FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s Democratic attorney general said Wednesday he will sue the state’s Republican governor for a fourth time if he does not revoke a recent executive order targeting public education.
Andy Beshear told reporters he is giving Gov. Matt Bevin seven days to rescind the order or he will take him to court. Beshear has already won a case at the state Supreme Court while two others are still pending. Beshear is seen as a possible challenger when Bevin runs for re-election in 2019, and the two men have had an acrimonious relationship.
Since taking office, Bevin has relied on an obscure state law to remake much of state government. The law gives the governor the ability to reorganize boards and commissions while the state legislature is not in session. The governor’s order stays in effect until lawmakers can review it.
Bevin has used the order to abolish and replace at least 12 boards and commissions, including the boards of trustees at the Kentucky Retirement Systems and University of Louisville. Beshear filed two lawsuits against Bevin for those orders, both of which are still pending.
Beshear says the law gives the governor the authority to reorganize cabinet agencies that report directly to him. But he says the law does not give the governor “absolute authority” over independent boards and commissions whose duties and terms are set by the state legislature.
On Friday, Bevin issued an executive order that dissolved four boards that oversee various aspects of the state’s public education system, including boards that oversaw the certification of public school teachers and made recommendations about curriculum. The action removed more than 35 board members before their terms expired. Bevin then re-created the boards and appointed new members to replace them. All of those boards had been created by the state legislature.
The order also altered a Senate education bill that Bevin signed into law earlier this year by giving him more control over a board lawmakers created to assess state education standards.
“He cannot rewrite laws he does not like simply by issuing executive orders,” Beshear said. “He wants to substitute his own judgment and his own opinions for what the General Assembly did and to change the law.”
Bevin spokesman Woody Maglinger said the governor’s actions are “legal and proper, and in line with the actions of prior governors.” He said Democratic and Republican governors have issued similar executive orders 357 times since 1992. Maglinger said Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who is Andy Beshear’s father, issued 103 such orders. They included two orders that abolished and replaced the Horse Racing Commission and the State Fair Board, two entities created by the state legislature.
“Does AG Beshear believe his father acted illegally,” Maglinger wrote in an email. “Or is AG Beshear just a hypocrite?”
Andy Beshear said he was not attorney general when his dad was governor, but said he would have sued his dad if he issued an executive order he thought was illegal.
“I would have stood up for the rule of law and if he had entered an illegal executive order, yes,” Andy Beshear said. “I would have first given him seven days, but I think my dad would have had the sense to think about it and maybe change his mind.”