FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — On Monday, the Kentucky House of Representatives formally created a committee to investigate a petition calling on lawmakers to impeach Gov. Andy Beshear.
Four Kentucky citizens filed the petition. They claim Gov. Beshear violated the constitution when he issued lockdowns to stop COVID-19 from spreading.
One of the citizens who filed the petition is Lexington business owner Andrew Cooperrider. He made headlines in 2020 for refusing to follow the governor's order to shut down in-door dining.
On Saturday, Cooperrider told LEX 18 he filed the petition to be a voice for small businesses.
"It's not like I can just go back to being a normal coffee shop," said Cooperrider. "I mean, I kind of made my bed already, right? So, if I'm going to be in the open like that, I can at least be the voice of small business. The voice of people that feel voiceless."
House Speaker David Osborne said he was legally obligated to create the committee to consider the petition.
"We don't really have a choice but to take action on it," Osborne said on Saturday. "The constitution is very brief and very vague about what we have to do. But we have to take it seriously."
However, Osborne specified that the committee isn't obligated to take further action.
"It doesn't even require a vote or anything," he said. "It just requires the committee act. And the committee's action can be to do nothing."
However, House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins doesn't believe forming the committee was necessary.
"I think [Osborne], and I interpret the statute a little differently," said Jenkins. "In the past, we've always interpreted it as it could be sent to a standing committee. In my experience, and I've been here since 1995, those types of petitions are not unusual, and they have been sent to the Judiciary Committee, and no action has been taken."
But Osborne defended his decision to form the special committee on Monday. He said their legal counsel says they are required to act.
"So we're just following the process," he said.
Osborne declined to give a yes or no answer when asked whether he believes Beshear should be impeached.
"I'm not going to weigh in on that," said Osborne. "I'm going to let the committee decide what they believe is appropriate."
Jenkins said Democrats are prepared to defend the governor if it comes to it. However, she doesn't believe the governor should be impeached for trying to keep people safe during the pandemic.
"Did he do everything perfectly? Maybe not," said Jenkins. "Early on, there was a lot of disagreement among the experts about what should be done. I think he did everything in good faith. And I think he did everything he could, with the knowledge he had at the time, to keep Kentuckians safe."
During his daily COVID-19 briefing on Monday, Beshear said the petition has "zero grounds."
"It cites actions the Kentucky Supreme Court said were lawful," said Beshear. "I understand the Speaker's position that the law requires they form a committee. But going anywhere on it would be trying to undo a valid election - mine from a year ago. It would be eerily similar to other things we're seeing across the country - we don't need it, shouldn't go anywhere."
"I think [the situation is] one where everybody will rise above and put our democracy here in the state above four individuals who are upset," said Beshear.
The seven-member committee that will consider the petition consists of four Republicans and three Democrats:
- Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville (committee chair)
- Rep. Ed Massey, R-Hebron
- Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg
- Rep. Suzanne Miles, R-Owensboro
- Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg
- Rep. George Brown, D-Lexington
- Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green
No Kentucky governor has ever been impeached.