Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in a statement July 10 that a court rule whether Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive order requiring Kentuckians to wear masks was done in violation of a restraining order handed down July 9.
“Had the governor consulted with our office and the leadership of the General Assembly on his order prior to its issuance, this step would have been unnecessary,” Cameron said in the statement. “The governor has refused input on his executive orders, despite offers of assistance. This pattern has led to numerous challenges in court, all of which he has lost.
“To be clear, the request we are making to the court today is not about whether or not it is appropriate to wear a mask,” Cameron said in the statement. “It is my belief that masks are an important tool in fighting this pandemic. It is, however, about determining if the governor’s executive order mandating mask use follows state law. As the chief law officer for the commonwealth, it is my duty to raise this question before the court and ensure that the law is followed.”
On July 9, a Scott Circuit Judge issued a temporary restraining order on Beshear’s executive orders related to COVID-19 and ordered for Beshear to cease issuing or enforcing executive orders related to COVID-19 unless the orders meet specific criteria for an emergency as outlined by state law.
The decision came from a lawsuit, of which Cameron joined, that challenged Beshear’s use of executive power during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit was filed by Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and Evans Orchard and Cider Mill, LLC, an agritourism business in Georgetown. The business sued after implementing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic that were in line with Beshear’s orders, including requiring employees to wear masks, sanitation protocols for the facility and reduced capacity to comply with social distancing.
The day of the judge’s announcement and restraining order, Beshear held a press conference where he announced that he signed an executive order mandating that all Kentuckians wear face masks or facial coverings in certain public situations, starting 5 p.m. on July 10.
Beshear said the mandate will last for 30 days, and it will be enforced by local health departments and other people. He provided some exemptions to the mandate, including people with breathing difficulties, children under 5 years old and people engaging in exercise while keeping social distance. Beshear said that the order was decided after cases of the virus have continued to escalate in Kentucky and have continued to surge across the country.
“It’s going to be as simple as, if someone doesn’t wear a mask in your place of business, then they cannot be served,” Beshear said. “If you’re going to a restaurant or bar and if you’re waiting in line outside, you gotta wear a mask and inside until you’re ready to eat or wearing one, too.”
Quarles said in a statement July 9 that he shares the governor’s concerns over public health but that the lawsuit is related to the need for due process.
"Contrary to the governor’s performance this afternoon, this lawsuit isn’t about him,” Quarles said. “It isn’t political. It isn’t personal. It’s about people who have been deprived of their rights to participate in the policy-making process.
"All that I am asking him to do is to issue emergency administrative regulations that take effect immediately - with a public comment period, like the law requires,” Quarles continued. “The governor’s rhetoric makes it sound like he is unaware of this part of the law. Public health is paramount in a pandemic, but we don’t need to eliminate due process. I follow CDC guidelines. We all should. But the process in Kentucky has left people out of the conversation.”