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Gov. Beshear calling lawmakers in for special session

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Posted at 4:20 PM, Sep 04, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18/AP) — Governor Andy Beshear is calling the General Assembly back to Frankfort for a special session.

It will begin at 10am on Tuesday, September 7.

This is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent state Supreme Court decision which limits the governor's powers during an emergency.

“Now, that burden will fall in large part on the General Assembly," Beshear said Saturday. "It will have to carry much of that weight to confront unpopular choices and to make decisions that balance many things, including the lives and the possible deaths of our citizens.”

Beshear wielded sole authority to call lawmakers into special session and to set the agenda.

At a news conference Saturday, he outlined pandemic-related issues he wants lawmakers to consider:
- to extend the state of emergency to Jan. 22, 2022
- to review executive orders; reviewing agency and cabinet orders
- to determine governor's ability to require masking in certain situations
- to appropriate funding from American Rescue Plan to help combat coronavirus
- to provide schools with flexibility

GOP supermajorities in both chambers will decide what measures ultimately pass.

Key GOP lawmakers have signaled their preference for policies favoring local decision-making over statewide mandates in response to the virus surge fueled by the fast-spreading delta variant.

More than 7,840 Kentuckians have died from COVID-19, include 69 deaths announced on Thursday and Friday. The delta variant has put record numbers of virus patients in Kentucky hospitals, including in intensive care units and on ventilators. The state reported Friday that nearly 90% of ICU beds statewide were occupied by patients.

Various emergency measures issued by Beshear are set to expire as a result of the landmark court decision issued two weeks ago. Lawmakers will decide whether to extend, alter or discontinue each emergency order, and they are expected to put their own stamp on the state's response to COVID-19.

Throughout the pandemic, Republican lawmakers watched from the sidelines as Beshear waged an aggressive response that included statewide mask mandates and strict limits on gatherings. Republicans criticized the governor for what they viewed as overly broad and stringent restrictions on Kentuckians. The governor lifted most of his virus-related restrictions in June.

The state Supreme Court recently shifted those virus-related decisions to the legislature. The court cleared the way for new laws to limit the governor’s emergency powers, which he used to impose virus restrictions. The justices said a lower court wrongly blocked the GOP-backed measures.

Since the ruling, Beshear has been negotiating with lawmakers in anticipation of calling them into special session.

As lawmakers meet in Frankfort, Beshear is asking for a few other items to be considered:
- extending the state of emergency in Nicholas County and Carlisle for an additional 30-45 days
- provide Cabinet for Economic Development with additional flexibility for projects over $2 billion in investment
- for flexibility to move fast on megasite in Glendale if needed