Put well-deserved coal in new but visionless Gov. Andy Beshear’s stocking this Christmas, and by New Year’s Day he'll likely have signed executive orders banning black rock in stockings, the stockings themselves and maybe even the entire coal industry.
Beshear’s approach of governing by executive order has replaced all discussion about how Kentucky will build on the economic growth experienced during former Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration in which $22.3 billion in new capital investment resulting in 58,000 new jobs announced by companies planning to expand operations in – or relocate to – the Bluegrass State.
Don’t expect to hear many, if any, announcements about large, groundbreaking-type projects like what often occurred during Bevin’s administration and which will result in substantial economic growth as they get built and developed.
When he’s not reducing our future economic development policy to a greater dependency on gambling and marijuana, the new governor’s busily bypassing the legislature via executive orders seeking to undo the morally correct – if politically incorrect – policies pursued by Bevin.
For instance, Bevin, though a supporter of criminal-justice reform, reversed an executive order issued by Steve Beshear – Andy Beshear’s father and Bevin’s immediate predecessor – restoring voting rights to people with nonviolent felony convictions.
“It is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people,” Bevin said.
The same is true with new expenditures of tax dollars, such is what’s now beginning to happen with the expansion of Medicaid.
Former Gov. Beshear implemented the expansion by executive order even though it will eventually require millions in additional spending by 2020.
While the federal government covered the entire cost of the expansion in its first few years, Kentucky in 2020 will begin picking up 10% of the check.
Such spending decisions demand legislative debate and approval.
For those absent from civics class the day the importance of separation of powers to our republic was taught: The Constitution empowers legislators – the people’s representatives – to expend tax dollars.
Beshear, like his father, doesn’t seem to appreciate or even agree with that constitutional principle.
They both chafe against it since lawmakers might give pause to spending for unnecessary and ideologically driven programs.
Perhaps legislative leaders should help the new governor become more interested in the legislative branch – or at least take it more seriously – with a stark reminder when they return in January that it’s the General Assembly, not the executive, which controls Kentucky’s budget.
It’s also the legislature which determines the ultimate outcome of governors’ attempts to reorganize boards established by state law.
The first executive order signed by Beshear after being sworn into office threw out members of the Kentucky Board of Education appointed by Bevin without cause because they support policies which hold schools accountable and empower parents to choose where children are educated.
The law considers Beshear’s decision temporary and one that must ultimately be decided by the legislature.
In fact, the same law allowing a governor to temporarily reorganize boards when the legislature isn’t meeting also charges legislators with making final decisions regarding those orders when they return to Frankfort.
If they don’t approve the reorganization “or an alternative to such a plan, the organizational structure that existed immediately prior to the implementation of the temporary plan shall be reinstated upon the termination of the temporary plan,” KRS 12.028 states.
Do Kentucky lawmakers think governors should be allowed to reorganize boards created by the General Assembly without their input – especially when such moves are purely political and in direct opposition to their constituent-parents who want, and should have, the ability to choose a better school for their children?
Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @bipps on Twitter.