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Kentucky governor issues new round of vetoes

Posted at 11:06 AM, Apr 28, 2018

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin caught his fellow Republicans by surprise with another round of vetoes, this time targeting a half-dozen bills passed at the end of this year's legislative session.

Measures backed by local governments and county clerks were among proposals the governor blocked from becoming law on Thursday.

The bills' supporters said Friday they didn't see the vetoes coming, and some of them said that Bevin's veto messages had misrepresented the proposals they had tried to enact.

Unlike previous vetoes that were overridden, the latest vetoes are sure to stand. Lawmakers ended their 60-day session in mid-April and thus have no opportunity to attempt overrides.

Three proposals to change election law fell victim to the governor's pen. Another vetoed measure dealt with local governments' investment authority.

In his veto message, Bevin said the bill affecting local governments would create restrictions that "unnecessarily limit" their investment opportunities. He said the investment guidelines "need to be rewritten in conjunction with actual investment professionals."

The bill was a priority for the Kentucky League of Cities, and it worked with investment advisers in crafting the legislation, said J.D. Chaney, the league's deputy executive director.

"It's very perplexing why he would veto it with the excuse that it provides additional limitations," Chaney said in a phone interview. "The bill does just the opposite. It expands the number and manner of investment options that local governments can do if they have money to invest."

Meanwhile, Rep. Kenny Imes, a Republican from Murray, said he was "kind of shocked" by Bevin's vetoes of three election bills he sponsored. Imes heads the House committee that oversees election issues, and he pushed two of the measures at the request of county clerks.

"I read the veto messages, and they seem to be inconsistent, to me, with the purposes and intents of the bills," the veteran lawmaker said by phone. "The reasons he stated in there are contrary to what the bills say, in my opinion."

One measure, among other things, would have moved up the filing deadline for political candidates to early January in election years. The current deadline is in late January.

Bevin's veto message said the bill would have caused confusion with multiple filing deadlines. "The existing process serves us well, and has done so for years," he said.

Imes said the same deadline would apply to local, state and federal candidates under the bill.

One bill sought by county clerks would have moved up the deadline to request an absentee ballot by a week. In his veto, Bevin said he opposed "additional burdens" that could "impede a citizen's ability to exercise their vote."

Imes said it's the current deadline that can keep absentee ballots from being counted if the request for a ballot or the actual ballot gets delayed in the mail. "The whole purpose is not to limit anything," he said. "It's just to be sure your vote will be counted."

The other bill backed by county clerks was aimed at preventing people from dropping their voter registration, then registering again in another political party and voting in the next primary.

Imes said there's concern that some people have done so, not because they wanted to identify with a different party but to support a weaker primary candidate.

In his veto, Bevin said voters wishing to change parties "should not face undue burdens and narrow timetables imposed by the state in order to exercise their right to vote."

Imes, who decided not to seek re-election this year and instead is running for judge-executive in Calloway County, said: "It is disappointing to know that I'm leaving and the last three bills I got passed got vetoed."

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said the vetoes caught legislative Republicans by surprise. He predicted at least some of the proposals will resurface next year.

"The bills he vetoed I didn't think were in danger of being vetoed," the Georgetown Republican said. "We knew that we wouldn't have the chance to override, but frankly didn't think that we'd have to do that. ... But look, that's his prerogative. I'm not mad. He has a right to veto those bills. He put in his message why he did it, and we'll just move on."

Another vetoed bill dealt with administrative regulations. Bevin also used his line-item veto authority to carve out a few parts of the state transportation cabinet's operating budget.

The latest vetoes were quiet compared to the backlash caused by Bevin's prior vetoes of the state's operating budget and a tax increase used to fuel record increases in public education spending. The GOP-led legislature overrode those vetoes after thousands of teachers descended on the Capitol in protest.