Removing clerks' names from marriage licenses will be among top priorities of Gov.-elect Matt Bevin

11/06/2015 08:07 PM

FRANKFORT — Republican Gov.-elect Matt Bevin plans to make marriage licensing one of his first priorities after his inauguration Dec. 8, pledging Friday to take executive action to strip county clerks’ names from the documents.

Bevin spoke to the media in the Capitol Rotunda in his first post-election news conference, where he reiterated his plan to shutter Kentucky’s health insurance exchange, kynect, as well as his stance against releasing his tax returns.

The state’s next governor spent much of his day at the Capitol meeting with his transition team and legislative leaders, saying he expects to announce his chief of staff and general counsel next week and “many of the key positions in place” by Dec. 8.

“But we’re not rushing to simply fill things,” Bevin said. “It’s important for people to understand we’re going to do this the proper way, and if we don’t have the right person, we’re not going to quickly make a random decision.”

One of Bevin’s first initiatives will be to alter Kentucky marriage licenses by removing the names of county clerks, a promise he made as Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis captured state and national media attention in her legal battle over issuing licenses in response to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Davis, who was briefly jailed for her defiance of a federal court order to resume issuing marriage licenses, became symbolic for religious conservatives, sparking a visit at the Carter County Detention Center from Bevin and GOP presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz as well as a religious freedom rally on the Capitol grounds.

Bevin said he would act on removing clerks’ names from marriage forms “right away” before looking to make the licenses available online.

He said the forms would be filed with county clerks like other legal documents, such as property deeds.

“The argument that that cannot be done is baloney,” he said of removing clerks’ names. “We’ve already changed those forms three times for crying out loud. … We will do that by executive order. We will do it right out of the gate.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who described a “very positive” half-hour meeting between House Democratic leaders and Bevin earlier in the day, said he “would encourage” Bevin to take such action.

“I called for a special session,” he told reporters after a House Democratic caucus meeting in the Capitol Annex. “My clerk’s upset about that issue, and he’s as genuine a person as I’ve ever known in my life, so that ought to be resolved.”

But one issue on which the next administration and House Democrats will likely differ is health initiatives implemented under the Affordable Care Act. With a split legislature, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear enacted kynect and Medicaid expansion via executive order.

“Obviously Kentucky kynect was not a creature of legislative, we didn’t establish it through statute,” Stumbo said. “I don’t really know. I haven’t researched long enough to know whether or not he can do it by executive order, if he can dismantle what was done by executive order or not. I don’t know the answer to that.”

Bevin made clear he plans to do just that, setting a goal of transitioning to the federal exchange by the end of 2016 open enrollment cycle.

The Lexington Herald-Leader and Louisville Courier-Journal reported this week that decommissioning the state exchange requires a one-year notification and could cost the state more than $20 million.

Bevin also touched on his plans to request 1115 demonstration waivers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, similar to those received by Indiana.

Some 400,000 Kentuckians have enrolled in expanded Medicaid, and the state will pay 10 percent of the program’s cost by 2021, with the federal government covering the remaining 90 percent.

Indiana enrolls recipients at 138 percent of the federal poverty level and requires a $1 monthly premium for most newly eligible adults, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Bevin said he hopes to craft a system that “will allow us to do as much or more for people and possibly even to higher levels of the federal poverty level.”

“But it will involve people having skin in the game,” he said. “It will involve people having involvement in their own health outcomes, taking financial and personal responsibility for these things. … It isn’t an attempt to cut people off, but rather to ensure that people have access in a way that allows the taxpayer who’s subsidizing this to be able to afford it.”

The governor-elect also said he has no plans to release his income tax returns anytime soon.

Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to capitalize on his refusal to release tax documents during the gubernatorial campaign, saying other candidates of both parties had done so in the past.

“I don’t,” he said when asked when he planned to release his tax returns. Bevin told Pure Politics on the campaign trail that he would publicize his tax returns as governor, which others have done.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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