Matt Bevin

Thinkstock

A court has ordered the release of $18 million back to Kentucky’s state colleges and universities after the state Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin’s mid-year cuts to higher education were illegal.

The $18 million, which will be released by Thursday, has been held in an escrow account since Attorney General Andy Beshear challenged Bevin’s executive order cutting higher education funding by 2 percent.

Though the state Supreme Court ruled last month that Bevin didn’t have the authority to cut funding that had already been budgeted by the legislature, the $18 million was in limbo while the court waited to see if Bevin would request for a the case to be heard again.

Bevin announced he would not seek another hearing of the case last week, and on Friday, the governor and attorney general agreed to release the funds back to state colleges and universities.

Bevin ordered the 2 percent mid-year cuts after negotiations for the two-year budget this spring to free up money for the state’s ailing pension systems. Higher education was cut by 4.5 percent in the two-year budget and most other state agencies and programs were cut by 9 percent.

J. Tyler Frankin

Gov. Matt Bevin has not asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling against his mid-year cuts to higher education institutions. That means about $18 million in state funds that Bevin had cut are a step closer to being released to Kentucky’s state colleges and universities.

Last month, the state’s highest court ruled that Bevin didn’t have the authority to reduce the allotment that the state had already budgeted to give to higher education institutions.

Amanda Stamper, Bevin’s press secretary, said that Bevin still believes the court “erred in its decision” in the lawsuit, which was brought on Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear.

“This was a bad decision for Kentucky and the ramifications from Attorney General’s political lawsuit could be significant,” Stamper said. “Moody’s called the decision a ‘credit negative’ for Kentucky because it limits Governor Bevin’s ability to manage difficult budget scenarios in light of Kentucky’s $35 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.”

J. Tyler Franklin

The vitriol-filled feud between Republican Governor Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear escalated yet again this week, with the two politicians exchanging more charges and countercharges related to an investigator in Beshear’s office.

The latest salvo followed disclosures by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting on Wednesday about Medicaid fraud investigator David Reed Wilbers, who was already under scrutiny by his superiors for allegedly lying in one criminal case. The KyCIR story said Wilbers had been accused of making false statements to grand juries in two additional cases. (Read “Attorney General’s Investigator Allegedly Lied In Several Cases“)

In response to the story, Bevin issued a statement to KyCIR asking why Beshear was allowing Wilbers “to knowingly lie under oath — not just once but at least three times — and choosing to do nothing about it.”

The statement added: “What are they hiding? They say they want transparency in government, so why the coverup in this instance?”

Jacob Ryan

Gov. Matt Bevin told a group of ministers assembled at the governor’s mansion last week to ignore a federal law that forbids tax-exempt churches from advocating for the election or defeat of political candidates.

A crowd of about 130 church leaders from across the state attended the invite-only and unpublicized “Pastor Appreciation Forum” held at the governor’s residence.

An attendee named Ken Prevett, an investment consultant from Harrodsburg, originally posted the video to his Facebook page, which shows Bevin encouraging a group of pastors to disregard the Johnson Amendment, a section of the federal tax code passed in 1954.

A Facebook group called Kentuckians Against Matt Bevin has been circulating the video, which shows Bevin encouraging pastors to disregard the Johnson Amendment, a change to federal tax code passed in 1954.

Bevin, Democratic Leaders Argue Over Education Funding

Sep 29, 2016
Kentukcy LRC

Kentucky's Democratic leaders have blasted Republican Gov. Matt Bevin for withholding $4.6 million from public school districts — money Bevin says he will release if the districts ask for it.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo and others pointed Wednesday to a decision Bevin made earlier this year to not fix a funding shortfall for public schools. Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said the request was made under the previous budget, which gave the governor the discretion to deny the money. Stamper said if education officials ask for the money under the new budget, Bevin will honor it.

A Department of Education spokeswoman declined to comment.

In a Wednesday news conference, held just over a month from the November elections, Democrats said Bevin should not wait to release the money.

J. Tyler Franklin

Attorney General Andy Beshear says he got an unsolicited text message from Gov. Matt Bevin Tuesday evening calling his office an “embarrassment to the Commonwealth.”

In a screenshot of the text released by Beshear, the message reads:

Bevin’s office confirmed that the governor sent Beshear a text but accused the attorney general of manipulating the message to exclude a link Bevin included. The link was to a Herald-Leader article that detailed allegations of misconduct by an investigator in the attorney general’s office.

Amanda Stamper, Bevin’s press secretary, accused Beshear of attempting to mislead reporters.

J. Tyler Frankin

A judge has ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin cannot unilaterally reorganize a public university’s board of trustees and dismiss all of its members, calling it an “unprecedented assertion of executive power.”

In June, Bevin issued an executive order abolishing the University of Louisville’s board of trustees, citing dysfunction on the board. He later created a new board and appointed all new members. Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Bevin over the move.

Though state law allows governors to unilaterally reorganize state boards, the power had never been applied to a public university board.

On Wednesday, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that the governor can’t remove public university board members without cause.

“Governors, who have not been shy about asserting executive powers, have dealt with these situations by requesting (and obtaining) resignations of board members, or have allowed the disputes to be settled through the normal administrative and judicial processes,” Shepherd wrote in his opinion. “No prior Governor has ever attempted to invoke the re-organization power…to address problems in the governance of public universities.”

Ryland Barton

Kentucky’s Attorney General is accusing Governor Matt Bevin of “dragging his feet” on returning millions of dollars to the state’s colleges and universities. 

