One of Scott County’s legislators has filed a bill to restrict Gov. Andy Beshear’s power to issue executive orders during the coronavirus crisis, and to allow businesses damaged by the shutdown to sue for relief.
Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, has filed a floor amendment gutting her own House Bill 322 and replacing it with language limiting the emergency powers of Kentucky’s governor.
“Amendment 3 to HB 322 seeks to ensure that the rights of hard-working Kentuckians and business owners are protected from government overreach,” she said in an email. “Although the amendment does not interfere with the executive branch’s ability to issue executive orders pertaining to a state of emergency, it provides due remedy of law through a system of checks and balances designed to keep our government accountable for any action which is determined in a court of law to infringe upon civil liberty or unnecessarily restrict commerce.”
Maddox’s amendment would require a governor’s emergency orders during a “disease outbreak, public health threat or similar occurrence” to be “narrowly tailored towards meeting the exigencies of the emergency,” “no broader or burdensome than is necessary,” “actually issued in response to an emergency or immediate threat of an emergency” and “in effect no longer than is necessary to meet the exigency giving rise to the emergency.”
“There is not a one of us who wants to suffer from a communicable disease, or to lose a friend, family member or member of the community to COVID-19 or any other virus,” Maddox posted on her Facebook page. “What we do not want to do, however, is to fall prey to the mentality that our governor is ‘just following orders’ or to ever lose sight of the power that we relinquish to elected officials in the state and federal government to make decisions that impact our lives.
“Only time will tell if we, as a Commonwealth, are responding to this crisis appropriately. There is no crystal ball to foresee if we will strike a balance between protecting public health and avoiding economic disaster.”
Anyone or any group who felt the governor’s actions were inappropriate and suffered “adversely,” can file suit in circuit court. Circuit judges must hold a hearing within seven days — not withstanding any emergency orders that may shut down the court system — to make a ruling on the governor’s actions. The amendment would give judges the authority to vacate the emergency order, amend it to be less burdensome or rule in favor of the governor.
The original HB 322 required better reporting of asset forfeitures by law enforcement agencies. The General Assembly reconvenes Thursday.
Mike Scogin can be reached at email@example.com.