FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - The Kentucky Senate delayed action Tuesday on a measure that would take much of the power of the Transportation Cabinet away from the governor and place it in the hands of a transportation board.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, the sponsor of the bill, has said this follows action by former Gov. Matt Bevin, who held 3½ years’ worth of discretionary road project funding before handing it out during his bid for re-election.
He explained the reason for the delay to reporters after the Senate Adjourned on Tuesday.
“A couple floor amendments were filed, and we want to sit down with the caucus and explain what they mean,” Stivers said. “We didn’t want to walk in here cold and have people say, ’What was floor amendment 1, 2, 3 or 4?’ So, we passed it over and will hear it on Wednesday.”
The measure provides for a transportation board with nominations by the Kentucky League of Cities, Kentucky Association of Counties and Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Gov. Andy Beshear opposes the measure, saying, “We are establishing a good tone here in Frankfort. One where we work together, and we come together to find common ground.” He says the legislation, Senate Bill 4, makes that difficult.
“It’s a bill that would strip the authority of me, a new governor, of the same authority that every other past governor, including Governors Fletcher and Bevin used. If the emphasis is that Gov. Bevin did the wrong thing, well, I’m not Gov. Bevin. I am ready to do the right thing and I believe I should be treated the same as any other governor.”
Beshear said he has other issues with the bill.
“One is that it creates governance by committee. If you’ve ever seen a billion-dollar corporation operate by committee and operate effectively, you’ll have to let me know the example, because it just doesn’t happen.”
Another, he says, is those who would nominate a Transportation Cabinet Secretary or potentially fire them, under this bill, all have monetary interests. “Whether it’s members of the Chamber of Commerce that could be in this industry, or whether it’s cities and counties that want projects, within the confines of their jurisdiction. It just creates a very problematic approach.”
The last piece, according to Beshear, “Who is responsible if that’s created? Right now, for important transportation projects, I’m responsible. The buck stops with the governor and I’m willing to take on that responsibility. I think it’s a problem of accountability, once you start changing it. Where would the people of Kentucky come to if they were upset about the operation of the cabinet under that bill?”
Stivers maintains it is not a slap at Beshear. “It was filed on Election Day. See what the pollsters said. Matt Bevin was going to win. I’ve pointed out many times that governors have used this to politicize and weaponize. The majority of the states - over 30, maybe close to 35 - have done it this way.”
When asked about the potential conflict with the Chamber, cities and counties, Stivers said: “So does Jim Gray [Beshear’s Transportation Secretary]. He has a brother who runs a construction company.”