FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's Supreme Court has agreed to take up the Democratic governor's challenge of Republican-backed laws aimed at limiting his authority to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The GOP-dominated legislature passed the measures this year over Gov. Andy Beshear's vetoes. The governor immediately filed a lawsuit and the new laws curbing his executive powers were temporarily blocked by Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd.
Both sides in the dispute — which tests the balance of power between the state's executive and legislative branches — had predicted the case would end up before Kentucky's highest court.
The Supreme Court said it will extend its review to a second pandemic-related case at the same time. In that case, Scott County Circuit Judge Brian Privett temporarily blocked applying some pandemic-related restrictions to several restaurants and breweries challenging the governor’s actions. The state Court of Appeals this week stayed Privett’s temporary injunction.
In signing orders Thursday for the Supreme Court to consider the cases, Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. said the review will be expedited. The court will hear arguments June 10 in both cases. The court decided to hear the cases at the same time as a matter of “judicial economy,” Minton said.
Republican lawmakers said the challenged measures are meant to put checks on what they view as Beshear’s overreach in ordering a series of restrictions to combat the virus's spread. The governor maintains the steps he took to limit activity during the pandemic have saved lives.
One of the new laws would limit the governor’s executive orders in times of emergency to 30 days unless extended by lawmakers. Under another measure, businesses and schools would have to comply either with COVID-19 guidelines from the governor or the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They could follow whichever standard is least restrictive.
Shepherd's temporary injunction was extended recently to apply to a follow-up measure that specified which of Beshear’s pandemic-related orders would remain in place should the legislature win its a legal fight with the governor.
It’s the latest round of court fights over Beshear’s response to the pandemic. Last year, the state Supreme Court upheld the governor’s authority to issue coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and individuals to try to contain the spread of COVID-19.