Kentucky is latest state to try to strip power from new Democratic governor

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Kentucky voters ousted their Republican governor and elected Democrat Andy Beshear, and the GOP-controlled legislature is not happy about it.

A Republican-led bill in the Kentucky Senate would strip the incoming Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, of his ability to appoint a key member of his own Cabinet.

The bill would create a nine-member Kentucky Transportation Board, whose members would be recommended by outside groups like the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, WDRB reported Monday. The governor would have to choose his transportation secretary from a list of three names provided by the new board, who would then have to be confirmed by the Senate. No other Cabinet positions in Kentucky are confirmed by the Senate, according to WDRB.

The bill would also shift the governor's power to draft a two-year road budget for the state to the new board.

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Republicans say the new model is based on Virginia's system of having an independent board oversee transportation issues. However, Virginia's governor is able to appoint a secretary of transportation, and that person is the chair of the Virginia Transportation Board, not separate from it.

Republicans claim that the timing of the bill, which was filed on the very day Beshear defeated the Republican governor, Matt Bevin, is purely coincidental.

"It's not directed at (anyone)," Sen. Jimmy Higdon, Republican vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, told WDRB. "We had no idea who the governor would be when that was filed."

This is not the only attempted power grab in the state. After Beshear's victory on Election Day, the Republican Senate leader floated a scheme to reject the election results and install Bevin as governor for another four years. That plan was roundly criticized, even by other Republicans, and became moot when Bevin eventually conceded a week after losing the election.

Kentucky Republicans are following in the footsteps of several other GOP-controlled legislatures trying to strip power from the executive branch after a Democratic victory.

Last year, Michigan Republicans tried to strip powers from the newly elected Democratic attorney general. They also attempted to weaken the power of the newly elected secretary of state, also a Democrat, though they ultimately abandoned that measure. Local papers called out GOP legislators for their "contempt for Michigan voters and the politicians they've elected to represent them."

At the same time, Wisconsin's outgoing Republican governor, Scott Walker, signed legislation drastically weakening the powers of the governor after he was defeated by Democrat Tony Evers, transferring power to the GOP-controlled legislature. Republican legislators in Kansas and North Carolina employed the same tactic.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.