Pandemic, Protest Make For Peculiar Final Legislative Day
The GOP-controlled Kentucky General Assembly ended the 2020 regular session by overriding Gov. Andy Beshear's budget objections, granting the state's attorney general more authority to regulate abortion clinics amid the pandemic, and approving all but one member of the governor's board of education.
Much of the legislature's last day revolved around how much flexibility lawmakers were willing to grant the state's Democratic governor as Kentucky grapples with COVID-19. The House and Senate easily overrode the governor's line-item budget vetoes, which Beshear had argued were necessary to free up his hands to deal with the outbreak.
While some coronavirus-related legislation stumbled at the finish line, Senate President Robert Stivers said measures like House Bill 387 would give Beshear access to the state's rainy day fund and "undesignated restricted dollars" to purchase personal protective equipment.
The Manchester Republican described the authority "extensive and huge flexibility that I have never seen in 24 years given to a governor."
Yet it was also a day Beshear heard the most vocal protest to his handling of the crisis - both in the form of demonstrators who interrupted his daily briefing with chants of "we want to work" and "open up Kentucky" outside the Capitol press room and legislation handing more power to the state's conservative attorney general, Daniel Cameron, to enforce abortion laws and potentially close providers during the virus outbreak.
The move drew immediate backlash from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, which argued the bill takes away oversight from health experts.
One remaining piece of business, the confirmation of the governor's all-new board of education, saw a partial victory for Beshear - with the Senate okaying all members except for Chairman David Karem.
All new pieces of legislation passed during the final two days of the session can be vetoed by the governor, without any recourse by the General Assembly.