Senate Republicans want to end Covid-19 state of emergency March 7, more than a month earlier than they voted last month

Sen. Donald Douglas, R-Nicholasville

Most of the Republicans in the GOP-controlled state Senate are supporting a resolution that would end the state of emergency that Gov. Andy Beshear declared last March 6 to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The legislation would undo a bill the General Assembly already passed to extend the state of emergency until April 15, with the limitations that the legislature imposed on it in September’s special session.

Senate Joint Resolution 150 would end the state of emergency on March 7. It has 17 sponsors.

Its lead sponsor, new Sen. Donald Douglas, a Nicholasville physician, Douglas said that date would give Beshear and legislators time to negotiate it and make changes.

“This is what our people want,” Douglas said in a Senate floor speech Friday. “This is what our constituents need. Dare I say; this is what they demand.”

Douglas said the state of emergency, which allowed Beshear to exercise special powers, including closure and limitation of businesses, “caused great harm.”

“Some will say that this emergency certainly saved lives,” he said. “Well, others will say that the changes that were forced by this emergency caused great harm not only to our economy, but also to our workforce, and to our supply chain.”

The Lexington Herald-Leader‘s Austin Horn reports, “The only senator who spoke up against the joint resolution was Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, who pointed out that Kentucky’s Covid-19 positivity rate is still about 15% and that legislators should be focusing more on getting more people vaccinated than ending the state of emergency.” Berg is a physician.

Responding to Senate President Robert Stivers’ point that California and other states that have imposed stronger restrictions than Kentucky are relaxing them, Berg said California has a 5% positive-tesr rate and 70% of its population is fully vaccinated, while Kentucky’s corresponding rates are 15% and 56%.

Beshear Communications Director Crystal Staley issued a statement saying Kentucky is still using the state of emergency to activate 300 National Guard members to help overwhelmed hospitals, and noted that the state reported 700 Covid-19 deaths last month.

“The state of emergency helps Kentucky receive federal dollars to fight the pandemic and provide relief,” Staley added, concluding, “Gov. Beshear is focused on beating the pandemic and not playing politics. He hopes others will follow that example.”

Douglass came to the Senate in November through a special election to fill the term of Republican Tom Buford, who had died. He is seeking re-election this year, and has an opponent in the May 17 primary election: Andrew Cooperrider, a Lexington coffee-shop owner who defied some of Beshear’s orders and helped lead protests against them.
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