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Ky. Bills Would Curtail Governor's Executive Orders, Regulations

The Kentucky Senate passed a pair of bills that would curtail the governor’s use of executive orders and regulations.

The first measure, Senate Bill 1, would dictate that executive orders that place restrictions on the function of schools, businesses or nonprofits expire after 30 days – unless extended by the General Assembly. The same would go for executive orders that regulate political, religious and social gatherings or impose mandatory quarantines or isolation requirements. SB 1 passed Thursday by a 27-9 vote.

The bill passed a House committee on Friday and will now go before the full House.

The second measure, Senate Bill 2, would have similar effects. That measure would require some administrative regulations to last no longer than 30 days if, for example, they imposed restrictions on gatherings or mandatory quarantines. SB 2 passed by a 31-6 vote.

“Senate Bill 1 represents freedom,” Sen. John Schickel (R-Union) said in reference to the governor’s emergency executive orders issued in the wake of the worldwide pandemic. “Our people are screaming out. In my district, I take calls from small business owners who are weeping. They don’t know how to feed their families”

The fact the bills were given the designations of SB 1 and SB 2 denotes the measures are a priority of the chamber’s majority caucus leadership.

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) said he was not in favor of SB 1. “The pain of this pandemic is not partisan,” he said. “My fear is that this bill is. In this instance, the elected official best suited to deal with a pandemic is the governor, particularly when we have a part-time legislature.”

Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) said SB 1 wasn’t “trying to strip anyone’s powers.”

Sen. Matt Castlen (R-Owensboro) said he introduced the bill because the pandemic brought to light “fractures” in the current laws concerning executive orders. He said other provisions of SB 1 would allow chief executive officers or legislative bodies of local governments to seek emergency executive orders for their communities beyond 30 days in length.

Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris) a sponsor of SB 2, said the goal of that measure was to provide a more logical administrative process, transparency and legislative oversight to hamper the ability of executive agencies to legislate through regulation.

“Some of the reasons regulation reform is so important and is dealt with in Senate Bill 2 as a priority bill is that fact that regulations are law,” West said. “When agency regulations are promulgated and accepted, they become the law of the land. They are where the rubber meets the road.”

Sen. Karen Berg (D-Louisville) spoke against SB 2. “Do not let the politics of this pandemic, do not let what has happened on a national level, affect the ability of this state and the people of this state to respond appropriately and be kept safe,” she said.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Montgomery) said SB 2 was needed to stop the executive branch from abusing the regulatory process. “I don’t see anywhere where this bill mentions COVID-19,” he said. “Somehow that is where this discussion has gone.”

SB 1 and SB 2 contain emergency clauses, meaning the measures would become effective immediately if it is passed into law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislature. 

From the Legislative Research Commission

Photo: Sen. Matt Castlen (R-Owensboro) explaining Senate Bill 1 (via LRC)

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