Tom O'Dell Smith

Following announcements from Governor Andy Beshear declaring new pandemic-related mandates restricting small businesses, funeral homes, schools and more last week, newly-elected 86th District State Representative-Elect Tom O’Dell Smith had some advice that he believes would benefit the public and the Governor himself.

“There’s a tipping point and I think we’ve gone past it with small businesses,” Smith said in an interview with The Mountain Advocate. Smith cited struggling local businesses and the closing of a national restaurant chain, Logan’s Roadhouse, as examples of how lockdown orders are harming businesses. Smith believes Governor Beshear can help both himself and his constituents by working with other elected officials instead of bearing the weight of all COVID-19 mandates on himself.

“I think the Governor should call a special session and bring legislators in to get input from across the state. Bring legislators in that represent the people… they’re hearing it every day. They see it, where the Governor may be listening to a few (advisors), they have many to listen to.”

“We have a part-time legislature,” Smith said, referring to the Kentucky Supreme Court decision to uphold Beshear’s COVID-19 mandates.  Kentucky’s laws gives the Governor the ability to make mandates while the legislature is not in session, giving him specific powers during such a pandemic. “When they’re only there a few weeks out of the year, the law gives the Governor a lot of flexibility… I don’t think he’s doing things maliciously or in a mean spirit. I think he’s trying, but it comes across to people as a dictatorship.” 

Speaking to Beshear’s new mandate for closure of in-person classes for Kentucky schools for the rest of the year, Smith agreed with a statement from CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. Just a day after Beshear’s mandates were announced, Redfield said “The truth is, for kids K through 12, one of the safest places they can be from our perspective is to remain in school.”

Citing new data, Redfield went on to say, “Today, there’s extensive data that we’ve gathered over the last two to three months to confirm that K-12 schools can operate with face-to-face learning and they can do it safely and they can do it responsibly.”

“I think we’re fortunate that our superintendents have worked hard to make this work,” Smith said. “They’ve gotten a lot of criticism, but they also have a lot of responsibility. The easy side is to criticize, the hard side is to try to work it out, and so if I was the governor, if he asked me for my advice, my encouragement to him would be to call a special session, get the legislators in and come up with a game plan and spread the responsibility out.”

“Governor, call your legislators into session and let’s work this out,” Smith said.

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Charles is a native of Barbourville, Kentucky. He has worked with The Mountain Advocate in various capacities since 2003.

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