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Kentucky General Assembly Takes Aim At Governor's Executive Powers

Josh James

Bills reining in Gov. Andy Beshear's emergency powers landed atop the priority lists for Kentucky Republicans on day one of the 2021 legislative session. Lawmakers with the majority party put the spotlight on several bills aimed at checking the Democrat's authority as the short 30-day session got underway Tuesday.

Senate lawmakers began their work masked and spaced apart as they outlined COVID-19 protocols for the session - including allowing members to vote remotely during committee meetings and other changes meant to streamline the proceedings.

"We have a lot of big items to deal with and a short time to do it," Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said.

But when it comes to the governor's statewide actions during the pandemic, lawmakers are looking to pump the brakes. From Senate Bill 1, which would allow emergency executive orders to last 30 days before General Assembly approval is required, to House Bill 1, which would bar the governor from closing any business that's following CDC guidelines.

Senate president Robert Stivers spoke to a similar measure in his chamber meant to shield compliant employers.

"We're going to have to have this discussion about how we make sure, when (businesses) have done all they can do, that they're not subjected to litigation, litigation costs, and fear of being shut down through a lawsuit," the Manchester Republican argued.

They're changes Beshear has repeatedly warned will hinder the state's ability to control the spread of the virus.

"The more limitations that a General Assembly wants to place on me that other states don't have leaves us less equipped to fight the virus," the governor said Monday.

GOP leaders see the party's overwhelming victories in November as a mandate to rein in a governor they say has overstepped his authority during the pandemic. Now wielding veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers, Republicans are likely to flex that legislative muscle in the coming days. While typically a time reserved for formalities, Tuesday's opening day saw a handful of bills put on the fast track for possible passage before lawmakers break at the end of the week.

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