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Kentucky legislature expects special session for next week

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Members of the Kentucky General Assembly have been informed that a Special Legislative Session is likely to be called for next week – following Monday’s Labor Day holiday – to deal with the legislative response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The session will likely begin on or around Tuesday, Sept. 7, and conclude by Saturday, Sept. 11.

Gov. Andy Beshear has not yet issued the formal Call for a Special Session. Only the governor can call the legislature into session, and he controls the issues to be considered.

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 that limited the scope of Beshear’s power to issue emergency orders indefinitely and without legislative input.

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 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 Supreme Court’s order nullifying the injunction is final on Sept. 13, and the lower court will receive its instructions from the high court on how to dissolve the injunction on Tuesday, Sept. 7.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, Beshear and legislative leaders have worked together to define a consensus call that responds both to the reality of the pandemic and some constituent demands for a less centralized response. The General Assembly has called 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 being considered:

  • Expanding the number of non-traditional instruction (NTI) days for school districts to use online learning from home while facing COVID-related shutdowns.
  • Expediting background checks and other prerequisites for employment to address workforce shortages.
  • Providing school districts funding stabilization when large amounts of students, teachers, and bus drivers are in quarantine.
  • 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.
  • Removing 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.

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