Posted September 7, 2021
Pursuant to powers granted by the Kentucky Constitution, Governor Andy Beshear has called members of the Kentucky General Assembly into a Special Legislative Session to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The session begins today and will likely conclude by Saturday, September 11. The special session call is available here.
The Special Session is necessitated by the state Supreme Court’s ruling two weeks ago that the Franklin Circuit Court was wrong to issue an injunction back in March, which blocked four bills enacted by the state legislature that limited the scope of Governor Beshear’s power to issue emergency orders indefinitely and without legislative input.
In short, the legislation passed earlier this year ended the Governor’s emergency executive orders after 30 days unless extended or modified by the General Assembly. To continue much-needed emergency orders related to the Covid pandemic, the Governor must now call the General Assembly into a special session to affirmatively approve and/or alter the dozens of executive orders, administrative regulations, and agency orders the Governor has utilized to respond to the pandemic.
The scope of a special, or “Extraordinary,” session is controlled by Governor Beshear, and since the Supreme Court ruling, he and legislative leaders have worked collaboratively to define a consensus call that responds both to the reality of the pandemic and some constituent demands for a less centralized response. Last week, the General Assembly held three special committee hearings this week to gain a better understanding of the Supreme Court’s ruling and identify the policies that should continue in their entirety, or be tweaked, as the Delta variant continues to slam the Commonwealth.
Among the topics that are being considered:
- Continuation of policies that give more flexibility to health care providers to bring in credentialed, front-line workers from out-of-state.
- Looking at ways to incentivize pay for workers in schools and health care.
- Remove the ability of the Governor to impart statewide policies, such as mask or vaccine mandates. Lawmakers have said they support more localized control, such as school district-based decisions on mask wearing. The door is open to statewide mandates in limited circumstances, such as congregant settings in certain healthcare or correctional facilities.
- Maintaining liability protections for employers who operate during the pandemic, such as those enshrined in 2021’s SB5.
Note that the length of the special session is expected to last up to five legislative days, rather than what was formerly a minimum of five days. During the 2021 session, the General Assembly established the precedent that a bill can move through the entire legislative process in a single day.
Clearly, the Special Session will have an impact on the state’s health care sector. KMA will update members as developments occur.
One final political update to note, Governor Beshear set November 2, 2021, as the date for three special elections to fill vacant legislative seats. On the ballot will be:
- Senate District 22 – vacant due to the passing of Republican Sen. Tom Buford – covers part of Fayette, Jessamine, Garrard, Mercer, and Washington counties.
- House District 51 – vacant due to the passing of Republican Rep. Bam Carney – covers Adair and Taylor counties.
- House District 89 – vacant due to the resignation of Republican Rep. Robert Goforth – covers Jackson and parts of Laurel and Madison counties.