LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is asking a judge to block Gov. Andy Beshear from enforcing any coronavirus orders in the state, a move that comes as new infections have been rising.
But Cameron argued in a motion in Boone County Circuit Court filed Thursday that the governor’s actions are “arbitrary,” exceed his authority under the law and violate the state constitution. Among other things, Cameron alleges, Beshear failed to list the “precise emergency” facing Kentucky.
“Despite not having clearly defined the emergency, the Governor then issued a series of restrictive executive orders, effectively shuttering the Commonwealth’s economy and dictating the manner in which Kentucky’s citizens lead their lives,” the motion claims.
In one example, it describes Beshear’s order that banned small gatherings as an “unchecked, totalitarian use of emergency authority” that violates the state constitution and is “antithetical to democratic ideals, and is contrary to the customs and maxims of a free people.”
The filing is the latest in a legal battle between Cameron, a Republican, and the Democratic Beshear that stretches across three local courts, the state’s appeals panel and the Kentucky Supreme Court. Cameron has intervened in lawsuits brought in Boone and Scott counties by business owners who have successfully challenged some of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Beshear has asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to rule on those lower court decisions, even as the cases continue in those venues.
A hearing in the Scott County case was held Thursday afternoon, but Judge Brian Privett said he will wait until the Supreme Court rules before he proceeds. A hearing on Cameron's Boone County motion hasn't yet been scheduled.
Beshear told Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones in an interview Thursday that Cameron’s motion is “pretty unbelievable” and “reckless.” He said he expects to prevail at the Supreme Court, where it’s likely all of the lawsuits will eventually be decided.
At a press conference in Frankfort hours later, Beshear reported 413 new cases of the virus in Kentucky. That's down from the 477 announced Wednesday, although the state's number of new cases and the positivity rate are both higher than previous levels.
"I'm going to do what it takes to protect the people of Kentucky, but folks this is wrong," Beshear said, referring to the Cameron motion.
Meanwhile, the leaders of Kentucky's legislative Democrats issued a statement questioning Cameron's actions.
"It is difficult to fathom why anyone, much less our chief law enforcement officer, would want to take such drastic action. The law, however, is clear: The General Assembly has granted broad emergency powers to the governor, and we reinforced that during the final days of this year’s legislative session."
Cameron tweeted that Beshear has failed to work with him and the legislature's majority Republican leaders to address problems lower courts have found with the executive orders. “This is not about the Governor’s policies, it’s about making sure he follows the law,” Cameron wrote.
On Tuesday, Beshear asked a Franklin County Circuit Court judge to declare that he acted within his authority when requiring most Kentuckians to wear masks in public. Cameron has asked a Scott County judge to determine if that order violated a temporary restraining order that appears to affect all the COVID-19 restrictions.
Beshear asked the state Supreme Court to strike down rulings that blocked his orders restricting crowd sizes at Florence Speedway and at agritourism sites as well as class sizes at day care centers.
Both filings declared the state is embroiled in “a life-and-death battle against COVID-19 — the gravest threat to public health in over a century. The stakes could not be higher to Kentuckians."
The Associated Press contributed.
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