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Kentucky lawmakers override governor's vetoes on COVID-related bills

Lawmakers passed SB1 Thursday, changing the way Kentucky school districts handle COVID-19, and SB2, which would ban statewide mask mandates.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky GOP-led legislature voted to override the Democratic governor's vetoes of Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2 late Thursday. 

"Am I frustrated that something that has stopped every other surge we can't now use? Yes because that's going to harm a lot of people," Gov. Andy Beshear said during a press briefing Friday. "But is this going to stop us from figuring out every other thing we can do? No, we're going to keep pushing."

Senate Bill 1 is an education bill that would end a statewide mask mandate for Kentucky school districts.

Lawmakers passed SB1 Thursday, changing the way Kentucky school districts handle COVID-19.

The legislation puts masking decisions in the hands of school districts instead of the Kentucky Department of Education. It also adds 20 NTI days and "test to stay" measures to reduce quarantines.

The superintendents of Jefferson and Fayette County Public Schools asked Gov. Andy Beshear and the General Assembly for help as districts continue to struggle amid the pandemic. In a letter, the leaders outlined rising COVID cases and quarantines as well as a shortage of workers. JCPS parents gathered Wednesday to protest new measures, saying legislators are missing the mark.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass said SB1 "does not go far enough" to provide the flexibility schools districts need.

"Further, the politically motivated effort to remove masking requirements in public schools weakens our virus mitigation efforts as a state at the very time they are needed most," Glass said.

Glass said KDE will work with school districts to continue keeping student and staff safety a priority.

Another measure passed was Senate Bill 2, which would ban statewide mask mandates and prohibit health care systems from requiring vaccinations of employees.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said prohibiting vaccinations would keep employees in Kentucky.

"We don't have a labor pool, because they've all been poached by other states who decided to make doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists a priority, but this administration didn't," Stivers said. "Show me, show me as I can show you the documents where they spent the money on that. Here it is. It's in my hands. None."

The bill would also prohibit nursing home visitor bans and increase testing, vaccination and treatment access across the state. 

Two other bills, Senate Bill 3 and 5, were signed by the governor this evening.

WHAS11 will update this story with more information when it is available.

RELATED: Resolution would require Kentucky to recognize positive antibody test as being fully vaccinated

RELATED: 'Keep them safe': JCPS families protest state bills that could change mask, quarantine policies in schools

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