Western Kentucky University is waiting on about $1.5 million that the school is owed following last week’s state Supreme Court ruling.  During a visit Monday to WKU, Attorney General Andy Beshear said the Governor has yet to release $18 million that was withheld from the state’s colleges and universities.

"The funds are sitting in a special account, so there's no reason to delay," Beshear told WKU Public Radio.  "This governor's been about cutting the red tape and the bureaucracy, so let's cut the red tape, the bureaucracy, and provide those funds."

The high court ruled that Governor Bevin did not have the authority to cut university budgets without a budget shortfall. 

The governor has said his office is “looking at our options.”  He has 20 days to ask the Supreme Court to re-consider the case.  Beshear said the outcome is unlikely to change given the 5-2 ruling.

J. Tyler Frankin

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin does not have the authority to make mid-year cuts to state university budgets if the state isn’t experiencing a shortfall.

In a 5-2 ruling, the state’s high court declared that Bevin exceeded his authority by issuing an executive order cutting last fiscal year’s fourth quarter higher education allotment by $18 million.

“Whatever authority he might otherwise have to require a budget unit not to spend appropriated funds does not extend to the Universities, which the legislature has made independent bodies politic with control over their own expenditures,” the majority opinion stated.

The court reversed an earlier opinion by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate, which said that Bevin had authority to unilaterally cut the budgets of state colleges and universities because they are part of the state’s executive branch, which Bevin is the head of.

The opinion stated that Bevin does have the authority to make mid-year budget cuts if the state experiences a budget shortfall of 5 percent or more, however the commonwealth experienced a surplus last fiscal year.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Bevin has added Kentucky to a multi-state lawsuit against the federal government over a new rule that makes more people eligible to receive overtime pay.

Starting in December, the new policy will require employers to pay overtime to people who make up to $47,476 a year ($913 per week). Currently employers only have to pay overtime to people who make up to $23,660 a year.

Bevin opposes the rule, saying it would increase employment costs for the state and private employers.

“The result of this unfunded mandate by the federal government would be to force many private sector employers to lay off workers,” Bevin said. “Once again, the Obama administration is attempting to require compliance with non-legally binding edicts that should instead be decided at the state and local level.”

Bevin’s Spokeswoman Leaving For Trump Campaign

Sep 19, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s spokeswoman is leaving to take a position with the Donald Trump campaign.

Jessica Ditto is resigning to become deputy communications director for the Republican nominee for president.

Before being named as Bevin’s spokeswoman last year, Ditto was communications director for his campaign and transition office. She also worked for former Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher and the Republican Party of Kentucky.

Ditto will work in New York with Jason Miller, Trump’s senior communications adviser. Miller was a consultant for Bevin’s 2015 campaign for governor.

Ryland Barton

Students at the University of Louisville could lose federal financial aid and the ability to transfer class credits if the school loses its accreditation. That’s what the attorney general and an expert witness warn will happen if Gov. Matt Bevin is allowed to unilaterally overhaul the school’s governing body.

The governor’s office argues that U of L is not immediately at risk of losing its accreditation and that a lawsuit over the matter will be settled by the time the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools could impose any sanctions, settling whether the governor has the authority to abolish and restructure a university board without legislative approval.

Steve Pitt, the governor’s general counsel, said there’s no legal reason the school has to be accredited, but he still downplayed worries that U of L could lose its accreditation

“There is no statute in Kentucky, oddly enough, that even requires public universities to even be accredited,” Pitt said. “I think you’ll see that there’s a lot more smoke here than there is fire.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Republicans and Democrats are fundraising on the back of Gov. Matt Bevin’s controversial comments in which he predicted that conservatives might have to “shed blood” if Democrat Hillary Clinton is elected president.

Bevin sent out an email Thursday asking followers to donate to his campaign account after a national response to the speech. In the email, he derided Clinton supporters and the “liberal media” for being in an “uproar” over the remarks, which he drew from a quotation by Thomas Jefferson.

“It goes to show how out of touch liberals are with our principles and values when they take offense to statements by our founding fathers,” Bevin wrote in the email. “We must fight to preserve the exceptionalism and the promise of America, because America is worth it.”

Bevin could pass along any funds raised to the state Republican Party, local legislative races or use the money to pay down his campaign debt. The governor personally loaned his campaign $4.1 million during last year’s gubernatorial race.

J. Tyler Franklin

A state judge has denied Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's request to block an expert witness' testimony about the University of Louisville's accreditation.

Bevin abolished and replaced the University of Louisville board of trustees earlier this year. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued him, saying the order was illegal. Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd temporarily blocked Bevin's order, but asked both sides to present testimony from expert witnesses about how Bevin's order would impact the school's accreditation.

Bevin attorney Chad Meredith declined to present an expert witness, and asked Shepherd to block a witness called by Beshear. He said the testimony was not relevant to the issue of whether Bevin has the authority to replace the board.

Shepherd called Bevin's request a "dramatic change in direction" and denied it. The hearing is continuing Thursday.

Kentukcy LRC

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is moving forward with awarding $100 million for workforce training projects despite a warning from the top House Democrat that the actions could be illegal.

Bevin wants to borrow $100 million and use it to aid programs that train Kentucky's workforce. Wednesday, a committee appointed by Bevin and legislative leaders reviewed 114 proposals and approved 91 of them to submit formal applications next month.

The state legislature passed a law detailing how that money would be spent, but Bevin vetoed it and is developing the criteria himself. Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo sued, saying Bevin's veto was illegal. The case is pending.

The Bevin administration is mostly following the criteria that lawmakers approved. One difference is Bevin is not requiring the money to be distributed evenly among  Kentucky's six congressional districts.

Pages