FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Attorney General Daniel Cameron urged Kentucky's high court to halt Governor Andy Beshear's school mask mandate, according to a filing on Wednesday to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Beshear's emergency order requires anyone above the age of two inside a Kentucky school or child care facility to wear a mask. Beshear explained that the step was necessary because of rapid growth in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across Kentucky.
However, Cameron argues that Beshear cannot issue the mandate.
"Regardless of whether the Governor's mask mandate is a good or bad idea, his issuance of it offends the rule of law," reads the court document filed by Cameron's team. "This Court should remind the governor that the executive branch is but one of the three partners in Kentucky state government."
Cameron told LEX 18 he believes Beshear is ignoring new laws that require him to work with the legislature to enact emergency mandates.
"It's unfortunate that the governor has decided to use his go-it-alone approach again," said Cameron.
Cameron clarified that he's not fighting the fact that the legislature and the governor may need to make tough public health decisions, like enacting a mask mandate. But he says the governor cannot make these decisions on his own.
"We're not disputing that the governor - in consultation with the General Assembly - doesn't need to make decisions about the public health and safety of Kentuckians. That's not what this is about," said Cameron. "This is simply the fact that he ignored the rules and the laws that were passed by our General Assembly."
However, Beshear told LEX 18 on Wednesday that as Kentucky's Commander-in-Chief, he holds emergency powers to make quick decisions. He argues that during a public health emergency, there is not enough time to consult with the entire General Assembly.
"Emergency powers of a governor are based in statute, but also in the constitution," said Beshear. "But when you have something like a pandemic that takes the lives of 7300+ Kentuckians, you can't have 100 people trying to make decisions basically by committee."
Beshear stands by his decision to issue a school mask mandate.
"I did what we had to do. The delta variant is the most frightening form of covid we have seen," said Beshear. Hospitalizations have doubled every two weeks. There are now hospitals in your viewing area that are full, pediatric hospitalizations increasing at a rapid rate, and all of the schools that have tried to go back without masks have shown that it's not possible."
"I care about the lives of our people," Beshear added. "I'm putting them first, I wish others would too."
Cameron, however, argues that Beshear has to do that while following the new laws passed by the General Assembly.
"All I know is what the law says. And the law says he cannot make this decision without the approval and the consultation of the General Assembly," said Cameron. "My role as Attorney General is to make sure that we follow the laws."
The Kentucky Supreme Court is currently working on figuring out the extent of the governor's emergency powers. In June, the justices heard oral arguments related to two different lawsuits challenging Beshear's COVID-19 restrictions and the new laws that limit his powers.
The court's decision in those cases may clear things up on the governor's power to enact orders like the school mask mandate. However, Kentucky will need to wait for that decision. The next scheduled day for release of new opinions is August 26th.