Kentucky Politics

Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed five bills Monday aimed at stripping away several powers his office has historically held. Beshear, a Democrat, called the Republican bills “purely partisan.”

“These bills were more politically-related, violate our state constitution, [and] chip away at our strong separation of powers simply because of who is sitting in this chair, and who is not,” Beshear said during a Monday afternoon press conference.

Republicans in the General Assembly, who have a veto-proof majority in both chambers, will likely override Beshear’s vetoes.

Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 228, a measure that would ensure a fellow Republican replaces Mitch McConnell if the U.S. Senator vacates office before his term ends in 2026. Current law allows the governor to make appointments when U.S. Senate seats are vacated. But the Republican provision would require the governor to select his or her appointee from three candidates chosen by the state party of the departing senator. 

Beshear said Senate Bill 228 violates the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which he said was meant to ensure Senate seats were not chosen by “political party bosses.”

Other provisions to get the governor’s veto were House Bill 275, House Bill 518, and Senate Bill 93, each of which removes the governor’s powers over certain boards or commissions.

Beshear also vetoed House Bill 394, which gives the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission the “sole authority” to appoint the commissioner. The Fish and Wildlife Commission has been at odds with Beshear since last year over his decision to offer Commissioner Mike Storm a one-year contract, instead of a two-year contract.

The vetoes are Beshear’s latest attempt to push back against the Republican-led General Assembly’s ongoing campaign to chip away at the Democratic governor’s powers.

Beshear is already in court against lawmakers over laws passed earlier this session that limit the governor’s authority to respond to the coronavirus pandemic with restrictions on businesses, schools and churches. Those laws are currently blocked due to a judge’s ruling.

The General Assembly is likely to override Beshear’s vetoes when it returns for the final two days of the legislative session on March 29 and 30. 

Asked if he plans to take the fight over these bills to the courts, Beshear said he “will have to evaluate…whether or not we’ll need to take court action or whether other groups may take court action. Certainly we believe in the Constitution and upholding it.”

Republican House and Senate leadership did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon.

Beshear did not announce any vetoes on several controversial education bills awaiting his signature. But he said he remains “very concerned about any bill that could harm our system of education,” and that any education-related vetoes will come Wednesday.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.