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Committee Votes To Clip Governor's Power To Reorganize Human Rights Commission

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Erica Peterson
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A legislative committee has passed a bill that would strip the governor’s power to reorganize the Kentucky Human Rights Commission by executive order while the legislature isn't in session.

The measure is one of several bills to limit Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s powers making their way through the Republican-led legislature.

Supporters of the bill say the commission needs continuity amidst a backlog of cases and in the wake of a whistleblower complaint involving management misconduct.

Alma Randolph, the commission’s chair, argued that the current board needs to stay in place.

“I just feel like that we need to be able to keep politics out of this situation and this current board to get the ship turned around in the right direction, and then the governor can do whatever,” Randolph said.

The measure passed out of the House Committee on State Government on Monday. It can now be voted on by the full House.

The Human Rights Commission investigates violations of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation based on race, gender, disability, religion and age.

Gov. Matt Bevin reorganized the commission in October 2018, one of several boards he totally replaced throughout his term.

In recent years, Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in favor of the governor’s power to temporarily reorganize boards while the legislature isn’t in session—an issue that drew several lawsuits from then-Attorney General Andy Beshear while Bevin was in office.

Rep. Joe Graviss, a Democrat from Versailles, argued that Republican supporters of the measure were being hypocritical.

“The Kentucky Supreme Court voted 7-0 a couple of years ago that gave the governor to do what you’re asking him to not do,” Graviss said.

“The previous governor did this at U of L and it just seems to me that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

"The measure is one of several making their way through the legislature that would tweak the governor’s powers.

Other bills would limit the governor’s ability to reorganize the Kentucky Board of Education and directly appoint the secretary of the Transportation Cabinet.

Rep. James Tipton, a Republican from Taylorsville, says that the legislature needs to keep the governor from drastically changing the board.

“A new group of commissioners would have to start over, there would be no continuity and these people who desperately need justice would still be lingering out there,” Tipton said.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville, said that the legislature should go further and block the governor from reorganizing other boards.

“I think the governor should have the right to reorganize any of his cabinets that he wants to, but not boards,” Nemes said.

“I don’t think this goes far enough, I think it should apply to all boards that aren't under the governor’s cabinet. And I’ll be looking for that amendment.”

correction: This post has been corrected to reflect that the legislation would change the governor's powers to reorganize the Human Rights Commission.

 

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.