Beshear sues General Assembly, Quarles over control of Kentucky State Fair Board

Daniel Desrochers
·2 min read

Gov. Andy Beshear filed suit Friday against the Kentucky General Assembly and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles over a bill that removed some of his power over the state fair board.

The lawsuit, filed in Jefferson County, challenges House Bill 518, which shifted control of the majority of appointees to the state fair board from the governor to the agriculture commissioner while also and adding the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Senate President to the board.

Under the new law, which went into effect after the legislature overrrode Beshear’s veto, Beshear would appoint five members of the board while Quarles would appoint nine members.

The state fair board makes the decisions surrounding Kentucky’s annual state fair, which is held at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Beshear’s lawyer, Travis Mayo, argued that the bill violated the constitution by stripping his authority over an executive branch board and handing the power to another constitutional officer. Currently, Beshear appoints a majority of the board’s members.

“HB 518 prevents the Governor and Secretary from ensuring that the laws are faithfully executed by giving them no ability to ensure the board with an annual budget of more than $50 million and unilateral contracting authority properly uses taxpayers’ money in its operations and properly maintains and operates all of the properties under its custody and control,” Mayo wrote in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also argues that by putting the House Speaker and Senate President on an executive branch board, the legislature overstepped the separation of powers and unlawfully encroached on the executive branch.

House Bill 518 was one of several bills passed this session that removed power from Beshear and handed it to other constitutional offices, including several bills that gave more power to Quarles. Beshear has already challenged bills that would have limited his emergency powers — prompted by Beshear’s restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. That lawsuit is currently in front of the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Beshear told reporters Monday that the fair board is a “critical part of Kentucky’s governance.”

“There is only one executive branch and it’s headed by the governor and every time you try to move governance outside of there and let other people make decisions that aren’t accountable to the voters, that will ultimately indebt the commonwealth further, the less responsibility you get,” Beshear said.

The Agriculture Commissioner is also an elected official. On Twitter Monday, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles called the lawsuit “unprecedented.”

“It’s clear that old habits die hard. Even though he has left the Attorney General’s office, Governor Andrew Beshear is once again suing parts of state government,” Quarles wrote. “The Governor refuses to accept laws passed by the legislature & is now running to a court to seek his preferred outcome.”

Beshear is seeking a permanent injunction against the bill, which would restore the board to 18 members, with the majority appointed by the governor.