Politics

A judge says Attorney General Andy Beshear’s fourth lawsuit against Gov. Matt Bevin can proceed, recognizing that any ruling in the case will likely be appealed.

This particular challenge deals with Bevin’s executive order from earlier this summer that reorganized several education boards using a little-known state law. This law has also been used by previous governors but never challenged in court.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate converted Bevin’s request to dismiss the case into a motion for summary judgement, meaning the challenge won’t go to trial and will have an expedited ruling.

Beshear argues that the reorganizations should be left up to the legislature and that the governor has exceeded his authority.

This is the attorney general’s fourth lawsuit against Bevin, and the third suit levied against the governor for reorganizing state boards.

Steve Pitt, Bevin’s general counsel, said after the hearing that the case could provide resolution to the issue of the governor’s power to unilaterally reorganize state boards.

“We would hope that we would get once and for all a decision here […] that would support this governor’s and any governor’s power to do what has been done as of last year 357 times since the Brereton Jones administration,” Pitt said.

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 will be heard by the Kentucky Supreme Court next week.

But Pitt argued the lawsuit dealing with education board reorganizations deals with different legal issues than the U of L board case.

“There are only a couple of these minor education boards that were reduced in number to begin with,” Pitt said. “None of them had a requirement that their members had the right to a due process hearing or be removed for cause.”

Bevin’s changes to education boards include the appointment of four non-voting advisors to the Kentucky Board of Education and total replacement of boards that deal with certifying teachers and establishing curriculum standards.

The governor also created a Kentucky Charter Schools Advisory Council and appointed members to guide the board of education as it implements the new charter schools law.

Bevin maintains he has the authority to reorganize state boards while the legislature isn’t in session, citing a state law that allows “the creation, alteration or abolition of any organizational unit or administrative body.”

Judge Wingate said he would give the attorney general’s office 20 days to respond to the governor’s motion for summary judgement.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.