Beshear calls special session; GOP uses it to remove power from Gov. and push conspiracy theories

"There's been some reports … that that's a bait and switch by the FDA and it's really not approved,” said Rep, Danny Bentley, citing an unconfirmed online report that the FDA didn’t actually approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, despite the fact that the FDA has said they did.

Bentley, a pharmacist, is part of a cadre of Republicans who pushed unconfirmed and debunked conspiracy theories in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Kentucky that has some local hospitals at or near capacity.

The GOP-led legislature has effectively removed all of Democratic Gov. Beshear's Emergency powers to respond to the pandemic. At this time in Kentucky, observers and legal experts state that the legislature, led by the GOP, is firmly responsible for any future responses to the pandemic. The major shift in power in the state’s government comes from a decision made by the state Supreme Court in response to Republican lawsuits claiming that the governor had overstepped his authority. The Court agreed, leaving the General Assembly effectively in charge of the state’s COVID-19 response from this point forward.

Southworth questions masks and vaccines

Senator Adrienne Southworth (R-Lawrenceburg) questioned the efficacy of masks and vaccines.  Southworth expressed her concerns concisely, ”Those are the only solutions we have had for a year, and look where we are — worse than ever.”

Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor) responded by pointing out that the vast majority of people in the hospitals in his region with COVID-19 were unvaccinated.

Southworth put forth a proposal that health facility employees be able to opt out of mandatory COVID-19 vaccines. She also proposed that patients in hospitals be allowed to choose and be given medicines not approved by the hospital and their physicians. This was in response to an Ohio court case where a patient sued their hospital to try to force the facility to give them Ivermectin, an unproven treatment for animals that some believe can treat COVID-19. The judge sided with the hospital in not forcing the medical facility to dispense unproven and potentially dangerous drugs.

Both of Southworth’s proposals were rejected by the Senate.

Tate mischaracterizes an FDA database

Rep. Nancy Tate of Brandenburg cited an FDA database that records deaths after someone has had a vaccine. The database is, in reality, a tracking tool. The deaths recorded there don’t indicate causation, but simply observe that someone had a vaccine then died shortly afterward. For example, someone who is 95 who gets the vaccine and dies a week later will be recorded there. The FDA will then research trends in the reports to see if there are trends looking for causation.

Tate questioned why those deaths are being ignored, not acknowledging that this same database caused the temporary hold on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when fears of blood clots arose. It was later found that the vaccine didn’t cause the blood clots; that the deaths were coincidental.

Conspiracy theories everywhere

In both committee meetings and during debate on the floor, many conspiracy theories that can be found online made their way into the Legislature’s conversations. In most cases, the amendments based on unfounded conspiracy theories didn’t make it into the final bills, but all are part of the permanent record of the Kentucky General Assembly.

The Special Session end with some action

The special session ended with two overrides of Gov. Beshear’s vetoes of Senate Bills 1 & 2.

The bills ban the governor’s school mask mandate, giving districts 20 remote learning days to use if there's an outbreak. Otherwise, the bill left many legislators and educators disappointed as it does little to alleviate the worries and concerns that many have about how to handle schooling in the midst of the COVID-19 delta variant outbreak that is affecting children more than any variant has to date.

Senate Bill 3 passed. It earmarks $69 million of federal dollars to address the pandemic.

The legislature upheld several of the governor’s policy requests and extended the state of emergency for COVID-19. Some of the executive orders issued by the governor were also upheld.

Beshear response

Beshear responded to the session by saying, “"I've been willing to make the calls, to take the hits, to make the plays. And the legislature asked to go in at QB. And what did they do? They punted on first down.``

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