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Kentucky High Court Hears Arguments Against Beshear's 'Astonishing Amount Of Power'

AP Photo/Bryan Woolston/Timothy D. Easley

Kentucky's highest court heard arguments Thursday in a case that could nullify the governor's COVID-19 related executive orders - and put new restraints on future actions.

At the heart of the legal challenge is a question about process: Did Gov. Andy Beshear follow state law when issuing sweeping pandemic-related executive orders or should he be required to seek other kinds of input or approval from the legislature?

Lawyer Chad Meredith, representing Attorney General Daniel Cameron, argued the governor is overstepping his authority.

"They think he gets to say what the emergency is, when it begins, when it ends, and what citizens are required to do or prohibited from doing during that emergency," the attorney said. "That's just an astonishing amount of power that no governor in these United States should have and the governor in this state does not have."

Beshear general counsel La Tasha Buckner countered that there are a number of constraints on how the governor can act.

"His powers can only be exercised during an emergency, what an emergency is is defined, it can only relate to the emergency or its effects, (and) must be coordinated with the federal response," she said.

In the 90-minute hearing, justices dug into differences between restrictions on child care facilities, whether the entire state qualifies as the scene of an emergency, and if legislative involvement is too time consuming, among other issues.

"So how long is too long if you've got a pandemic, you know what I'm saying?" Justice Michelle Keller asked Meredith, regarding legislative involvement in the process. "That's the sweet spot that... as a common sense person, I'm trying to understand what's the path moving forward."

For now, the parties involved - and an entire state in crisis - watch and await a ruling by the court. 

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.