme Court's decision — making a determination on this fight moving forward,” said Beshear.

Beshear said he has been in talks with lawmakers about the special session since the Supreme Court’s decision last month. On Saturday, Beshear shared some of the COVID-19 measures to be considered:

  • Extend COVID state of emergency to Jan. 15
  • Determine governor's ability to require masking
  • Appropriate federal funding to further fight against COVID-19 
  • Approve executive orders, cabinet and agency orders
  • Provide schools with flexibility when it comes to dealing with COVID-19

The legislature has until Friday to extend the state of emergency before it expires. 

Its expiration would mean an end to workers’ compensation for frontline workers who get COVID or have to quarantine; to out-of-state health care workers practicing in Kentucky; and to pharmacies refilling prescriptions without customers having to visit the doctor first.

State of emergency status also helps when it comes to funding from programs such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Beshear said that many of the items have widespread consensus, but his ability to mandate masks might run into some trouble.

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

While the main focus of the special session is COVID-19, a few non-pandemic related items will also be considered:

  • Extend state of emergency in Nicholas County in Carlisle for flooding for 30-45 days
  • Provide Cabinet for Economic Development additional allowances for projects over $2B in investment

The special session comes as Kentucky’s COVID-19 numbers have been at their highest of the pandemic. The state has reported record-breaking daily case counts, positivity rates, hospitalizations, and people in the ICU and on ventilators in recent weeks.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.