Dotson slams Beshear’s COVID mandate, wants to limit his power
State Rep.-elect Ryan Dotson, R-Winchester, issued a statement Friday rebuking Gov. Andy Beshear for what he called “arbitrary edicts” to slow the spread of COVID-19 and suggested that when the state legislature meets in January, it will curtail the governor’s emergency powers.
Dotson said the governor did not consult the legislature in making his decision.
Beshear did meet with legislative leaders to inform them of his executive order, but they weren’t involved in shaping it.
“It was already predetermined before they ever had the meeting. There was no discussion, no input from the legislature at all,” Dotson said in an interview Friday, referencing a letter he said he received from Republican Speaker of the House David Osborne, R-Prospect.
Dotson said that no one individual, not even the governor, should be able to “dictate” to so many people how they should live their lives.
“Our economy is getting crippled,” Dotson told The Sun.
He said he knows “COVID-19 … is real,” but he doesn’t think that the government at any level should be able to impose restrictions to protect public health, including mandates that people wear masks or limits on how many can gather.
He said most people are wearing masks, but it hasn’t reduced the number of coronavirus cases.
“People need to take personal responsibility. If you’re a sick individual and this sickness can escalate things in your life, you need to take every precaution possible. Wear the mask. Do all the things the governor is prescribing when it comes to personal safety,” he said, but “it should be a personal choice.”
When he was asked about hospital intensive care units being at capacity at some hospitals in the state, Dotson said he was concerned about people’s mental health and suicide because so many people are in isolation and can’t see their families.
In an interview with The Sun prior to the general election, Dotson had said he was at first supportive of the governor’s actions in the spring, but he thought he overstepped his authority.
When the pandemic occurred, he said, “we didn’t know what to expect. There were so many unknowns. But at the end of the day, if you’re unsure, you always err on the side of freedom.”
Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron earlier this year took legal action against Beshear for issuing emergency orders, but the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled recently that the actions were constitutional and the governor was acting within his authority.
But the legislature can change that, Dotson suggested.
“The governor has the power that the legislature gives them when it comes to executive orders,” he said.
Republicans, who have a veto-proof supermajority in the state House and Senate, have proposed legislation to allow the governor to declare a state of emergency for only 14 days. After that, he would have to call the legislature into session to get its permission to extend it.
But Dotson implied that the Republicans’ efforts to limit the governor’s powers might go beyond that measure.
“The House leadership has already got things worked out,” he said. “That will be one of the first things that will be on the agenda.”
Following is Dotson’s statement in its entirety. The only edits were for punctuation, abbreviation and capitalization:
“On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Gov. Beshear issued more arbitrary edicts on restaurants, schools and gatherings in response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases. As in the spring, he issued these edicts without consulting the legislature. By refusing to include legislators and local leaders in his decision-making, he is silencing the will of all Kentuckians.
“The governor’s restrictions lack structure and initiative. Not only are they inconsistent, but they lack considerations like the size of an event space or the capability of a restaurant to safely social distance and follow protocol provided by the CDC. Even moreso, the inherent overreach by closing schools is a huge blow to the decision-making ability of local school boards.
“As your state representative-elect, I will fight for your needs and concerns, especially as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s response to it. While I am disappointed in the new restrictions from Gov. Beshear and gravely concerned that they will do no more than drive thousands more Kentuckians out of work without stopping the spread of the virus, we can look forward to January, when the people’s branch of government will speak louder than ever. I can assure you that I will fight for the people of this community.”