FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentucky's state treasurer believes Gov. Andy Beshear took some of his coronavirus restrictions too far.
Treasurer Allison Ball is accusing the governor of violating the constitution and misusing taxpayer money. Her argument centers around Beshear's restrictions on mass gatherings, which included church services as well.
"Kentuckians should never be faced with a misdemeanor when they want to go to church, or go to synagogue, or go to any place of worship," said Ball during her testimony before the Interim Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Ball told lawmakers that Beshear illegally spent taxpayer dollars when he had Kentucky State Police monitor churches meeting in-person. Troopers gave people who attended those services violation notices that required them to quarantine. They also documented license plate numbers.
Ball explained that this was a misuse of state money because restrictions on people's right to worship were unconstitutional.
"This is the Constitution. We want to do that right thing by the Constitution. We don't want people to be monitored when they go to church. We don't want surveillance to be conducted on them. We don't want records kept of their attendance, and we certainly don't want them to be threatened with a misdemeanor - going to jail because they've gone to church," said Ball. "And we don't want churches closed by police officers. These are things that are repugnant to us as Kentuckians. They're repugnant to us as Americans."
Republican lawmakers sided with Ball. Senate President Robert Stivers said the legislature will take action in next year’s session by passing laws that more clearly outline what a governor can and cannot do during emergencies.
However, Democrats questioned her motive.
Rep. Angie Hatton said the 87-page report didn't include any numbers, despite Ball claiming money was misused.
"There wasn't a number. There wasn't a spreadsheet. It wasn't a treasurer's report," said Hatton. "And while I think some of these constitutional issues are clearly very important, I don't know how that's the treasurer's role."
Ball explained the lack of numbers by saying it would be difficult to figure out how many hours officers spent doing these tasks. She also told lawmakers she doesn't want to get that money back because the troopers followed orders.
Democratic House leaders criticized Ball's report for failing "to recognize that Gov. Beshear’s actions early on saved lives and that the legal principles have been upheld in court."
However, Ball sees this as an issue of preserving constitutional rights. She referenced a federal judge blocking Beshear from stopping in-person church services.
The governor sees this investigation as a political attack before an election.
"This is the same playbook right before every election where one party wants to say the other party is against God and persecutes Christians, and that's all that is going to be. And that's fine," said Beshear earlier this week. "I'm beyond politics at this point."