Matt Bevin

Ryland Barton

The latest legal challenge against Gov. Matt Bevin had its first hearing Thursday — Attorney General Andy Beshear is attempting to join a lawsuit contesting Bevin’s reorganization of the Kentucky Retirement Systems board, which manages retirement funds for state workers.

Beshear is also trying to challenge Bevin’s overhaul of the University of Louisville board of trustees in the same move, arguing that both reorganizations should be tried at the same time.

During the hearing, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shephard voiced appreciation of the governor’s desire to fix problems, but cautioned against overstepping legal bounds.

“It’s incumbent on the governor to take action, to do something about, to take leadership on,” Shephard said. “But it’s also important that the methods that are used are in compliance with the statutes and with the Constitution.

J. Tyler Franklin

Attorney General Andy Beshear is suing Gov. Matt Bevin for abolishing and then reinstating the boards of trustees of both the University of Louisville and Kentucky Retirement Systems, the state agency that manages the pensions of most state employees.

Bevin appointed new members and changed the number of seats on each panel. In both cases, Bevin said the moves were made to achieve a “fresh start.”

Bevin has reorganized several boards in recent months, including the Kentucky Horse Park Commission, Kentucky Racing Commission and the Workers’ Compensation Nominating Commission.

A group of labor unions and injured workers have sued Bevin for his overhaul of the workers’ compensation board, which nominates administrative law judges to oversee workers’ compensation cases.

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

At a news conference Wednesday morning in Frankfort, Gov. Matt Bevin announced his much-anticipated plan to remake the state’s expanded Medicaid system.

Under the plan, which would require federal approval, Kentuckians who earn between 34 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty line would be required to pay fixed premiums for the insurance. The premiums will range from $1 to $15 for “able-bodied adults,” according to Mark Birdwhistell, University of Kentucky HealthCare’s vice president for administration and external affairs who is heading up the state’s waiver process

Bevin said requiring users to pay premiums would give them “dignity and respect.”

Bevin also said the changes would save the state $2.2 billion.

The program will be called Kentucky H.E.A.L.T.H., which stands for “Helping to Engage and Achieve Long-Term Health.”

Bevin Claims 'Absolute Authority' to Disband State Boards

Jun 21, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky's governor says he has "absolute authority" to disband any of the states' nearly 400 boards and commissions.

Tuesday’s comments by Republican Matt Bevin come as the state's Democratic attorney general hints at possible legal action.

Bevin last week abolished the board of trustees at the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Retirement Systems, only to recreate them with some new members.

Attorney General Andy Beshear has called Bevin's actions "unprecedented."

He has scheduled a news conference Wednesday to discuss Bevin's decisions, potentially announcing a lawsuit against the state's highest elected officer.

Beshear and Bevin are already in court, fighting over whether Bevin has the authority to cut $18 million from college and university budgets that were approved by the state legislature.

Gov. Bevin Forms Criminal Justice Task Force

Jun 21, 2016
Creative Commons

Gov. Matt Bevin says he wants Kentucky to “lead the way” on criminal justice reform and has appointed a council tasked with producing legislative ideas for next year’s General Assembly.

The 23-member committee includes state officials, legislators and advocates from around the state.

Bevin says the state’s laws need to be changed to save money and allow those convicted of crimes to more effectively rejoin society.

“…Because to not do so comes at a burden and a cost economically, emotionally, behaviorally, criminally that we frankly cannot afford to bear,” Bevin said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Though Bevin and other speakers didn’t have any specific proposals for legislation, several broad concepts were mentioned including sentencing reform, finding alternatives to incarceration and devoting more resources to combat drug addiction.

J. Tyler Franklin

Only six months into his first term in office, Gov. Matt Bevin is involved in an array of lawsuits, some of which may have ramifications long beyond his administration.

Executive orders made by Bevin have raised legal questions about the limits of the executive branch’s power in the state — power that has been flexed more by some governors than others.

Former Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson said Bevin is set on reestablishing the “preeminence” of the governor’s office.

“He seems to be trying to assert power in a way that the last couple governors didn’t,” said Grayson, now CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

That assertion of executive power has drawn plenty of critics, some of whom are suing the administration.

J. Tyler Franklin

A major shakeup in leadership is taking place at the University of Louisville.

Governor Matt Bevin today announced that University of Louisville President James Ramsey is stepping down and the school’s Board of Trustees is being reorganized.

Bevin said the school needs a change in oversight and a “fresh start.”

Ramsey has led U of L since 2002.

He’s come under increasing criticism as the school has faced several high-profile scandals, including an FBI investigation into its top health care executive, and an NCAA investigation into allegations that men’s basketball players and recruits were provided with prostitutes.

The Council on Postsecondary Education will nominate new trustees for Bevin to consider for appointment.

Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Kentucky’s Medicaid commissioner says the state’s plan to scale back the expanded Medicaid system will not require beneficiaries to pay premiums, according to an Associated Press report.

In the report, Commissioner Stephen Miller goes on to say that Medicaid recipients could receive fewer benefits, including reduced vision and dental services.

Late last year, Gov. Matt Bevin announced that he would by 2017 “transform” the state’s expanded Medicaid system into one where recipients have “skin in the game” by paying for benefits.

