The President of the state Senate has filed a change to a bill that would strip power from the attorney general and give the governor exclusive authority to represent the state in many legal matters.
On Wednesday morning, attorney general Andy Beshear called the measure “an unprecedented power grab and one of the worst constitutional overreaches since the adoption of our current constitution.”
“The attorney general is not the governor’s lawyer, he’s not the General Assembly’s’ lawyer, he is the people’s lawyer,” Beshear said. “Because, as the Supreme Court explained, in Kentucky, the people are the sovereign, the people are the king. Not the government and not the governor.”
Beshear said the proposal amounted to a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for the governor.
The move comes after nearly a year of legal challenges brought on by Beshear, a Democrat, in which he sued Republican Gov. Matt Bevin for unilaterally making budget cuts and overhauling the University of Louisville board of trustees.
Bevin has in turn accused Beshear of inadequately defending the state’s new law requiring to perform and describe ultrasounds on women seeking abortions.
The proposal came as a surprise substitute to House Bill 281 that deals with making transparent the contracts the attorney general makes with outside law firms.
The attorney general would still have authority over habeas corpus proceedings, medical fraud, public service commission appeals and consumer protections.
Senate president Robert Stivers, the sponsor of the measure, said the legislature has “the ability to limit everybody’s power and authority.”
“I disagree with the Supreme Court because the constitution is the constitution,” Stivers said. “And it says clearly that the legislature has the authority to prescribe the duties of the attorney general.”
Odds are really fantastic that this will pass and that Bevin will sign it. Whether or not it gets past Kentucky's Supreme Court I couldn't tell you, but giving most of the office's statewide power to Matt Bevin seems like a horrendous idea.
It's also a serious ethical and oversight breach, but then again these are Republicans we're talking about. Using government power for their own purposes is absolutely fine. Using it to help the people of the Commonwealth, well that's unfair.
Please note also that Bob Stivers believes the state legislature has all the power in Kentucky's constitution and can "limit everybody's power and authority". I'm sure the state Supreme Court would like to take a look at that theory.
Looks like we'll know pretty soon if they'll get the chance.