Kentucky High Court: New Laws Limiting Gov. Beshear’s Emergency Powers Valid

The Franklin Circuit Court was wrong to issue an injunction in March blocking several bills reining in Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s power to declare emergency orders, the state’s Supreme Court ruled over the weekend, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.

The unanimous ruling is a victory for the Republican-controlled Kentucky General Assembly and Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who said the legislation passed earlier this year to limit Beshear’s power was constitutional.

The Kentucky Supreme Court agreed that the legislation was lawfully passed and ruled that Beshear’s complaint “does not present a substantial legal question that would necessitate staying the effectiveness of the legislation,” the Lexington Herald Leader reported.

The Supreme Court ordered the Franklin Circuit Court to dissolve its injunction, clearing the way for the legislation to be implemented.

In a statement to the Herald Leader, Beshear spokeswoman Crystal Staley said “the court’s order will dissolve Kentucky’s entire state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic. It either eliminates or puts at risk large amounts of funding, steps we have taken to increase our health care capacity, expanded meals for children and families, measures to fight COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, worker’s compensation for front-line workers who contract COVID-19 as well as the ability to fight price gouging.”

“It will further prevent the governor from taking additional steps such as a general mask mandate,” she added. 

Cameron, the state’s Republican attorney general, said in a statement that “for months, we have maintained that the governor must work with the General Assembly during the COVID-19 crisis. Today, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed with our position. This is not a novel concept; in fact, it’s the bedrock of our system of government,” adding that “we hope the governor will now consult with our General Assembly and find consensus on what is needed to protect Kentuckians.”

The ruling comes just two days following another defeat for Beshear when a U.S. District Court Judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the enforcement of a new emergency order he issued requiring masks to be worn inside all schools and child care facilities, the Courier Journal reported.

However, that restraining order currently applies only to the state’s private schools, as masks are still required inside public schools and child care facilities due to separate emergency regulations issued days after Beshear’s new orders by the Kentucky Board of Education and the Kentucky Department of Public Health.

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