Doug Hogan, communications director for Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said that the state couldn’t comment on the proposed changes or negotiations with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

“Everything is on the table and no decisions have been finalized. We are continuing to engage stakeholders and CMS in good faith,” Hogan said.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

The Bevin administration says it has met the June 1 deadline of demonstrating that it’s made adequate progress in Kentucky’s transition from the state health insurance exchange Kynect, to the federal exchange, healthcare.gov.

Doug Hogan, communications director for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the state has “met milestone requirements ahead of schedule,” but refused to comment on details of what criteria the state has accomplished.

According to a March 15 letter sent to state officials by Kevin Counihan with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal government has to “determine whether sufficient progress has been made to proceed with leveraging the federal platform” for the upcoming year.

CMS officials refused to comment on details of Kentucky’s transition to the federal exchange.

KRS

The debate continues over whether Gov. Matt Bevin has the authority to replace the chair of the Kentucky Retirement Systems board before his term expires.

Last week, Bevin sent Kentucky State Police troopers to a KRS board meeting in order to arrest board chair Tommy Elliott if he participated. Bevin issued an executive order removing Elliott nearly a month before, but Elliott defied the order and continued presiding in a subsequent board meeting.

Bevin’s office said Elliott “voluntarily elected not to participate” in last week’s meeting.

Bill Thielen, executive director of KRS, said Monday that top officials in Bevin’s administration threatened to have Elliott arrested if he participated in the meeting.

“He decided he would not take part in the meeting,” Thielen said. “He sat in the audience. Police officers were there in the boardroom at both doors.”

KRS

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin used state police officers to prevent the ousted chairman of the retirement system board from participating in a meeting Thursday.

Governor Matt Bevin removed chairman Thomas Elliott from the board last month.

But Elliott had refused to vacate his seat, saying Bevin could not remove him before his term expires.

Elliott attended Thursday's board meeting, but sat in the audience while state police officers stood nearby.

Elliot said the governor's office told him he would be arrested and charged with disrupting a public meeting if he participated.

Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said Elliot was not threatened with arrest. She said he was reminded he is not a board member and would be disrupting the meeting if he tried to participate, which is a misdemeanor under state law.

Judge Rules Bevin Can Cut College, University Budgets

May 19, 2016
WFPL News

A Kentucky judge has ruled Republican Gov. Matt Bevin can cut the budgets of public colleges and universities without the approval of the state legislature.

Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate says two state laws allow Bevin to reduce allotments for public colleges and universities. Wingate ruled while the governor’s powers are usually confined to the state constitution, the legislature can give the governor additional powers by passing laws. He said Bevin’s cuts of nearly $18 million to colleges and universities this year are not improper.

Bevin proposed the cuts in January. The state legislature did not approve them. Bevin ordered the cuts anyway. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued him.

Wingate ordered Bevin to leave the $18 million alone until the case has been resolved.

In a statement, Beshear said his office would appeal.

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

A Kentucky attorney general's advisory opinion says the governor isn't allowed to remove a trustee from the board of the Kentucky Retirement Systems before the trustee's term has expired.

The opinion was requested by the systems' executive director, William A. Thielen, after Gov. Matt Bevin removed board Chairman Thomas K. Elliott last month. Elliott's term didn't expire until 2019. After removing Elliott, Bevin appointed Madisonville dermatologist William F. Smith to replace him.

The attorney general's opinion, issued Tuesday, also said Smith isn't qualified as a professional with 10 years of experience in public or private finances.

Bevin's press secretary, Amanda Stamper, said in a news release that the governor's office believes Smith is qualified to serve on the board. The release also said the attorney general's opinion differs from state Supreme Court precedent and a previous attorney general's opinion.

Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

House Speaker Greg Stumbo is suing Gov. Matt Bevin, saying that he improperly vetoed several bills passed during this year’s legislative session.

Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, questioned the validity of vetoes to six bills, including line-item vetoes to the state budget, which he says were improperly delivered and signed.

He also says Bevin violated the constitution by not including “veto messages” that explain the rationale for several line-item vetoes to the state budget.

“The constitution clearly states that the message shall be accompanied with the veto so that people understand why or what his reasoning was when vetoing that particular part or parts of the appropriation bill,” he said.

If Stumbo’s suit is successful, Bevin’s line-item vetoes to the state budget would be reversed, meaning free preschool would be expanded from 160 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and $840,000 would be set aside for the Louisville Waterfront Development Corporation and $7.5 million for indigent care in Jefferson County.

Erica Peterson, WFPL

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin says the commonwealth has a lot in its favor when it comes to attracting manufacturers.

But in a speech and question-and-answer session at the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers’ annual energy conference Wednesday, Bevin also spoke about the importance of planning for the future of workforce development.

Sometimes, he stressed, that includes making sure there are alternatives to four-year degrees available for high school graduates.

“As a kid who grew up poor in the country, I was blessed by opportunities that came my way to go to and graduate from college. But this idea that every kid needs to get on a fast track to some college degree, no matter what it’s in, is nonsense, it really is,” Bevin said.

“There are certain degrees that are frankly not applicable in your world, or frankly, in a lot of other worlds, either,” he said, jokingly using French Literature and Interdisciplinary Studies as examples.

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