FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s lawsuit continues against a Republican-led legislature that passed three bills aimed at limiting the governor’s executive powers.
Thursday, the case went before Judge Phillip Shepherd in Franklin Circuit Court.
The lawsuit filed by the governor boils down to an issue of balance of power, as the governor’s team argues Senate Bill 1, Senate Bill 2, and a House Bill 1 will limit the governor’s constitutional right to executive power by way of making him work through the legislative branch.
The Kentucky House and Senate leadership said the power would still be there, but there should be more oversight.
During a global pandemic, the governor’s team argued, there’s no time to play games. They called State Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack as a witness Thursday, who, in a back and forth with general counsel for Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, said it was imperative that the state continue to be able to do things like require isolation and quarantining for those exposed to or sick with the virus.
“The governor has claimed that the laws in question -- HB1, SB1, and SB2 -- are unconstitutional,” said Victor Maddox, counsel representing Cameron, “and I’m trying to understand if you can agree with me that the Department of Public Health has ample authority under existing Kentucky statutory law, chapter 214 in particular, to provide for the quarantine of people with infectious diseases?”
“Authority which is subverted by Senate Bill 1 and 2,” Dr. Stack responded.
“The plain language reading of the bill appears to be the case,” Stack later continued. “I don’t offer an opinion on constitutionality. The court will determine those things. But I will offer the opinion that the plain language reading of Senate bill 1 and Senate bill 2 specifically says that we may not impose isolation/quarantine. In fact, it’s one of the shortest sentences in the entire bill.”
Stack also argued that there would have to be a continuously operating general assembly if the State Health Department had to turn to the legislature for emergency orders, but representatives for the groups quickly responded.
David Fleenor, counsel representing Senate President Robert Stivers, said Beshear has had every opportunity to make his case as to why his emergency orders need to be extended, and argued in fact, an emergency session doesn’t need to be called because the general assembly is already there.
Ultimately, Judge Shepherd continued a restraining order already in place on the three bills and said the result of the lawsuit is not going to be good for the public unless all sides work together to figure out how to advance public health amid a pandemic.
For more on each bill and the lawsuit, read our previous story.