Beshear: Feuds Are A Distraction From State's Drug Problem
Attorney General Andy Beshear says despite “political distractions” during his first year in office, his priorities remain fighting drug problems, seeking justice for crime victims and better protecting children and seniors.
Beshear has been in the news this year largely because of his legal challenges to Gov. Matt Bevin’s use of executive authority — Bevin’s attempt (halted by the state Supreme Court) to cut already-approved appropriations to state colleges and universities, Bevin’s overhaul of the U of L Board of Trustees, and his reorganization of the Kentucky Retirement Systems board, which manages pensions of most state workers.
“I did not take this job to sue the governor,” Beshear said during a year-in-review news conference in Frankfort Tuesday. “Each of those lawsuits to me has not been personal and I still don’t take them personally. It’s been my duty as the chief protector of that constitution of our separation of powers of the structures that our founders put in place.”
Both Bevin and Beshear are finishing the first year of their four year terms and had no experience in elected positions before taking office.
The two do not get along.
Bevin has launched an investigation into the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear, Andy Beshear’s father. The governor has also repeatedly said that the attorney general’s lawsuits are politically motivated and unfairly adjudicated.
Bevin has also criticized the attorney general for a handful of scandals, the largest of which was the resignation, indictment and guilty plea of his former deputy attorney general, Tim Longmeyer, on bribery charges stemming from his time as head of the Personnel Cabinet under the previous administration.
“We don’t have any more personnel issues than any cabinet in state government or the governor’s office itself,” Beshear said during the news conference.
Beshear has also been criticized for the resignation of Assistant Attorney General Amye Bensenhaver, who stepped down after she was reprimanded for talking to a journalist.
“This is an office where we run a tight ship, we set high expectations and when folks don’t meet them there are repercussions," Beshear said. "All you have to do is look at our results and you can see how well our office is functioning,."
Shifting to the newly-Republican General Assembly, Beshear cautioned the legislature from codifying Bevin’s executive order that overhauled the U of L board, saying that the move could negatively affect the school’s accreditation.
“There’s no question the governor’s actions and the governor’s actions alone caused the probation and there’s also no question that only he can fix it," he said. "And I hope he does.”
Last week, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools put U of L’s accreditation on probation.
Beshear also called on state lawmakers to pass legislation to boost penalties for possession and traffickers of fentanyl, a synthetic and highly potent form of heroin.
“We have a very important pension problem that we have to tackle, but a pension hasn’t killed anyone’s father or mother or taken a child from a parent,” Beshear said. “This drug epidemic is the single largest threat to the lives of our citizens but also to the economy itself.”
Beshear would not say if he would run for governor in 2019.