Gov. Bevin expects action on "pent-up" issues in next year's session, but not transgender bathroom legislation

12/09/2016 04:57 PM

LOUISVILLE – Gov. Matt Bevin took a look back and a look forward during a year-end news conference covering his first year in office on Friday.

He praised the passage of expungement, public-private partnership and informed consent legislation during this year’s legislative session as well as his administration’s red tape reduction initiative and apprenticeship program during the hour-long event at ZEGGZ Amazing Eggs.

Looking ahead to next year, Bevin says he expect to see action on “pent-up” issues with the state’s General Assembly firmly in Republican hands after this year’s elections. The GOP won control of the House of Representatives by a 64-36 margin on Election Day, giving the party supermajorities in both chambers.

Bevin stressed that the flow of legislation would be decided by leadership in both chambers. He told reporters that he asked Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker-elect Jeff Hoover to get each lawmaker’s top priorities ahead of next year’s session and “take those top three to five things from each individual, put them all down on a sheet of paper and figure out what’s the common theme.”

“The fact is they (constituents) want people to address and vote on and get resolution on things like school choice and right-to-work and tort reform and pension reform and tax reform and prevailing wage, things of this sort,” he said. “Those are things that I am anticipating will come forward.”

Bevin says he expects matters like pension and tax reform to be addressed in a special session next year since those likely can’t be handled in the 30-day timeframe of the 2017 session.

“They’ll probably both be discussed at the same time,” he said. “There are groups that have been working for quite some time and are continuing to work on what those should look like, people who are elected officials, people who are not elected officials.

“They’re now sharing that information, working together so that when if there is a special session, and there almost certainly will be in 2017 to address this issue, there will not just be, ‘OK, now let’s open a session and let’s talk about it.’ There will be very specific, concrete things, but it will require structural changes ultimately.”

But one issue that isn’t on the governor’s radar is legislation on transgender bathroom policy.

“Is there anyone you know in Kentucky who has trouble going to the bathroom?” Bevin asked.

“The last thing we need is more government rules,” he continued. “I’m cutting red tape, not creating it, and I intend to actually see us cut red tape. Making government rules that don’t even need government rules would be silly.”

Bevin also took issue with the media’s coverage of Attorney General Andy Beshear.

The governor said reporters should ask why he had to challenge federal guidelines on transgender bathroom usage and overtime rules rather than Beshear.

He says the press has also failed to cover a recent lawsuit alleging sexual discrimination by a former female staffer in Beshear’s office.

That’s a reference to allegations raised by Laine Kaiser, who accused Beshear of denying her request for a raise while granting raises or giving new job assignments to male employees, according to a report by the Lexington Herald-Leader. Beshear’s office called the accusations raised by Kaiser “untrue.”

“There’s a big, stinky mess over in his office, and I sent a text, which you all were more enamored with the idea of the fact that I would text him and tell him to get his house in order,” Bevin said, noting also that his former top deputy Tim Longmeyer “is now in prison for embezzlement and bribery.” “I meant it then, and I mean it now. He needs to get his house in order. He absolutely needs to get his house in order.”

When asked about the progress of his administration’s investigation into alleged corruption under the previous administration helmed by Gov. Steve Beshear, Bevin said reports are “starting to come in.”

But he accused reporters of assuming Beshear’s office is the target of the inquiry.

“When we announced this, we said that we were going to investigate corruption in the state of Kentucky, in the city of Frankfort and beyond, and we were going to talk about corruption that has occurred both in the past and is ongoing that needs to be nipped in the bud,” Bevin said. “That, if you look at what we stated when we came out of the gate, is the focus of this investigation, and yet interestingly every time it’s reported, it’s as if this is an investigation specifically of the previous governor. That’s something you all immediately assumed. I find it kind of interesting you all assume that’s who’s corrupt. That seems to be an assumption you all made. That was nothing that was ever said by us.”

“It isn’t about a specific administration,” he added. “It’s about the entire process. It’s not about an individual or that individual’s particular administration.”

That’s counter to what Bevin said in April when he announced the investigation by the state’s Finance and Administration Cabinet, specifically mentioning allegations of state workers being coerced to contribute to Andy Beshear’s and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jack Conway’s campaigns, contract issues in Steve Beshear’s final days in office and workers’ compensation irregularities.

The opening sentence of a press release from his office announcing the investigation specifically mentions “potentially illegal and unethical contracting processes during the previous administration.”

“Of course it’s about them,” he said after Pure Politics read from the press release. “I just said the same thing again this morning. Again, it’s not about a single person. … I didn’t mention (Beshear) specifically as it related to this. I’m talking about the administration he was responsible for, and sure enough, it was his head of Personnel Cabinet that’s now in federal prison, so of course that’s who it’s about.”

Beshear denied any wrongdoing by his administration in the days after Bevin announced the investigation, aided by an Indianapolis law firm that received a $500,000 contract for the work.

Longmeyer, a former Personnel Cabinet secretary under Beshear who was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison, pleaded guilty to a state felony of misusing confidential information on Thursday, according to a report by The Courier-Journal, and he declined to contest charges leveled by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission that he pressured cabinet employees to give political contributions while on state time.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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