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Kentucky Republicans push bills targeting governor's emergency powers and protect businesses from COVID-19 shutdowns

Gov. Andy Beshear, in his press briefing Tuesday said he hasn't read the republicans' bills and that his focus is on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The 2021 legislative session for Kentucky's General Assembly kicked off Tuesday, with majority leaders unveiling the priority bills. 

  • House Bill 1 aims to allow businesses to remain open as long as they "meet or exceed CDC guidelines." It was filed by Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville.
  • Senate Bill 1 would limit the governor's emergency orders under KRS 39A to 30 days unless it was extended by the General Assembly. The bill also seeks to prevent the governor from issuing any new executive orders related to the same emergency without also receiving approval from the state legislature. It was filed by Sen. Matt Castlen, R-Owensboro.

"Basically we're saying that moving forward if you can do those things, Kentucky businesses you don't have to worry about a third shutdown," Rep. Rowland said while discussing HB1 Tuesday afternoon. "All summer long the retail community, the restaurant community was begging for some clear guidance on when can we operate, when can we not operate."

Gov. Andy Beshear, (D-Kentucky) in his press briefing Tuesday said he hasn't read the republicans' bills and that his focus is on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

"I really hope they dig down because what CDC guidelines? There are dozens if not more on the website. They are changed regularly, they're not all clear about what's a mandate and a recommendation. It'd be taking very explicit executive orders that you can read and understand what's involved, with something that's nebulous that you've got to google to go out and find," Gov. Beshear said. "It doesn't give a lot of protection either for individuals or for the business itself, it wouldn't work."

With a Republican supermajority in the House and Senate, Republican senators revealed their priority bill seeks to limit the governor's executive powers.

"Making necessary changes to ensure that the commonwealth has checks and balances moving forward," bill sponsor Sen. Matt Castlen, said. "In the past there has never been this many consecutive 'state of' emergencies placed in a year's time, giving total control to one part of a three-legged stool."

"I would encourage the governors office to engage in these things because this is not directed at the governor of the time, its an institutional situation," Senate President Robert Stivers, (R-Manchester) said. 

Gov. Beshear said SB1 is "unconstitutional."

Republican leadership has indicated the bills could move quickly, potentially passing as early as Saturday.

►Contact reporter Tyler Emery at temery@WHAS11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@TylerWHAS11) and Facebook.  

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