Bevin rules out bill restricting transgender bathroom use
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Armed with historic majorities in the state legislature for the first time, Kentucky’s Republican governor said Friday he will not use the state’s new GOP majority to push through a bill restricting transgender bathroom use.
Matt Bevin told reporters at a Louisville breakfast eatery on Friday he saw no need for Kentucky to pass a law like North Carolina that says people in schools and government buildings must use bathrooms according to the gender listed on their birth certificate.
Kentucky’s Republican-controlled Senate passed a similar bill two years ago, but it died in the then Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. Incoming GOP House Speaker Jeff Hoover said there is considerable interest among the new Republican majority to revive the proposal.
Asked Friday if the Kentucky legislature should pass such a law, Bevin said: “Why would we?”
“Is there anyone you know in Kentucky has trouble going to the bathroom?” he said. “The last thing we need is more government rules. I’m cutting red tape, not creating it.”
In 2015, a public Louisville high school allowed a transgender student to choose which bathroom to use. The decision was vetted and approved by the school’s council of parents and administrators, a process the legislature set up in 1990 for schools to make their own policy decisions.
Earlier this year, Bevin joined a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s directive that public schools allow students to choose the bathroom based on their gender identity or risk losing federal funding. Bevin said Friday the federal directive “caused people great alarm far and wide across the commonwealth” and he criticized Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear for not joining the lawsuit.
The bathroom law signed by North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory drew condemnation from out-of-state corporate CEOs and prompted the NCAA to remove some postseason athletic championships from the state, including the opening rounds of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. McCrory narrowly lost re-election last month.
Bevin said his administration will focus on passing laws that ban mandatory union membership and eliminate the state’s prevailing wage, which requires higher wages for construction workers on government projects. He also vowed to reform the state’s tax code by eliminating some tax exemptions and lowering the overall rate. He also said he wants to make structural changes to the state retirement plan, which is among the worst funded public pension systems in the country.
“Those are the things the people of Kentucky voted overwhelmingly for a new direction and want to see votes on,” he said.
The state legislature convenes Jan. 3 and is scheduled to begin deliberating on legislation in February. But lawmakers have only 30 days to pass bills, and Bevin said he would likely call a special session at some point in 2017 to reform the state’s pension system and its tax code. The Legislative Research Commission says special legislative sessions typically cost taxpayers about $62,000 per day.
Bevin used some of Friday’s news conference to reflect on his first year in office, which he said brought victories for both sides of the political aisle. He said Republicans were generally pleased with a bill he signed requiring women to have a face-to-face consultation with a doctor, either in person or via video conference, before getting an abortion. And he said most Democrats were pleased with a law allowing some nonviolent convicted felons to expunge their records if they had no other charges.
Bevin had harsh words for Attorney General Andy Beshear, who has sued Bevin three times and successfully blocked some of his mid-year budget cuts to colleges and universities. Bevin said the lawsuits forced him to govern with “one hand tied behind our backs” and said he wished Beshear would “do his job” by joining other state attorneys general in challenging federal overtime rules.
“Our attorney general was too busy doing what I don’t know, creating sexually discriminatory environment in his office,” he said, a reference to a lawsuit filed last month by a former lawyer in Beshear’s office who says she was the victim of sex discrimination.
Beshear said Bevin has become the “editor in chief of Kentucky’s fake news.”
“After a year in office, it’s time for the governor to stop calling others liars, hacks or insects and to stop blaming others for his failure to create real prosperity for our people,” he said.