The Kentucky General Assembly has received some criticism for continuing to meet despite Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive orders related to the coronavirus closing some businesses and even the State Capitol to the public who should be involved in the political process.
Last night on the Senate floor, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, spoke out against the criticism:
“But as I look around at what we are doing, we are doing what we were constitutionally mandated to do in the time frames we are given by the constitution. I hear that when I stepped off the floor there was some criticism about us being here. I ask the public and the members of this body: Is the president going home? No, he’s being the president. Is the governor going home? No, he’s being the governor. Is Mitch McConnell coming to Kentucky? No, he’s being the leader of the United States Senate. Is Nancy Pelosi going home? No she’s being the leader of the United States House of Representatives.
“We need to be here understanding what this institution does – cognizant of the fact that we have the powers to set policy; no one else does. And if we don’t give certain powers to the governor, he has no authority other than what’s enumerated in the constitution. So, we are in this process – cognizant of the fact though that we have to protect individual members [and] the public at large, but we are doing no different, no different than what the President of the United States is doing and his staff, what the United States Congress is doing under their constitutional mandates, what the governor is doing under his constitutional mandates and authority delegated by us to him. So why should we be any different as leaders of this state? We are doing everything we can to carry out our mandates and we will continue to do so, recognizing the crisis-uncharted waters we are in to do all we can do to protect the members here and do the best we can for the public that we each represent.”
We understand President Stivers’ sentiments, but while the president, governor and Congress are essential to getting us through this crisis and to ensuring the continuation of government services, the General Assembly is not “doing what (they) were constitutionally mandated to do,” as Stivers said. The only constitutional mandate required of the General Assembly this session is to pass a balanced budget, not, as Louisville Democratic Sen. Morgan McGarvey said last night, “to deal with cervid meat.”
All state government officials should be focused only on their greatest priorities and constitutional duties, and in dealing with the current health care crisis.
While the rest of us try follow the governor’s advice to remain sequestered in our homes, legislators are packed arm-to-arm, which we’ve been told is dangerously close – to debate bills unrelated to coronavirus relief or essential to keeping the state running. Further, House Leadership is now attempting to pass a bill that would allow the General Assembly to tack 10 extra days on any legislative session past the constitutionally mandated deadlines for adjournment of legislative sessions.
Why, for example, was the legislature wasting precious time during the current the health crisis passing a controversial bailout of Jewish Hospital with a bill forcing taxpayers to loan $35 million to the University of Louisville to purchase the facility, especially when we have lots of struggling hospitals statewide who, on top of their own financial struggles, may face serious challenges resulting from the coronavirus outbreak?
Speaker David Osborne got weirdly passionate on the House floor about loaning UofL — which is flush with cash and could purchase Jewish Hospital without further burdening taxpayers? We haven’t seen the same level of passion about any other policy from him. What about some passion for the Constitution and getting a budget passed?
Ten more days for such nonsense?
Not a chance.