Update on SB 1: Emergency Powers Reform
As promised, I would like to provide an update on SB 1, the Emergency Powers Reform bill that we passed out of the House today. Here is what the bill does:
-Removes the ability of any Governor to change “the manner” in which our elections take place, i.e. mail-in voting. (As we all know, the advent of mail-in voting was quite problematic across the country, in the last election. I am glad that Kentucky is being proactive about returning to in-person elections, even in a state of emergency).
-Limits executive orders, administrative regulations, and other directives to 30 days, until which time the General Assembly must be called back into Session in the event that the order places restrictions on:
*Private businesses or non-profit organizations
*Political, religious, or social gatherings
*Places of worship
-All other executive orders issued under KRS 39A may only exceed 30 days if requested by the Judge Executive/Fiscal Court of a county, or Mayor/City Council in a city. These orders (if extended) would only apply to that local government, and could be extended or terminated by written request.
-Includes language preventing any Governor from circumventing these time limitations, by disallowing the declaration of a state of emergency or issuance of an executive order upon the same or substantially similar set of facts or circumstances without the approval of the General Assembly.
-Allows the General Assembly, by joint resolution to terminate a declaration of emergency at any time.
Although this currently only applies when the General Assembly is in Regular Session, it would allow us to take immediate action in the event that a constitutional amendment allowing the General Assembly to call itself back into Session is passed.
-Waives immunity under the 11th Amendment, so that citizens can seek declaratory relief in federal court.
-Requires any Governor to report all expenditures relating to contracts issued during an emergency; All federal dollars that are received due to an emergency must also be reported, as well as how they are spent or planned to be spent.
-Allows the Governor to suspend a statute only if the suspension is approved by the Attorney General, in writing.
-Removes the Class A misdemeanor penalty, and replaces it with a fine of $100 for a first offense, and $250 for each subsequent offense.
I filed three amendments to SB1 based on the language of BR 130, as well as language crafted by the House Emergency Powers Working Group. The intent was to provide additional protections for Kentucky’s businesses, as well as safeguard language for 1st Amendment rights, property rights, and consumption of goods. Moreover, I offered language to prevent certain statutes from being suspended, and to reduce the 30 day limitation to 15 days. I am pleased to report that House Floor Amendment 1 passed, which adds the following protections:
-Protects the right of the people to exercise free speech, freedom of the press, to petition their government for redress of injuries, or to peaceably assemble.
-Protects the right of the people to worship, worship in-person, or to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.
-Additional restrictions on a Governor’s ability to seize, take, or condemn, property; Requires that compensation be provided with value being determined by pre-existing eminent domain statutes; Stipulates that this can only be done for the duration of the emergency, and only for public use.
-Restricts any Governor’s ability to limit the sale or consumption of goods, only in the event of a shortage of goods.
-Disallows any Governor from suspending certain statutes that should never be suspended; Constitutional Carry, the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and all statutes that protect unborn life in the Commonwealth.
In addition, House Floor Amendment 4 (offered by Rep. James Tipton, who carried SB 1 in the House) ensures that local governments are included in the definition that pertains to the 30 day limitation. Both Rep. Tipton and Primary Sponsor Sen. Matt Castlen did a fantastic job of articulating and defending this pivotal piece of legislation in their respective chambers.
Although I, and several of my colleagues would have preferred a 15 day limitation, I am pleased that Kentucky is no longer 1 of only 3 states that have no limitations on emergency powers (and also have legislatures that cannot call themselves into Session). SB 1 is a landmark piece of legislation which ensures that Kentuckians will never again be subject to an indefinite, 10 month long state of emergency. Never again will Kentucky’s businesses and citizens be subject to the repercussions of unilateral decision-making, or be left without a voice during a state of emergency.