Republicans in the Kentucky General Assembly have pre-filed a flurry of bills aimed at stopping actions by the Democratic Governor Andy Beshear to slow the spread of COVID-19, and to prevent any agency or business from requiring anyone to take the vaccine for the deadly virus.
As of Tuesday, Kentucky has had 283,000 cases of COVID-19 and 3,076 deaths. More than 356,000 Americans have died from the disease.
The anti-vaccination bill would prohibit any state agency, employer or school from requiring the vaccine. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Savannah Maddox, of Graves County, who is known for her incendiary rhetoric and relationship with armed, anti-mask protesters who entered the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion and pounded on the door, demanding that Beshear come outside. Beshear and his family were not home at the time.
Republican Rep. Mark Hart of Falmouth, who cosponsored Maddox’s bill, has pre-filed a separate bill prohibiting colleges from requiring students to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
At least five bills have been filed to place time limits on any executive orders issued by the governor. The bills variously set the limits at 30 days, 28 days, and 14 days, and the executive orders could not be renewed without the permission of the legislature. The bill setting a 14-day limit is also sponsored by Maddox.
One bill allows the General Assembly to call itself into session anytime an executive order lasts more than 30 days. Current law allows for a regular session of the legislature each year, and any special sessions must be called by the governor.
There is also a bill that would make it easier for Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron to win lawsuits against the Governor by shifting the burden of proof from him to Beshear. As things now stand, Cameron has to prove there is some damage if he sues. So far, the state Supreme Court has rejected most of his arguments.
Another bill would place a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot to allow voters to recall any state or local official with the exception of judges by collecting petitions and placing the recall question on the ballot. If approved, the proposed amendment question would read, “ Are you in favor of creating a new section of the Constitution of Kentucky to provide for the recall of all elected officials, except judges, by the voters of this State, in addition to any other method of removal from office provided in the Constitution or by general law, with the procedure, grounds for recall, and all other matters related to the recall being established by the General Assembly, to read as stated below?” It would appear on the ballot this fall.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. James Tipton, a real estate agent from Taylorsville.
Tipton has also pre-filed a bill that would remove legislators and judges from their separate retirement plans and place them in the Kentucky Employees Retirement Plan. It would allow legislators who are also teachers to double-dip by participating in both the Kentucky Employees Retirement Plan and the Teacher Retirement Plan at the same time.
Among other bills are identical bills filed by Democrat Representatives Buddy Wheatley of Covington and Attica Scott of Louisville and Republican Rep. Ken Fleming of Louisville to create a non-partisan Advisory Redistricting Committee to make recommendations to the General Assembly on reallocating seats in the state House and Senate, and in the U.S. Congress. Several states have established nonpartisan commissions to redistrict states to negate the effects of gerrymandering. The bill proposed for Kentucky, however, does not require the General Assembly to accept the plan put forth by the commission, which would include 15 members selected in a manner that is intended to limit partisan influence. The majority and minority parties in both the House and Senate would split the appointment of eight members equally. Citizens would submit applications for the remaining seven positions, with recent partisan officeholders and large political donors disqualified. After the applicants are pared down to 40, the eight appointed members would choose seven citizens from among that 40.
That may be the most bipartisan bill presented during the 30-day session, which promises to be among the most acrimonious in recent memory. Bills include attempts to reduce teacher pensions by Republicans, eliminate Robert E. Lee Day, Confederate Memorial Day and Jefferson Davis Day as state holidays, add Juneteenth National Freedom Day as a state holiday, by Democrats, and the standard raft of abortion and gay rights bills, both for and against.