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Bluegrass Beacon: Will governor strike out on board disruption?

With spring training just around the corner, I’ve got baseball and boards on my mind.

Expectations are high along the river in Cincinnati Redsland at Great American Ball Park – visible from Northern Kentucky – where owner Bob Castellini has dug deep into his pocket to shell out $166 million for five free-agent studs.

$166 million? Whoa! Sounds like somebody’s serious about winning.

Serious like Kentucky’s founders were when they vested the legislature with the greatest amount of power among the branches of government.

While the chief executive often grabs a World Series’ share of the attention, only legislators can create and pass laws.

The executive can make his case, but legislators have the final say on how tax dollars get spent and which programs get more, less or no funding at all.

And it’s the legislative branch – primarily its leaders – which determine the ebb and flow of the Kentucky General Assembly.

Like fans want umpires with a reliable strike zone that doesn’t change from team to team and inning to inning, citizens need legislative leaders with a consistent approach who strive to pass and abide by laws with fairness, not favoritism toward – or fear of – what might please or pacify a certain political constituency.

Gov. Andy Beshear arrived in the governor’s office in December seeking to please the state teachers’ unions, who direct their considerable resources and protesting energy toward protecting the status quo, including maintaining their current state of denial about the need for change, choice and reform within Kentucky’s public education system.

The bosses who run these unions often back vision-less politicians multi-tasking as vigorous champions against change.

Beshear promises to avoid promoting meaningful – usually controversial – changes in public schools and eject conscientious participants who believe failing schools exist, achievement gaps are too large, true graduation rates too small and accountability and parental choice an absolute necessity if we’re going to improve Kentucky’s education system.

For the unions and Beshear – their political marionette – it’s about pulling the strings which maintain the current mediocrity and even failure rather than change.

Such is the reason for the hullabaloo over the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE), which Beshear “reorganized” via executive order 90 minutes after he took office by removing all current members even before their terms expired.

If, however, legislative leaders – who serve as the “umps” in this case – review the play, they must admit it violates the refreshingly clear language of KRS 63.080(2)(b): “Members of the Kentucky Board of Education … shall not be removed except for cause.”

Such a strict prohibition represented serious attempts by legislators with passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990 to insulate KBE members from shifting political winds, allowing them to focus on implementing sound policy.

The  statute guiding the makeup of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees offers similar legal clarity in KRS 164.131(2)(c) by demanding “the Governor shall make the appointments so as to reflect proportional representation of the two (2) leading political parties of the Commonwealth based on the state’s voter registration and the political affiliation of each appointee as of December 31 of the year preceding the date of his or her appointment, …”

While the gap between parties’ registration has closed significantly in recent years, Democrats still hold a slight advantage.

If the Senate confirms Gov. Matt Bevin’s four last appointments – three Republicans and one Democrat – it will throw off the political makeup of the board and make it out of compliance with state law.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, rightly indicates the body will not confirm those appointments because doing so would violate the statute.

Wouldn’t maintaining the same “strike zone” for both teams demand “the umps” also refuse to confirm Beshear’s – as well as Bevin’s – appointments?

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free market think tank. Reach him at and @bipps on Twitter.

The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute’s website after being published by newspapers statewide.

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