Gov. Matt Bevin
Gov. Matt Bevin | Screenshot via governor’s Facebook page

By Valarie Honeycutt Spears and Jack Brammer | Lexington Herald-Leader

In a legal victory for Gov. Matt Bevin, the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously upheld Thursday the Republican governor’s reorganization of several boards and committees that oversee public education in the state.

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who is trying to unseat Bevin in November’s general election, sued over Bevin’s executive order in 2017 making the changes.

The Supreme Court, in its 21-page ruling written by Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr., said, “We find no statutory or constitutional infirmity with the governor’s use of the executive order to affect a temporary government reorganization on the facts before us, so we affirm the circuit court’s judgment.”

In response to the 7-0 ruling, Bevin issued the following statement:

“The Supreme Court’s decision reveals what a shameful waste of taxpayer resources the Attorney General’s three and a half years of politically motivated lawsuits have been. The Court forcefully rejected every single one of Andy’s arguments, finding that he ‘ignored’ the constitution and that his positions ‘contradict the plain and explicit text’ of Kentucky law. After such a stinging defeat, the self-proclaimed ‘people’s lawyer’ should, for once, think about actually helping the people of Kentucky instead of suing them.”

Beshear said, “In this case, we fought to protect the independence of our public schools. With this ruling, the governor can dissolve and purge the members of the Board of Education any time he disagrees with their decisions. That is a major concern given the governor’s attacks on public education.”

Beshear put on his Twitter page that if he becomes governor, he would “create a new Kentucky board of education that values public education. And we’ll have a new Commissioner of Education too!”

The legal case deals with the governor’s authority to use state law to make changes in state boards and commissions when state lawmakers are not in session.

In filing a lawsuit in 2017 against Bevin, Beshear argued that a governor does not have “absolute authority” over state boards and “cannot ignore, suspend and rewrite laws passed by the General Assembly that create independent boards, outline their structure and set mandatory terms for their members.”

But Bevin contended that state law gives him authority to reorganize state government when the legislature is not in session. He noted that former Gov. Steve Beshear, Andy Beshear’s father, issued 103 such executive orders during his time in office.

Bevin had signed an executive order that dissolved and reorganized several state education boards.

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate largely ruled in Bevin’s favor, and Beshear appealed the case to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Beshear’s legal challenge is one of several that he has filed against Bevin since the two took office three and a half years ago.

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