Beshear sues over law changing ethics commission selections

Sec. of State Michael Adams responds to lawsuit

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP/WTVQ) – Kentucky’s Democratic governor filed suit Thursday seeking to block a new state law that gives Republican officials the power to appoint a majority of members to a key ethics commission.

Gov. Andy Beshear’s legal challenge warns that the reconstituted membership on the state Executive Branch Ethics Commission could launch politically based, meritless investigations. The lawsuit, filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Louisville, claims the measure violates Kentucky’s constitution.

The legal fight comes a year before Beshear will be on the statewide ballot in seeking a second term in a state increasingly dominated by Republicans. It’s the latest in a series of court confrontations over Republican-backed laws that would weaken the Democratic governor’s executive authority.

Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron on Thursday called the new ethics commission-related law a “good-government measure” and said it passes constitutional muster. Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams said it prevents a governor from “stacking the ethics commission with his cronies.”

In their recently ended session, GOP lawmakers passed the measure — over Beshear’s veto — to revamp the ethics commission’s membership. The measure, House Bill 334, gave Republican statewide officeholders the authority to select five of the newly expanded commission’s seven members. The governor would appoint two members. Previously, the governor appointed all five members.

Secretary of State Michael Adams has released the following statement: 

This unexpected lawsuit pertains to House Bill 334, a good-government bill that prevents a governor from stacking the ethics commission with his cronies by allocating appointments among the constitutional officers.

I was disappointed in 2020 when the Governor vetoed emergency legislation to allow us to work together to save the election. Thank God he was overridden; I shudder to think what would have happened had his reckless act stood.

I was disappointed this year when the Governor vetoed a bipartisan election reform bill that every Democratic senator and most Democratic representatives voted for. Now I’m disappointed by his lawsuit to stop Democratic and Republican ethics appointees from working together.

The Governor is at his best on the occasions when he comes out of his partisan bunker, recognizes we are a two-party state, and treats others with respect. Vetoes and lawsuits, no matter how numerous, are not governing.

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