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Petition seeks impeachment of Kentucky’s governor

January 11, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this Monday, May 11, 2020, file photo, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., to provide an update on the coronavirus pandemic. Beshear urged Kentuckians to fulfill their “patriotic duty to protect one another" as he reported the highest one-day number of coronavirus-related deaths Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, one day after the state's death toll topped 1,000 from the pandemic. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)
FILE - In this Monday, May 11, 2020, file photo, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., to provide an update on the coronavirus pandemic. Beshear urged Kentuckians to fulfill their “patriotic duty to protect one another" as he reported the highest one-day number of coronavirus-related deaths Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, one day after the state's death toll topped 1,000 from the pandemic. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican House leaders in Kentucky on Monday appointed a committee to consider a petition calling for the Democratic governor’s impeachment for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The panel’s membership was announced without comment by lawmakers at the end of the chamber’s daily session. It’s in response to a petition submitted recently by four Kentuckians. House Speaker David Osborne said he doesn’t have a choice but to proceed after receiving the petition, adding he was following a procedure set out in law.

Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday there’s “zero grounds” for his removal, declaring it would invalidate his 2019 election. He pointed to a state Supreme Court ruling that said he had the authority to put restrictions on businesses and individuals to try to contain the virus’s spread.

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“We don’t need it, shouldn’t go anywhere and don’t anticipate it will go anywhere,” Beshear said at a news conference. “I think that’s one where everybody will rise above and put our democracy here in the state above four individuals who are upset.”

The petition claims the governor violated the state and U.S. constitutions with a series of restrictions he ordered to combat the coronavirus.

Speaking with reporters, Osborne declined to answer when asked whether he thought the governor should be impeached. The speaker said it’s important to wait to see the committee’s eventual report.

“I think it would be inappropriate for anybody to comment prior to hearing the facts that are presented,” the speaker said. “If they present findings that they believe need to be discussed, then we’ll hear those at the time.”

Some GOP-led states with more lax responses have been hit much harder by the coronavirus, resulting in much higher death tolls, a contrast Beshear has noted in defending the steps he has taken.

Republican lawmakers in Kentucky moved quickly in the opening week of this year’s session to scale back the governor’s powers. They gave final passage on Saturday to bills limiting the governor’s emergency authority to imposeCOVID-19 restrictions. The GOP has enough House and Senate members to override any gubernatorial vetoes.