A temporary restraining order against Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear was issued Thursday in a lawsuit brought by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Evans Orchard and Cider Mill, according to Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles. The lawsuit challenges the governor’s use of executive power during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beshear called the ruling reckless and said he will immediately ask the Kentucky Court of Appeals to stop the order. 

“Those who brought and supported the lawsuit should be ashamed of themselves,” Beshear told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

The restraining order was issued in Scott Circuit Court by Circuit Judge Brian Privett.

“This ruling is a victory for the rule of law, public health, individual liberty, and small business owners across the Commonwealth,” Quarles said in a prepared statement. “The decision provides much needed certainty for businesses across the state as peak agri-tourism season approaches. I am hopeful this court order will encourage the Beshear administration to follow Kentucky’s administrative laws and seek cooperation from the public and the General Assembly in putting public health first.”

Following a hearing this week, Privett ruled in favor of the Evans Orchard lawsuit by granting a temporary restraining order against the enforcement of Beshear’s executive orders. Attorney General Daniel Cameron intervened in the case. The order stops the statewide enforcement of Beshear’s executive orders with respect to all of the state’s 548 agri-tourism venues registered with the KDA. 

The complaint filed June 29 argue certain statues passed by the General Assembly conflicted with sections of the state constitution. The lawsuit also contends the proper authority to issue emergency regulations is set forth in Kentucky’s Administrative Procedures Act (APA). In emergency situations, the APA allows the governor to issue emergency regulations that take effect immediately and still allow for public comment and review from the General Assembly’s bipartisan and bicameral administrative regulation review subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Steve West and Rep. David Hale.

“Surprisingly, lawyers for the governor admitted in court this week that the administration used the emergency regulatory process to expand tele-health during the pandemic, but they didn’t do that when they closed or began to reopen the economy,” Quarles said. “With cases rising around us, it is now more important than ever that the Beshear Administration prioritize public health and public input going forward.

“If the Beshear Administration believes new measures are needed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, they must stop trying to govern via executive order and begin following the emergency regulatory process that allows for public comment and input from the General Assembly.”

Evans Orchard and Cider Mill is a fifth-generation farm in Scott County that includes a you-pick orchard, a 96,000-sq. ft. playground and an Event Barn for weddings and special events. So far this year, all events at the Event Barn had been cancelled and the remaining schedule was uncertain because of the state restrictions.

Jenny Evans of Evans Orchard said she had attempted to get clarification of state restrictions and was told no more than 10 people could use the 96,000 sq. ft. playground at once. Evans said the lawsuit was necessary in an effort to save her farm which had suffered financial losses due to the restrictions.

 

Mike Scogin can be reached at mscogin@news-graphic.com.

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