Special Session focused on state and local pandemic response concludes
After three days and overriding two gubernatorial vetoes, the General Assembly wrapped up a special session focused on COVID-19 challenges. The session was called in part as a result of a recent Kentucky Supreme Court ruling that left in place the 2021 law requiring legislative approval for any executive order issued by the governor to continue in effect past 30 days.
The first action taken by the General Assembly in the Special Session was the passage of House Joint Resolution 1 (HJR1), which was signed into law Tuesday evening. HJR1 extends many of the emergency executive orders, administrative regulations and other directives issued by Gov. Andy Beshear and executive branch agencies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic until Jan. 15, 2022.
Four provisions in HJR1 of particular interest to counties:
- Extension of liability protection for local governments from frivolous lawsuits related to COVID-19
- Extension of Executive Order which allows fiscal courts to conduct meetings via video teleconference while providing a link for public viewing of the meetings instead of requiring fiscal courts to provide a public space for viewing the meeting
- Extension of Executive Order allowing retired county, city and state law enforcement officers, emergency medical service personnel and firefighters to return to work (applies to those with an effective retirement date Mar. 1, 2020 or before)
- Extension of emergency declaration for Nicholas County for flooding
- Removal of statewide mask mandate for students and staff in schools, leaving the decision up to school districts
- Removal of statewide mask mandates for children and staff in childcare facilities
- Schools allowed up to 20 days of remote instruction, but districts remain limited to 10 Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) days a year
- Directs the Cabinet for Health and Family to assist health care and incarceration facilities in acquiring and distributing COVID-19 tests
- Prohibits visitor bans at nursing homes and long-term care facilities
- Provides for immunization exemptions for medical contraindications, religious grounds and conscientiously held beliefs
- Appropriation of American Rescue Plan Act dollars
- Economic development funding
HJR1 - Extension of COVID-related Executive Orders and Emergency Regulations
State of emergency
- Extends 2020 Executive Order 2020-215, which declared a state of emergency.
COVID-19 liability protection
- Extends provisions of Senate Bill 5 from the 2021 General Session, which provides liability protection to the state, local governments, businesses and schools from facing frivolous lawsuits related to COVID-19.
- Extends 2020 Executive Order 2020-243, which allows fiscal courts to conduct meetings via video teleconference while providing a link for public viewing of the meetings instead of requiring fiscal courts to provide a public space for viewing the meeting.
Nicholas County flash flood damage
- Extends Executive Order No. 2021-565 dated Aug. 3, 2021, which provides an additional 30 days to ensure any necessary emergency services that may be required are provided to residents and businesses of Nicholas County and Carlisle.
- FEMA has denied the disaster declaration for this event. Gov. Beshear’s administration is appealing the decision.
Kentucky Board of Emergency Management Services
- Extends several KBEMS COVID-19 Emergency Waivers and Modifications, including minimal training for ambulance drivers.
- Extends 202 KAR 7:201, 202 KAR 7:301, 202 KAR 7:330, and 202 KAR 7:401, which broadens eligibility for certification for EMRs, EMTs, AEMTs and Paramedics.
- Extends 202 KAR 7:560, suspending the requirement for having a Paramedic on duty 25 percent of the time.
First responders returning to work
- Extends 2020 Executive Order 2020-265, related to retired first responders returning to work during an emergency, including allowing retired county, city and state law enforcement officers, emergency medical service personnel, firefighters including volunteer firefighters, Kentucky Department of Parks park rangers and Kentucky Department of Corrections officers to return to work. Applies to those with an effective retirement date Mar. 1, 2020 or before.
Other extensions include:
- Executive Order 2020-220, related to health insurers waiving costs for COVID-19 screening, testing and immunizations.
- 2020 Executive Order 2020-243 to the extent that the order:
- Encourages social distancing among residents; and
- Requires state agencies to:
- Encourage social distancing;
- Provide and conduct services by mail, internet, phone and/or video conferencing;
- Extend licenses, credentials or certificates that require in-person appearances or education for renewal;
- Permit education and continuing education to be satisfied online;
- Extend deadlines for statutory or regulatory reporting; and
- Extend deadlines for payments of fees, taxes and assessments, and waive late payment penalties incurred.
Senate Bill 1 - Education and childcare
- Nullifies statewide mask mandates for students and staff in schools, leaving the decision up to school districts.
- Nullifies mask mandates for children and staff in childcare facilities.
- Allows schools up to 20 days of remote instruction to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
- Remote learning is different from remote instruction, which can be used for districtwide closures. Districts remain limited to 10 Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) days a year.
- Provides that pandemic relief funds may be used for the cost of hiring critical shortage teachers and reduces the waiting period for rehiring retired teachers from three months to one month.
Senate Bill 2 - Healthcare
- Nullifies 902 KAR 2:211E and 902 KAR 2:212E requiring facial coverings, and prevents an identical or substantially similar administrative regulation from taking effect until after June 1, 2023.
- Requires that any administrative order issued by a local public health department requiring immunization during an epidemic include exemptions for medical contraindications, religious grounds, and conscientiously held beliefs
- Prohibits visitor bans at nursing homes, allows essential caregivers into nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
- Requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to assist and support COVID-19 antibody administration centers, one per area development district.
- Requires the Cabinet to assist and support hospitals, licensed healthcare providers, jails, prisons, homeless shelters, local health departments and other entities in acquiring COVID-19 tests.
- Allows paramedics to be employed by a hospital or nursing facility through Jan. 31, 2022.
Senate Bill 3 - American Rescue Plan (ARP) appropriation
- Appropriates $69,268,300 of state ARP funds in FY22 to the General Administration and Program Support budget unit within the Health and Family Services Cabinet to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Funds can be used for COVID-19 testing, assisting established providers of monoclonal antibody treatment and assisting additional providers in establishing monoclonal treatment centers, and providing for "Test and Stay" COVID-19 testing at schools.
- Decreases ARP appropriation to the Employment Services budget unit from $575 billion to $505 billion in FY22.
Senate Bill 5 - Economic development funding
- With the legislature in town, the governor’s office worked with legislative leaders to bolster Kentucky’s economic development packages by appropriating approximately $410 million from the state’s $1.9 billion Budget Reserve Trust Fund in FY22 for economic development incentives for mega projects.
- $350 million for the funding of Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority forgivable loans for economic development projects with a minimum investment of $2 billion.
- $20 million to make training grants under the Bluegrass State Skills Corporation programs to support economic development projects with a minimum investment of $2 billion.
- $5 million to develop or create training grants under the KCTCS-TRAINS program to support economic development projects with a minimum investment of $2 billion.
- $10.6 million to pay off a loan made between the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, Hardin County and Elizabethtown-Hardin County Industrial Foundation.
- $25 million to the Kentucky Community and Technical College System for a capital project to construct an onsite training center in Hardin County.