Kentucky judge: Fair board bill infringes on gov’s powers

December 3, 2021 GMT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky judge has ruled against parts of a bill passed by the legislature that gives the agriculture commissioner authority to select a majority of the state fair board and limits the governor’s involvement in the appointments process.

Jefferson Circuit Judge Mary Shaw struck down provisions in the legislation Monday that she said go against the state constitution and infringe on Gov. Andy Beshear’s role as “chief magistrate,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

The bill would’ve given Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, a Republican, nine appointments on the 14-person state fair board and five to the Democratic governor. Passed by the General Assembly, which is controlled by a GOP supermajority, the legislation also prevented Beshear from making appointments in 2021.


He filed a lawsuit over the summer against the General Assembly, Quarles and State Fair Board Chair Mark Lynn.

A spokesperson for Quarles told the newspaper that the defendants have filed a motion seeking a stay order that would prevent the ruling from taking effect until the commissioner appeals to the Supreme Court of Kentucky. The motion is likely to be heard in Jefferson Circuit Court next week.

Quarles said in a statement that he was “deeply disappointed” by Shaw’s decision: “The court’s ruling significantly limits the General Assembly’s ability to enact public policy as it sees fit.”

Beshear suggested during a Thursday press conference that he agreed with the ruling, according to the Herald-Leader. He said allowing such a bill to become law could reduce the powers of constitutional offices that the legislature doesn’t politically align with and create the possibility of having a body that’s overpowered by one party.

The governor and Republicans have previously struggled over executive authority regarding the commissioner appointment for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and COVID-19 policy. Beshear’s attempts to block challenges to his emergency executive powers during the pandemic failed before the state Supreme Court.

He said he hopes the legislature moves past efforts aimed at limiting his authority.

“Are we really going to do this stuff in the next session? I hope not,” Beshear said. “We can all do good things in the roles that the constitution has set for us.”