Republican State Treasurer Allison Ball says that Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear violated the U.S. constitution when he banned mass-gatherings early on during the coronavirus pandemic because he also banned gatherings at churches.
At the time, several churches defied the order and Beshear sent state troopers to record license plate numbers of cars parked in church parking lots. Those violating the order were told to quarantine for two weeks.
Ball issued a report on Thursday outlining why she thinks Beshear’s orders were unconstitutional.
During a presentation to a state legislative committee on Thursday, Ball said that using state troopers to enforce the order was an inappropriate use of state funds.
“They have been put in the untenable position of having to either obey the governor or follow the constitution. And that’s wrong. They should not be put in that position,” Ball said.
Beshear lifted his ban on mass gatherings on May 9, allowing churches to hold in-person gatherings at 33% capacity.
One of the churches that continued to meet in person, Maryville Baptist Church in Bullitt Co., sued Beshear and a federal court temporarily blocked the order from staying in effect.
The church has continued to sue Beshear, but an appeals court recently said the case is moot because Beshear modified his order.
Ball urged lawmakers to clip Beshear’s emergency powers.
“It’s not fair to the people of Kentucky that they have to resort to federal courts to make sure that their constitutional rights are protected. This could be dealt with pretty clearly if it’s included in legislation,” Ball said.
Leaders of the Republican-led legislature have been frustrated that they don’t have much power outside of the annual legislative session and lawmakers have already said that they plan to alter Beshear’s ability to issue executive orders during states of emergency when the legislature reconvenes in January.
Rep. Savannah Maddox, a Republican from Dry Ridge, said that Beshear’s orders were “unilateral decrees” that infringed upon First Amendment rights.
“Never again should Kentuckians be left without a voice and without recourse in a situation like this,” said Maddox, who has filed a bill that would allow people to sue over Beshear’s orders.
Rep. Nima Kulkarini, a Democrat from Louisville said that Ball narrowly focused on the grievances of a few churches.
“I understand the balancing of the constitutional interests that we all have to take into account, but we are in the middle of a public health crisis. And what we should be discussing here in this committee is how do we help our commonwealth survive this crisis,” Kulkarni said.
The legislature goes back into session on January 5th.