FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) -  In addition to a pair of pro-life measures, state lawmakers sent several other bills to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk during a rare Saturday meeting of the General Assembly.

Stivers

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Clay, leads the Senate session during the 2021 General Assembly Session. (Kentucky Today/Brandon Porter)

House Bill 1, the number indicating its priority to the Republican majority, would allow businesses, churches and other religious institutions, associations, and public and private schools to remain open in the case of a health pandemic as long as they establish an operating plan. 

Changes made on Saturday would require those organizations to follow guidance from the CDC or the Executive Branch of government, whichever was the least restrictive.

 

Republican lawmakers said the measures will counter Gov. Andy Beshear's overreach in fighting the pandemic. The number of positive coronavirus cases since it started reached 300,000 on Saturday with nearly 20,000 in the last four days.

“This is not the time to hamper our ability to fight a deadly virus,” Beshear said in a social media message Saturday.

Other HB 1 provisions include:

--Requiring the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to develop regulations and guidelines authorizing and regulating visitation by family members or legal guardians who are designated as being important to the mental, physical or social well-being of residents in residential long-term care facilities

--Interest and penalties on unpaid employer contributions to unemployment insurance will not be considered due and owing and shall not be collected by the Labor Cabinet through December 31, 2021.

Senate Bill 1, again a designation indicating its priority to the GOP majority, would limit the effective dates of executive orders issued by the governor to 30 days unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly, and prohibit the governor from issuing a new executive order relating to the same emergency without the approval of the General Assembly.

If lawmakers are not in a regular session, the governor would have to call a special session, at a cost of nearly $70,000 per day, with a five-day session normally the minimum time to approve legislation.

SB 2 would require emergency administrative regulations be accompanied by evidence of the need for such a regulation, and they could not be in effect no longer than 30 days if imposing restrictions on gatherings or imposing mandatory quarantine or isolation requirements.

One measure passed by the House on Saturday that still requires Senate approval, HB 10, would give immunity to civil liability to a person who acts in good faith while operating a business during a state of emergency for ordinary negligence for a personal injury resulting from alleged or actual exposure to COVID-19 provided the person acts as an ordinary, reasonable, and prudent person would act under similar circumstances.

It also provides that a public school official's decision to open or close a school is discretionary for purposes of determining qualified immunity.

Supporters say they were hoping Congress would have included that immunity in the latest CARES Act legislation but, since they didn’t, lawmakers introduced it in Frankfort.

Normally in odd-years, the General Assembly would recess until February following the first week of the 30-legislative day session.  However, presiding officers of the House and Senate are changing the calendar, so they will meet Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before taking the recess.

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