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Beshear And Bevin Go To Court Over Board Overhauls

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.”

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In April, Bevin replaced trustee and board chair Tommy Elliott on the Kentucky Retirement Systems Board of Trustees, even though Elliott had three years left on his term. Citing the agency’s need for a “fresh start,” Bevin later abolished the board and recreated it as the Kentucky Retirement Systems Board of Directors, adding four new seats on the panel.

Bevin has reorganized several other boards including the Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Commission and Kentucky Horse Park Commission, in some cases replacing all members on the committees.

Steve Pitt, Bevin’s general counsel, argued on Thursday that the governor has the power to reorganize boards while the legislature isn’t in session, and that the General Assembly can ultimately keep Bevin’s power in check.

“The legislature can in fact come in, in January 2017, and elect to disapprove the executive orders that were entered,” Pitt said. “It’s not for the attorney general to say whether Gov. Bevin made the right decision here.”

This is the second legal challenge Beshear has leveled at Bevin. Beshear is also suing the governor over whether he had the authority to cut the current-year budgets of state colleges and universities by 2 percent. A judge ruled in favor of Bevin earlier this month, but Beshear is appealing the case.

On Thursday, Beshear argued in favor of halting the governor’s executive order overhauling the U of L board, which has to approve a budget by July 1.

“I think there’s a serious concern that students will pay more and we’ll never be able to undo that,” Beshear said.

Judge Shephard didn’t rule on the motion, giving the governor’s office an opportunity to respond.

Copyright 2016 89.3 WFPL News Louisville