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Legislature Overrides Beshear Vetoes, Passes Bills On Penultimate Day

J. Tyler Franklin
Credit J. Tyler Franklin

  The Kentucky General Assembly overrode several of Gov. Andy Beshear’s vetoes, passed a constitutional amendment and advanced several other bills on the second to last day of this year’s session.

The Republican-led legislature easily overrode Beshear’s rejection of the voter ID bill, which will require Kentuckians to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot in the general election this November.

Beshear, a Democrat, vetoed the bill, saying that it would reduce access to the polls — especially during the coronavirus pandemic, when the offices that issue photo IDs are closed.

Sen. Robby Mills, a Republican from Henderson, said that voters will have enough time to get IDs.

“I am sure that we will have those clerk’s officers open and doing business later in the spring or summer and there’s going to be ample opportunity for folks that do not have a valid photo ID to obtain that free photo ID that is allowed in this piece of legislation,” Mills said.

The bill will also allow people to vote if they have a credit card or social security card and sign a form promising they are who they claim to be.

During his daily briefing on Thursday, Beshear said that lawmakers should have waited until next year to pass a voter ID bill.

“If you want to pass a voter ID bill, that’s fine. But let’s do it outside of the coronavirus. They can do it next year, they’ll have the numbers to override any veto. There’s a place and a time for everything,” Beshear said.

Lawmakers reconvened during the coronavirus pandemic with the Capitol closed to the general public. The House of Representatives adopted rules allowing members to email their votes to designated managers on the House Floor.

As of Monday evening, the legislature had overridden four of Beshear’s vetoes. That includes House Bill 336, which allows candidates for governor to pick their running mates after the primary election instead of declaring when they file to run for office, and House Bill 195, which allows some local governments to post official notices online instead of in newspapers.

House Republicans are also working on a bill that would allow some non-essential businesses that have closed during the coronavirus pandemic to reopen, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

Beshear said that Kentuckians should listen to experts instead of legislators when thinking about who should make calls about easing restrictions.

“Do you trust the governor led by the department of public health and all of our medical officials, or do you trust the legislature and lobbyists that are talking to them each day based on monetary interests out there? I don’t think that’s a hard decision,” Beshear said.

Beshear has battled with legislative leaders over the last month as lawmakers have resisted his calls for them to pass a budget and quickly adjourn this year’s session, which is required to end on Wednesday.

Kentucky’s five Republican constitutional officers issued a joint statement accusing Beshear of forcing the legislature to meet during the coronavirus pandemic by vetoing bills.

“The General Assembly returned today, amid a global pandemic, to conclude its remaining legislative business for the year. The Governor has suggested that by doing so, the General Assembly is endangering the public health of the Commonwealth. The truth of the matter is that the Governor has put them in this position,” wrote Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Secretary of State Michael Adams, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Auditor Mike Harmon and Treasurer Allison Ball.

Lawmakers also passed “Marsy’s Law,” which would add a list of rights for crime victims to the state constitution, including the right to be notified and testify at court proceedings involving someone accused of committing a crime against them.

Kentuckians will vote on whether to approve Marsy’s Law during a referendum on Election Day this year, as they did in 2018 before the state Supreme Court struck it down because of vague ballot language. The entire measure will be printed on this year’s ballots.

The ACLU of Kentucky issued a statement saying that the measure would undermine the justice system.

“Marsy’s Law uses inconsistent and confusing language that would create significant unintended consequences. We know this because other states that have implemented Marsy’s Law have faced many challenges, including a lack of transparency in the justice system; unlikely groups, like police departments, claiming victim status; and astronomical implementation costs,” ACLU of Kentucky staff attorney Heather Gatnarek wrote in a statement.

Lawmakers will return for the final day of the legislative session on Wednesday and will consider overriding Beshear’s line-item vetoes of the budget and revenue bills. They’ll consider other bills, too, though Beshear would be able to issue vetoes after tomorrow with no risk of them being overridden.

The Senate also has yet to confirm Beshear’s appointments to the state Board of Education, who have been serving on the board since he overhauled the board on his first day in office. If they aren’t confirmed on Wednesday, Beshear will have to appoint new members.

Copyright 2020 WKMS

Ryland Barton is WFPL's Managing Editor for Collaboratives.
Ryland Barton
Ryland is the state capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. Always looking to put a face to big issues,Ryland'sreporting has taken him to drought-weary towns in West Texas and relocated communities in rural China. He's covered breaking news like the 2014 shooting at Fort Hood Army Base and the aftermath of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.