High court upholds Gov. Bevin’s reorganization powers

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – The Kentucky Supreme Court in a unanimous decision upheld the governor’s reorganization powers concerning boards and commissions.

At issue was an executive order issued in 2017 by Gov. Matt Bevin in which he temporarily reorganized several education-related boards, including the State Board of Education, pending ratification by the State Senate, which was later given.

Attorney General Andy Beshear filed a lawsuit at Franklin Circuit Court challenging the validity of the executive order, but Judge Thomas Wingate upheld the actions, except for one section that changed the appeals process in the Education Professional Standards Board, which Wingate ruled was unconstitutional, and the Governor’s office didn’t appeal.

Beshear appealed the ruling, seeking to have the case transferred directly to the Supreme Court, which the justices accepted.

As part of his appeal, Beshear made several constitutional and statutory arguments challenging the validity of the temporary reorganization mechanism itself and some of its inner workings.

In the high court’s 21-page ruling, Justices stated, regarding the wording of state law on reorganizations, “Not only does the plain text support the governor’s position: If the General Assembly truly intended for the organizational units and administrative bodies listed in KRS 12.295 to be exempt from reorganization under KRS 12.028, it would have explicitly said so. KRS 12.028, like other statutes, explicitly exempts certain organizational units and administrative bodies from reorganization.”

“Although the Attorney General makes various statutory-construction arguments to persuade us of the General Assembly’s intent to exclude the Kentucky Education Boards from the ambit of KRS 12.028, these arguments contradict the plain and explicit text of that statute. We need not look beyond the plain and unambiguous text of the General Assembly in our statutory interpretation.”

The Justices concluded: “In sum, we find the various education boards at issue fall within the ambit of the Governor’s temporary-reorganization-outside-of-session power stemming from KRS 12.028. We cannot accept the Attorney General’s suggested statutory interpretation in the face of such clear text.”

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