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Governor Loses on COVID Power

Kentucky Supreme Court allows lawmakers to limit emergency powers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 21, 2021 2:15 PM CDT
Governor Loses on COVID Power
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a news conference in June after the Kentucky Supreme Court heard oral arguments on challenges to the governor's ability to issue emergency declarations.   (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP, Pool)

(Newser) – The Kentucky governor's efforts to aggressively combat COVID-19 suffered a landmark legal defeat Saturday as the state's high court cleared the way for new laws to rein in his emergency powers. The state Supreme Court ordered a lower court to dissolve an injunction that temporarily blocked the Republican-backed laws strictly limiting Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear's emergency powers, the AP reports. The ruling revolved around a constitutional showdown between Beshear and the GOP-led legislature over the scope of the governor's executive authority in emergencies. The case stems from measures passed by the legislature this year to curb those emergency powers in response to Beshear's aggressive handling of the coronavirus crisis. The governor immediately filed a lawsuit challenging the measures after his vetoes of the bills were overridden.

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Noting that the "legislation was lawfully passed," the Supreme Court said Saturday that it didn't find legal support for the governor's claims that the measures impaired his ability to carry out his constitutional duties. GOP lawmakers said the new laws were meant to check what they viewed as Beshear's overreach; the governor maintained the steps to limit activity during the pandemic have saved lives. He lifted most of his restrictions in June. But with COVID-19 cases spiking due to the delta variant, Beshear signed a recent executive order imposing an indoor mask mandate in K-12 schools, child care and pre-kindergarten programs across Kentucky. One of the contested laws limits executive orders in times of emergency to 30 days unless extended by lawmakers. Last year, the same court upheld the governor's authority to issue coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and individuals. The legislature responded by passing the new laws this year.

(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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