FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) – Minutes before the clock struck midnight, legislators adjourned a special session of the Kentucky General Assembly with the votes to override two vetoes on statewide mask mandates. The five bills presented, heavily discussed and passed, during the special session, addressed issues from mask mandates in schools, businesses, healthcare entities.
The three-day session felt more like a regular legislative assembly, according to several lawmakers who spoke with WAVE 3 News.
Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2 were shot down by Governor Andy Beshear. SB 1 sought to nullify the statewide mask mandate imposed by Beshear, allowing, what Republican lawmakers call flexibility.
Rep. James Nemes (R-33rd/Louisville) said local governments, school boards and healthcare entities having autonomy to make these decision is best for their own community.
“Whether it’s a particular classroom or particular school; we want them to be able to address those concerns so we’ve given them a great deal of flexibility,” Nemes said.
Another part of SB 1 cites adding 20 NTI days, of which will be helpful for different school districts, some being more populated than others. It also includes, students partaking in, “Test to Stay,” except the only test students take is for COVID-19. If a student tests negative, he/she can continue to go to school without needing to quarantine; another measure aimed to help smaller districts throughout the commonwealth. However, the way Senate Democrats see it, the non-masking is schools doesn’t seem to benefit the community as a whole.
“The message on the floor should be we are in an emergency,” said Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-19/Louisville). “I think we did some good this session, but I think we did some things where we fell short and ultimately giving the state the resources it needs to keep our kids safe at school and overall protect the general public.”
Kentucky Education Association sent a statement to WAVE3 News, on the passage of SB 1 echoing Democrats concerns:
“The provisions of SB 1 didn’t adequately address the health and safety of Kentucky’s educators and students. Superintendents and local boards of education now have five days to decide what they are willing to do to keep their employees and students safe. Let us hope that they make decisions based on facts and not emotion. Educators are worried for themselves and their students and stand ready to work with local school districts to keep our students and communities healthy.”
SB 2 aimed to rescind power from Governor Beshear and filing a executive order to instill a mask mandate, and not allowing so until June 2022. It would also eliminate visitor bans at nursing homes.
SB 3 allocated nearly $70 million of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money to help alleviate stress on first responders. Democratic Lawmakers say Healthcare workers should get more money, in the event an employee contracts the virus while on the job. However, on the other side of the aisle, Republicans say Beshear didn’t ask for that in this bill and neither did any professional healthcare organizations, therefore it wasn’t needed to be put in. Rep. Nemes said if hindsight proves to be 20/20, that’ll be a discussion come the regular session in January.
“With respect to our healthcare we wanted to make sure that our healthcare workers and other healthcare facilities had more flexibility to get more nurses in the door for higher pay, various things, paramedics to work in the hospitals, Rep. Nemes said. “[It’s] just a lot of flexibility asked for by the Governor and professional organizations.”
SB 4 passed but didn’t need to be implemented. It stated in the event of a veto situation, lawmakers wouldn’t be compensated for days worked on the bill. However, both chambers sought to end the special session, with the looming veto in mind, and did so on Thursday just before midnight.
SB 5 passed with flying colors, 91-2. It allows for over $400 million to funnel down to Hardin County economic development. A representative spoke on behalf of the bill addressing the need for commercial venture, estimating a return of billions, enabling the area to be a place people want to live, work and stay.
Unless another special session is called by Gov. Beshear, legislators will be away from Frankfort until the regular session of the 2022 General Assembly begins January 4.
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Lawmakers scoot by Cinderella hour with veto overrides