Kentucky Politics

The Kentucky legislature is back in session after a three-week break, and Republican lawmakers have started overriding vetoes issued by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

Last month, Beshear vetoed several bills curtailing his powers during the coronavirus pandemic and boosting the legislature’s role in state government.

But it’s easy to override a governor’s vetoes in Kentucky, only taking a majority of members in the state House and Senate to do so. Republicans in the state House began the process Tuesday afternoon by rejecting four of them.

House Bill 1 would allow businesses and schools to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic as long as they follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines, superseding any orders issued by Beshear.

Morehead Republican Rep. Richard White was the only House Republican to speak in favor of overriding the veto on Tuesday afternoon. He says the legislature needs to be more involved in decisions about the pandemic.

“Us legislators are representing our constituents all across the state, and I think we should have a little voice or a little input on the things that’s being said down here in the state.”

Democratic Rep. Buddy Wheatley of Covington said Republicans are giving more power to the federal government. “Let’s not tie his hands. Let’s let him continue this job, let’s let him be the governor and not diminish his powers like this.”

Beshear vetoed six bills in all, but Republicans have large majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

So far, the House has also voted to override:

House Bill 2, which would give Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron power to regulate abortion providers.

House Bill 3, which would allow people to file lawsuits against the state in their home counties instead of Franklin Circuit Court, located in Frankfort.

House Bill 5, limiting the governor’s power to reorganize state boards and cabinets and giving the legislature final approval.

The state Senate will now consider those veto overrides and will also likely begin the process of rejecting Beshear’s vetoes of two Senate bills this afternoon.

Those bills are Senate Bill 1, which limits the duration of the governor’s emergency orders to 30 days unless the legislature votes to renew them, and Senate Bill 2, which gives the legislature more oversight over regulations created by the governor’s administration.

On Monday, Beshear threatened a lawsuit to try and block bills from going into effect, saying he needs flexibility to respond to the pandemic.

“If their comment is, ‘We’re going to override your vetoes no matter what and maybe we can talk later,′ I guess mine is, ‘We’ll see you in court,’” Beshear said.

“I cannot and will not let the health and the lives of the people of Kentucky be put in this danger when we are so close to getting out of this.”

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.