Kentucky governor Bevin issues executive orders rolling back voting rights and minimum wage, gives Kim Davis a win

Last month, former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear issued an executive order last month that extended voting rights to roughly 150,000 ex-felons who had completed their sentences.

Yesterday, newly-elected Kentucky governor Matt Bevin reversed Beshear’s executive order as one of a series of executive actions that amounted to a laundry list of conservative priorities.

Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin, via Wikimedia Commons

Kentucky governorMatt Bevin, via Wikimedia Commons

Bevin overturned Beshear’s voting rights expansion despite having previously supported legislation to that effect. Kentucky has some of the most restrictive laws in the country when it comes to restoring voting rights for ex-felons, and Bevin has previously said that he thinks the state should move to allow for automatic rights restoration. So voting rights advocates were hopeful — even optimistic — that he would leave Beshear’s order intact when he took office while the legislature worked to pass a law to its effect. Instead, Bevin went out of his way to take voting rights away from people he has already said should have them. As he explained, invoking the separation of powers, the issue needs to be addressed through proper channels in the legislature.

That’s not all, though. Not even close. Bevin also rescinded Governor Beshear’s executive order setting the minimum wage for government contractors at $10.10, moving it back to the federal minimum of $7.25. As ThinkProgress reported, “About 800 state workers who have already gotten raises will be able to keep them, but new hires will now have to start at the lower pay rate. In the order.” In this case, Bevin seemed less concerned with the separation of powers and more concerned with his conservative principles. In announcing the action, Bevin went as far as to suggest that there shouldn’t be a minimum wage in the first place, saying that ‘Wage rates ideally would be established by the demands of the labor market instead of being set by the government.”

The idea that Bevin’s actions were motivated by a commitment to the separation of powers goes completely out the window, however, when considering his executive order responding to issues surrounding the state’s compliance with the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. In contrast with his deference to the legislature when it came to voting rights, Bevin issued an executive order that removes the state’s requirement that county clerks’ names appear on marriage licenses — a move specifically tailored for Kim Davis and other Kentucky county clerks who had previously refused to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Governor Beshear refused to issue an executive order to this effect because it would set an ugly precedent — the government isn’t supposed to change how it administers the law based on the whims of religious activists — but Bevin promised to issue Kim Davis’s bailout “on day one,” removing the need for the legislature to act.

And now he’s made good on that promise. Elections have consequences.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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