FRANKFORT, Ky. — Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) says he wants to focus on getting people vaccinated against the coronavirus.

That starts with a public service campaign in his Clay County district, along with some incentives. 

What You Need To Know

  • Senate President Robert Stivers discussed a vaccine incentive program in Clay County Tuesday

  • The program offers monetary prizes along with coupons for pizza bread at a local restaurant

  • Lawmakers may have to pass new COVID-19 regulations during a special session soon

  • Stivers said he doesn’t want to mandate vaccines or implement a statewide mask mandate


“For us to get our schools, our economy, our lifestyles back, the best way to do that is to take the shots,” Stivers said.

Stivers says local leaders, like doctors, teachers, pastors, and elected officials, will promote the vaccine. Schools will coordinate vaccine drives with incentives like a raffle for money and restaurant coupons.

Stivers says he hopes the idea will catch on in other areas.

“This would be something that could easily be ramped up in many counties based upon what their specific dynamics are,” he said.

Following the Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision allowing limits on the governor’s emergency power to take effect, Stivers says lawmakers will not mandate vaccines on anyone, and likely won’t be mandating anything across the entire state.

“I don’t think mandates work very well. They haven’t,” he said. “Encouragement is one thing, mandating is another. And we had some other ideas that we wished we could have proposed, but it didn’t happen.”

If a special session happens, Stivers says Republicans will look at targeted measures — he specifically mentioned restrictions for state-run prisons — leaving other ideas for city or county leaders to implement.

They could also give schools more flexibility with virtual learning, although Stivers says he wants to keep kids in school.

“There are a lot of social ills, emotional ills with this,” Stivers said. “We’re seeing five opioid deaths a day, which most mental health care providers will tell you is due to the isolation that increased.”

In a statement, Kentucky Democratic Party chairman Colmon Elridge criticized Stivers.

“Senator Stivers and the Republican supermajority had 16 months to come up with a plan to keep Kentuckians safe and today we finally heard the first part of their proposal — free pizza,” he said. “Governor Beshear has done the right thing and made the tough calls during the pandemic, and he’s saved lives because of it. It’s time for the GOP supermajority to stop playing politics and start working with Governor Beshear to defeat COVID."

As for a possible special session, the choice to call one is completely up to Gov. Andy Beshear.  

He said Monday he may call one sometime in the next three weeks, before his emergency declaration is set to expire under a new state law.

Spokeswoman Crystal Staley said Beshear met with Senate leadership on Monday and plans to meet with House leadership Wednesday.

“Gov. Beshear outlined the important, non-controversial measures that will expire if the state of emergency is not extended,” she said in a statement. “Those include the risk of losing large amounts of funding, steps to increase our health care capacity, expanded meals for children and families, workers’ compensation for front-line workers who contract COVID-19 as well as the ability to fight price gouging.”

Staley said the governor will continue to recommend steps that need to be taken, including the need to wear masks.