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Kentucky lawmakers gather for special session

Kentucky House and Senate convened to address the impact COVID is having on Kentuckians, schools and hospitals.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Tuesday morning, Kentucky convened for a special session called by Governor Andy Beshear. The session was called after the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously decided Republican-backed laws weakening the governor's power would stand. 

Those laws put the responsibility of emergency power on the general assembly. 

After announcing the special session on Saturday, Beshear asked lawmakers to utilize that new power. Specifically, for the legislature to extend his state of emergency until January 15, give school districts more COVID-19 response options, and allow him to reinstate a mask mandate. 

WHAS11 News Political Reporter Rachel Droze is covering the special session. 

Tuesday, September 7: Opening day of the special session

House Speaker David Osborne addressed the House’s State Government Committee about a resolution to extend several of Gov. Beshear's COVID state of emergency orders. 

The resolution passed out of the committee. Speaker Osborne says several of the issues addressed in the resolution are bipartisan - such as extending temporary health care licensure waivers and price gouging.

This resolution does not address mask mandates or capacity restrictions. It is very similar to HJR77, which passed during the regular 2021 session.

All Executive Orders and administrative regulation extensions included in the Special Session resolution would last until Jan. 15, 2022. 

Key differences, according to Speaker Osborne, are that it extends SB 5 (passed in 2021) and certain provisions of SB 150 (passed in 2020) and extends provisions of the SOE for Nicholas County.

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"If I had the ability to do it right now, we would have a masking order when you are in public or indoors," he said on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday.

Monday, Louisville's Republican Representative Kevin Bratcher and Senator Gerald Neal spoke with WHAS11 Nighteam Reporter Tom Lally ahead of the special session. 

Rep. Bracher said a mask mandate is not likely. "I don't see how a statewide mask mandate is going to stay in place," Bratcher said.

Instead, he hopes to further distribute decision-making power, away from what he calls "a one size fits all" approach.

Rep. Bratcher said, "There might be some issues in Paducah or Pikeville that are different, so those areas should be able to attack those issues as they see fit." 

Across the aisle, for Senator Gerald Neal, this hits close to home. 

"Look, I'm a victim of COVID," he said. "I almost lost my life to it. I understand. I can't tell you how sensitive I am to it."

While he argues decision-making power should've stayed with the governor, he's hopeful the special session will accomplish a few things. Like flexibility for local school districts when it comes to calendars and virtual learning days, and extending the state of emergency.

"I trust that they will rise to the occasion, because if I don't then I ought to go home," Senator Neal said.

Both lawmakers said they're open to compromise, nothing is for sure, and we'll have to wait and see.

► Contact reporter Tom Lally at TLally@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter.