Bevin And Beshear Argue Whether Governor Can Suspend Law

Sep 27, 2017

Credit Andy Beshear, Matt Bevin, official photos

  Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear were back in court on Wednesday, this time over a challenge to the governor’s reorganization of several education boards this summer.

  Beshear argues that the governor illegally suspended laws passed by the legislature when he issued an executive order adding four non-voting advisors to the Kentucky Board of Education and replacing boards that deal with certifying teachers and establishing curriculum standards.

But Steve Pitt, Bevin’s general counsel, argues that the governor has the power to temporarily reorganize boards while the legislature isn’t in session.

“The general assembly has given the governor the power and has also given the attorney general the power to in essence suspend statutes in the interim,” Pitt said.

“…To propose legislation and then to temporarily implement that legislation, subject to review by the incoming legislature.”

Bevin’s order also created a council to guide the board of education as it implements Kentucky’s new charter schools law, which passed earlier this year.

This is the fourth lawsuit that Beshear has levied against Bevin and the third dealing with the governor’s power to reorganize boards that govern state agencies.

“What we have in all these reorganizations is the governor saying ‘I don’t like the laws as written, I don’t like the size of the board of education, I don’t like the due process that’s given to teachers,’” Beshear said. “He’s just using an executive order to entirely rewrite that.”

The Kentucky Education Association joined the lawsuit to challenge Bevin’s overhaul of the Education Professional Standards Board, which oversees teacher certification.

Jeff Walther, a lawyer representing KEA, argued that Bevin’s reorganization improperly changes the process by which teachers appeal sanctions imposed by the EPSB.

“That is problematic, it is more than simply rearranging chairs and bodies,” Walther said. “This is changing the substantive rights of teachers.”

Bevin’s executive order allows decisions to revoke or suspend teacher accreditations to be appealed to the Kentucky Board of Education instead of directly to Frankfort Circuit Court.

Beshear cited several Kentucky Supreme Court rulings that he said show the governor is barred from suspending laws passed by the legislature.

In Beshear v. Haydon Bridge, the state’s high court ruled that Gov. Steve Beshear wasn’t allowed to redirect money from a worker’s compensation fund to Kentucky’s general coffers, saying “…a Governor does not have the authority under the Constitution of Kentucky to suspend the operation of any statute.”

Pitt argued that the cases Attorney General Beshear cited all deal with attempts to suspend statutes during budget problems and don’t apply to the education board case.

Wingate said he would rule on the case in about a month.

Judge Philip Shepherd, also of Franklin Circuit Court, ruled last year that Bevin didn’t have power to reorganize the University of Louisville board of trustees by abolishing the entire board and then reinstating it with all new members.

Bevin has appealed that ruling and the case is currently being considered by the Kentucky Supreme Court.