Floor debate over a package of pandemic-related healthcare actions prompted fiery accusations about the Beshear administration's response to COVID-19 on day three of a special legislative session.
Discussion of the Senate bill devolved in a heated blame game Thursday, as Republican frustration over the Democratic governor's policies boiled over and Democrats criticized the opposing party for mounting a "political response."
In a forceful address to the Senate, chamber president Robert Stivers said if Kentuckians are angry about policies that led to understaffed hospitals and the worsening state of the crisis, they should look to the governor's office, not the legislature.
"There have been no decisions by this body or that body down there," the Manchester Republican said, referring to the Senate and House. "Only the decisions made on the first floor... that were wrong."
Stivers took aim at the administration's past call to suspend elective procedures, which he pinpointed as a reason for hospitals laying off nuring staff. Responding to that argument during this Team Kentucky briefing, Beshear said the state was only responding to pressure from then-President Trump to take that action.
"We followed the president's request and recommendation," the governor said.
The bitter back-and-forth on the Senate floor began as a debate over Senate Bill 2, a measure setting up more than a dozen regional antibody treatment centers, allowing more visits for nursing home residents during quarantines, and promoting vaccination campaigns.
On that last item, Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a physician, offered his own diagnosis for why so many Kentuckians have been hesitant about or resisted COVID vaccination.
"Maybe it's because some folks that are not vaccinated at this point are tired of the daily scolding that they get, implying that they hate their children... their neighbors... other people if they don't do what they're being told to do without questioning it," the senator, who has recommended vaccination, remarked.
A proposed amendment to SB2 that would have banned private employers from mandating the vaccine for employees failed to gain traction. The bill passed the Senate 26-10.