It’s right there in the center of our state flag, in capital letters.
UNITED WE STAND.
DIVIDED WE FALL.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated our land for more than a year, the virus and the approaches to fighting it have too often turned into Democrat vs. Republican battles that serve almost no one. Politicians have rightfully said “This should not be about politics,” but then some have quickly pivoted with their comments to attack the opposition and score political points.
That needs to end, for the sake of all Kentuckians.
We have entered a new chapter as a decision last weekend from the Kentucky Supreme Court in a landmark separation-of-powers case said the legislature wields policy-making authority to limit the governor’s executive powers. The ruling ordered a lower court to dissolve an injunction that for months had blocked Republican-backed laws from curbing Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive authority, which he had used to wage an aggressive – some would call it overly aggressive – response during much of the pandemic.
The state Supreme Court in 2020 had upheld the governor’s authority to issue coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and individuals, and the legislature responded by passing the new laws this year. One of the new laws limits the governor’s executive orders in times of emergency to 30 days unless extended by lawmakers. Under another measure, businesses and schools have to comply either with COVID-19 guidelines from the governor or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They could follow whichever standard is least restrictive.
Now, with the court decision in place, we wait to see what comes next from our GOP-dominated legislature and Democratic governor.
“They’ve (the legislature) had the luxury of taking potshots at Beshear, who has kept them at arm’s length, I think unwisely. But now they have to work together,” political commentator Al Cross told The Associated Press.
So far, legislative leaders and Beshear are largely setting the right tone.
Beshear said: “I’m going to do the very best I can in the framework that’s been provided. I can still work my tail off every day with the tools that I have to protect people the very best that I can.”
In a joint statement, House Speaker David Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers said: “Let us be clear that (the Supreme Court) ruling in no way diminishes the seriousness of this virus or its impact on our commonwealth, and the General Assembly will continue to work to maintain both the safety and rights of all Kentuckians.”
That’s a good start, but the real test will be when the rubber meets the road.
Tough decisions will be needed to tackle this virus, which has been blamed for more than 7,500 deaths and countless hospitalizations and sicknesses in Kentucky. The virus is real, and real answers are needed before we can declare victory.
Stivers insists GOP lawmakers are prepared to present their plan if reconvened by the governor. “We have been formulating for quite some time things that we think would be effective,” he told the AP last week. “And if the governor decides to call us into special session, we’ll be prepared to roll those things out. Hopefully we’ll do it in collaboration with the governor’s office.”
“As a justice, and more pertinently as a lifelong Kentuckian, I implore all parties to this matter to lay down their swords and work together cooperatively to finish this immensely important task for the benefit of the people they serve,” the state’s deputy chief justice, Lisabeth T. Hughes, wrote in last weekend’s ruling.
UNITED WE STAND.
DIVIDED WE FALL.