FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — This March marks two years since the COVID-19 state of emergency was placed in Kentucky. And Republican senators say it is time to bring the emergency order to an end.
Senator Donald Douglas says Senate Joint Resolution 150 will do just that. It terminates Kentucky's COVID-19 state of emergency by March 7, 2022.
"This is about letting our people of the Commonwealth return to a life they know," Douglas told the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday.
"The emergency is over," he added.
Earlier this year, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a bill that moved the end date of the emergency order to mid-April. But Douglas says that the deadline should be moved up. He wants people to no longer fear the pandemic and he worries the Governor might prolong the situation.
"If we wait until [April] 15th, guess what? We're no longer in session - the General Assembly. So, if the governor decides he wants to put some more regulations in place, there's nothing we can do, unless he calls us back into session or unless we wait until next January," said Douglas.
However, the governor's emergency powers are already limited to 30 days. Lawmakers changed the power structure, so, to renew an emergency order, the governor must call in the General Assembly.
Governor Andy Beshear first declared a state of emergency in March 2020, after COVID-19 first hit. The order allowed Kentucky to receive federal money to tackle the pandemic and respond to the developing situation. According to the Governor's Office, the order is still helping, but not interfering.
"The state of emergency helps Kentucky receive federal dollars to fight the pandemic and provide relief," said spokeswoman Crystal Staley. "Kentucky is open for business – there are no state restrictions on our employers and our schools have been and are open."
Staley pointed out that although Kentucky's COVID-19 situation is improving, the virus is still causing challenges.
"While Kentuckians should be excited that pandemic numbers are moving in the right direction, currently we still have more than 300 Kentucky National Guard members assisting overwhelmed hospitals, and last month we had 700 COVID-related deaths reported – yet despite these facts, the Senate [Friday] filed a joint resolution undoing their own extension of the state of emergency," said Staley.
However, Douglas pushed back against that perspective, saying it is time to move on.
"We want to make it clear - crystal clear. So, when you go out and talk to your neighbor, and you go out to the mall - everybody knows there is no emergency in place," he said.
SJR 150 was first introduced on Friday. On Wednesday, it cleared the Senate State and Local Government Committee. The measure still needs a full Senate vote. However, 17 GOP senators joined Douglas in sponsoring the resolution, so the measure has received a lot of support in the Kentucky Senate.