Kentucky Politics

Kentucky’s Republican House Speaker David Osborne says a committee will be formed to determine whether Gov. Andy Beshear should be impeached, after four citizens submitted a petition asking for it.

Though the House can receive impeachment petitions at any time, the creation of an official impeachment committee is unusual, said Frankfort attorney Anna Whites.

Whites worked for former Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo. She said during Stumbo’s tenure, impeachment petitions would be sent to the Judiciary or Rules Committee for review, and then in most cases, “they would be determined not to be worth moving forward on.”

“I think it is unusual to immediately appoint a committee to review it prior to letting Judiciary or Rules have a first look at it, since they have experience in this,” Whites said.

Osborne was a member of the Rules Committee when Stumbo was speaker and White said “he is clearly familiar with this process.”

The four citizens who filed the petition asking for Beshear to be impeached are Jacob Clark of Grayson County, Tony Wheatley of Mercer County, Randall Daniel of Bullitt County and Andrew Cooperrider of Fayette County.

Kentucky state statute

Cooperrider is the owner of Lexington coffee shop Brewed, which continued to provide indoor dining during Beshear’s coronavirus restrictions in November and December.

The petitioners accuse Beshear of violating the Kentucky Constitution by imposing restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, including the mandatory closure of non-essential businesses and in-person religious services early on during the state of emergency.

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in November that Beshear has the power to issue orders that attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

Speaker Osborne said on Friday that the House doesn’t have a choice but to “take action” on the impeachment petition.

“The constitution is very brief and very vague about what we have to do. But we have to take it seriously. This is a serious issue, regardless of whether anything comes of it or not,” Osborne said.

Kentucky Constitution

As of Friday, Osborne said he has not read the petition yet.

The petition was filed after the “Impeach Beshear” rally last Tuesday, which featured a yard sign that said “make hanging traitors great again.”

Beshear’s communications director Crystal Staley called the petition, “silly and completely unjustified,” comparing it to rhetoric that spurred the riot at the U.S. Capitol last week.

“The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled every step the Governor has taken is legal. But more concerning, this is the type of dangerous, angry rhetoric and disinformation that led to Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol and our very democracy. People are watching and listening. Everyone has a duty to be responsible,” Staley said.

The House’s creation of an official impeachment committee comes after the Republican-led legislature passed several bills limiting Beshear’s powers and boosting their own.

No governor has been impeached in the history of Kentucky.

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