FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky’s Republican governor and Democratic attorney general are headed to the Supreme Court for the second time in less than a year.
Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton has ordered the Court of Appeals to transfer a lawsuit between Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear to the Supreme Court concerning the leadership of the University of Louisville. The court could hear the case as soon as the end of March.
The court has already settled one dispute between the two men, ordering Bevin to return more than $17 million to the state’s public colleges and universities after he illegally cut their spending. Now the court will decide whether Bevin has the authority to dismiss the board of trustees at the University of Louisville, one of the state’s two research institutions.
A state judge has already ruled against Bevin in the matter, saying he did not have the authority to abolish and replace the board with an executive order. The state legislature complicated things on Saturday, when it passed a law creating yet another board for the university to be filled by Bevin with the confirmation of the state Senate.
“In some measure it has been rendered moot by the authority which is the legislature doing what they have done,” Bevin said. “That will be for the court to decide.”
Beshear said he appreciated the Supreme Court “understanding how critical this issue is.”
“Judge Shepherd ruled that Gov. Bevin does not have absolute authority to dissolve or reorganize a university board any time and for any reason,” Beshear said in a news release. “My office will continue to fight to uphold that ruling and to protect our students, university employees and all Kentuckians.”
Bevin could acquire even more power over public colleges and universities next month. Republican Senate President Robert Stivers has filed a bill that would allow Bevin to replace the board of any public college or university if the board fails to meet certain requirements, including failing to hold regular meetings, elect a chairperson or “reach consensus among its members in order to carry out its primary function.”
Stivers said the bill would “provide clarity” about the governor’s role for removing board members. But the bill alarmed some Democrats.
“Any legislation like that would bring concern giving this governor, or any other governor, that type of authority,” House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins said.
Last month, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges placed the university on probation for one year over concerns of possible “undue political influence.” The association is expected to send the school a letter this week outlining its concerns and what UofL must do to end its probation.
This is one of three lawsuits Beshear has filed against Bevin since both men took office in 2015. Bevin has been feuding with Beshear and his father, former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, since taking office and dismantling several of Steve Beshear’s policies.
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