Gov. Matt Bevin announced five new executive orders on Tuesday, instituting a hiring freeze for state workers and taking the name of county clerks off marriage licenses — as well as rescinding former Gov. Steve Beshear’s executive orders this year that raised the minimum wage for state workers and contractors and automatically restored the voting rights of non violent former felons.
In rescinding Beshear’s executive order just before leaving office that allowed what is estimated to be over 100,000 nonviolent former felons who had completed their sentences to have their voting rights restored, Bevin’s press release said that order was “contrary to the Kentucky Constitution and undermines the very right it seeks to restore by circumventing elected representatives in the state legislature and the voice of the people at the ballot box.” The statement also indicated that Bevin’s executive order does not affect anyone whose rights have already been restored since Beshear’s order was signed.
“Today, I took action to uphold several commitments I made during my campaign so that we can implement real solutions that will help the people of Kentucky,” said Bevin. “While I have been a vocal supporter of the restoration of rights, for example, it is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people.”
As he promised to do in his campaign, Bevin’s executive order addressed the controversy over Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage licenses in her county in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. Bevin ordered that county clerks’ names are no longer required to be on marriage licenses, “to ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored.”
Bevin also issued an executive order relieving executive branch agencies and their vendors from complying with Beshear’s executive order in June that required state workers and contractors be paid a minimum of $10.10 per hour, with the exception of “classified employees with status who have already received increases” as a result of that order. The minimum wage for affected workers will now be lowered to the state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Bevin also issued an executive order implementing a new moratorium on the hiring of state workers, with the governor’s statement adding that “all vacant positions in any agency will be reviewed to determine if they are necessary to the maintenance of essential government services.” This order also transferred oversight of the merit system hiring from the governor’s office to the Personnel Secretary, who will now approve all personnel actions.
Lastly, Bevin rescinded Beshear’s 2008 executive order establishing the Governor’s Employee Advisory Council — which was created to discuss issues pertaining to the wages, hours and terms of employment for state merit workers — saying it was “non-value added given that the Governor has no power to extend negotiation and collective bargaining rights to employees of the Commonwealth.”
Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto did not immediately respond when asked if more executive orders were on the way. As of now, Beshear’s executive orders related to health care reform, non-discrimination in hiring for LGBT state workers, and prevailing wage are intact.
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Though the national ACLU issued a statement claiming that Bevin’s marriage license order does not clear up the Kim Davis issue — saying state law still clearly requires county clerks to authorize marriage licenses — Democratic Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo issued a statement praising Bevin’s move.
“As for the executive order on changing the form for marriage licenses, I was a very early proponent of doing something similar,” said Stumbo. “It’s a simple fix, and I applaud the governor for finding a way to balance the law and the concerns that county clerks like mine in Floyd County had.”
State Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, who is now the lead sponsor of legislation to amend Kentucky’s constitution in order to grant the automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, criticized Bevin’s rescinding of Beshear’s order.
“I am extremely disappointed with the executive order on felon voting rights, which to me goes against promises Governor Bevin made during the campaign,”said Owens. “I will continue championing the amendment that will give voters a chance to put Kentucky in line with the vast majority of states on this issue.”