Attorney General Beshear threatens legal challenge to Gov. Bevin's education-related reorganization order

06/07/2017 06:16 PM

FRANKFORT – Attorney General Andy Beshear will likely take Gov. Matt Bevin back to court after the governor reorganized several education-focused boards on Friday.

Beshear announced during a Capitol news conference Wednesday that he sent Bevin’s office a letter asking the governor to reconsider his executive order that created the Kentucky Charter Schools Advisory Council and reshuffled others, including the Kentucky Board of Education.

If the order stands after seven days, Beshear says he will take Bevin to court over the moves that he says are unconstitutional.

“The governor does not have absolute authority over state governing boards,” Beshear said.

“He cannot ignore laws passed by the General Assembly that create these boards, lay out their structure and set mandatory terms for those members that are supposed to protect them from this type of governor’s influence, and he cannot rewrite laws that he does not like simply by issuing executive orders. That is exactly what he is doing.”

Bevin and Beshear have sparred often in state courtrooms since the two took office for their first terms. The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed the governor’s $18 million current-year cuts to state universities in September, and Beshear’s lawsuit challenging Bevin’s reorganization of the University of Louisville board of trustees is also before the state’s highest court on appeal after Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that Bevin overstepped his authority.

The attorney general said if he sues Bevin over his latest reorganization order, he’ll push to put an appeal before the Supreme Court immediately.

“What we have seen is an unprecedented use by this governor of this reorganization statute,” Beshear said. “… It is clear to me that he will not stop until the Supreme Court says you do not have this power over these independent, autonomous state boards.”

But Bevin spokesman Woody Maglinger called Bevin’s use of the reorganization law to reshuffle the education-oriented boards last week “legal and proper, and in line with the actions of prior governors.”

He noted that executive branch agencies have been reorganized 357 times since 1992, with 103 of those coming from Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear.

“Attorney General Andy Beshear must think the law applies differently to Republicans and Democrats,” Maglinger said in a statement.

“He is wrong. As an example of just two of these similar executive acts, does AG Beshear believe his father acted illegally by completely abolishing and recreating the Horse Racing Commission (Executive Order 2008-668) by executive order? What about Steve Beshear’s abolition and recreation of the State Fair Board (Executive Order 2014-834)? Or is AG Beshear just a hypocrite?”

Beshear, however, said the governor is in uncharted waters with his executive actions.

“No governor has ever, I think, done seven education boards all at the same time, and to my knowledge, when you look at the changes to Senate Bill 1 and the board, no governor has ever tried to rewrite a piece of legislation less than two months after it was signed and I think before it went into full effect,” Beshear said, referencing Bevin’s addition of three gubernatorial appointments to the Standards and Assessments Process Review Committee that gave the governor six total picks on the board.

Senate President Robert Stivers said he supported Bevin’s executive action on the education boards and that he couldn’t remember any attorney general suing a governor as often as Beshear has Bevin over the reorganization law since he joined the General Assembly in 1997.

He also accused Beshear, a Democrat, of trying to score political points against Bevin, a Republican.

“The recent letter from Attorney General Beshear threatening to sue Governor Bevin over a reorganization is yet another example of our Attorney General picking and choosing which cases to defend and not defend on behalf of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Stivers, R-Manchester, said in a statement.

“I stand with Governor Bevin as I have in similar lawsuits in the past related to board reorganizations, and I believe this is nothing more than a political ploy from Attorney General Beshear.”

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said that Hoover has been traveling and holding meetings in northern Kentucky and has not reviewed Beshear’s letter.

Beshear said politics were not a factor in his decision to potentially sue Bevin over his latest reorganizations.

“I’ve got a pretty good track record thus far in going to court about what the law is, and here the governor’s violated it,” he said.


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