Kentucky government suffers legal defeat in fight against COVID outbreak



Frankfort, United States, August 22 (AP) The Kentucky governor’s efforts to aggressively tackle COVID-19 suffered legal defeat on Saturday as the state’s high court paved the way for new laws to restrict its emergency powers.

In a landmark separation of powers case, the Kentucky Supreme Court said the legislature exercises policy-making power to limit emergency powers granted to the governor by state law.

The ruling ordered a lower court to dissolve an injunction that, for months, had prevented Republican-backed laws from restricting the executive power of Democratic Governor Andy Beshear.

The order could significantly alter the state’s response to the pandemic at a time when virus cases and hospitalizations have increased due to the highly contagious delta variant.

The Supreme Court order will dissolve the state of emergency related to the Kentucky pandemic, Beshear spokeswoman Crystal Staley said on Saturday. The next step is to determine whether lawmakers are prepared to extend the state of emergency at a possible special session, she said.

“The governor had the courage to make unpopular decisions in order to protect the Kentuckians,” Staley said in a statement. “The court has taken away a lot of his ability to do that in the future. If we are called to a special session, we hope that the General Assembly will do the right thing. “

Key legislative leaders hailed the decision to recognize the “constitutional power of the legislature to pass laws”.

In a joint statement, Speaker of the House David Osborne and Speaker of the Senate Robert Stivers said lawmakers “stand ready to work with the governor, as we have been doing for nearly a year and a half. , and to face what is a real public health crisis “.

Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who has championed the new laws, urged Beshear to consult with lawmakers to “find consensus on what is needed to protect Kentuckians.”

GOP lawmakers passed the new laws limiting the governor’s emergency powers in response to Beshear’s aggressive handling of the coronavirus crisis. The governor quickly took legal action to challenge the measures after his vetoes on the bills were overturned.

The Supreme Court weighed in on its rare Saturday ruling. The judges said that “we are not questioning the good faith of the governor” by taking measures that he deems necessary to deal with the pandemic.

But they said the governor’s claims that the measures hindered his ability to discharge his constitutional functions were “largely unsupported by sound legal principles.”

“In summary, since the challenged legislation has been legally enacted, the governor’s complaint does not present a substantive legal issue that would require suspending the effectiveness of the legislation,” wrote Justice Laurance B. VanMeter.

The ruling sent the case back to Franklin Circuit Court with instructions to dissolve the injunction.

One of the contested laws limits the governor’s decrees for emergencies to 30 days, unless they are extended by lawmakers.

Under another measure, businesses and schools must comply with either the governor’s COVID-19 guidelines or the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They could follow the less restrictive standard.

In a concurring opinion, Associate Chief Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes said a governor’s 30-day limit on emergency authority merits legal scrutiny. She said she hopes the lower court will deal with the constitutional issue when the case is referred.

“The 30-day limit functions as a kill switch” which essentially transfers the day-to-day management of emergencies to the legislature by rendering the executive powerless to act after 30 days, forcing the convening of a special legislative session. ” she wrote.

“This type of Special Legislative Session trigger has no history in Kentucky law to my knowledge and requires careful constitutional analysis.”

Hughes said the pandemic has raised “seemingly limitless thorny issues,” but she implored that “all parties to this matter… work together cooperatively to complete this extremely important task for the benefit of the people they serve.”

Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. joined the concurring opinion.

Republican lawmakers said the new laws were aimed at controlling what they saw as overbreadth of Beshear by ordering a series of restrictions to combat the spread of the virus.

The governor maintained that the measures he took to limit activity during the pandemic had saved lives.

The governor lifted most of his pandemic restrictions in June. But with the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, he signed a recent executive order imposing an indoor mask mandate on K-12 schools, daycares and preschool programs across Kentucky.

The governor’s spokesperson on Saturday underlined the considerable impact of the dissolution of the state of emergency linked to the Kentucky pandemic.

“This eliminates or puts at risk large sums of funding, the measures we have taken to increase our health care capacity, the expanded meals for children and families, the measures to fight COVID-19 in the long-term care facilities, workers compensation for frontline workers who contract COVID-19 as well as the ability to fight price hikes, ”Staley said.

“This will further prevent the governor from taking additional measures such as a general mask warrant.”

Last year, the state’s Supreme Court upheld the governor’s power to impose coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and individuals in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19. The legislature responded by passing the new laws this year. (AP) IND

Disclaimer: This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI



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