Appeals Court Supports GOP Constitutional Officers on Ethics Commission Authority

Credits: Axios

The Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld a law that allows each of the state’s Republican constitutional officers to appoint a member to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, diminishing the control previously held by Democratic Governor Andy Beshear.

Beshear, expressing strong disagreement with the ruling, plans to appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, challenging the 2022 GOP law that curtailed his influence over the commission responsible for overseeing ethics within the executive branch. Previously, the governor was solely responsible for appointing all five commission members.

The contentious law increased the number of commission members to seven. It redistributed the appointment powers, granting the governor only two picks and allocating the remaining five to other statewide officers, including the attorney general and the secretary of state.

Although Jefferson Circuit Judge McKay Chauvin initially ruled in favor of Beshear, the appellate court disagreed through a unanimous decision penned by Judge Audra Jean Eckerle. It concurred by Judges Allison Jones and Sara Walter Combs.

GOP Constitutional Officers (Credits: Mississippi Free Press)

The court asserted that the General Assembly possesses the authority to distribute the governor’s powers among other constitutional officers.

While concurring with the decision, Judge Combs voiced concerns about the gradual erosion of gubernatorial powers. She highlighted the necessity for the Supreme Court to revisit the foundational precedent of this ruling, warning against a potential de facto nullification of the governor’s constitutionally granted powers.

Combs pointed out the recent trend of legislative encroachments on executive authority, emphasizing the need for a judicial reevaluation to maintain the balance of power outlined in the Constitution.

Beshear’s administration criticized the appellate court’s decision, arguing that it contradicts the governor’s constitutional mandate to ensure law enforcement. The administration fears this ruling could pave the way for the legislature to diminish the governor’s executive authority further.

In response to the ruling, a joint statement from Attorney General Russell Coleman and other constitutional officers praised the decision for ensuring the integrity of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

They accused the governor of undue attempt to influence the commission and celebrated the decision as a victory for divided government and accountability.

The ruling and subsequent reactions underscore the ongoing power struggle between Kentucky’s executive and legislative branches. This dynamic has seen the General Assembly assert greater independence and challenge the governor’s authority.

This case and similar disputes reflect broader questions about the balance of power within the state’s government and the roles of its branches and officers.

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