Governor and Ag Commissioner feud over state fair board appointments

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 6:16 PM EDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - The governor and the commissioner of agriculture are feuding over the state fair board appointment power.

Kentucky’s State Fair Board not only oversees the state fair but Kentucky’s Exposition Center and International Convention Center which are venues that host events with tremendous economic impact for the state.

“Those two properties work in tandem and work as a team to help put Kentucky on the map for conferences for meetings, etc. And so the Kentucky State Fair board... it’s about setting policy and helping bolster Kentucky tourism as well,” said Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Dr. Ryan Quarles.

House Bill 518, which was passed last month, shifts the majority of power to make appointments for members on the fair board from the governor to the commissioner.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of managing these properties and these premier events before the pandemic and we’ve actually picked up business during the pandemic,” said Quarles.

Governor Andy Beshear vetoed the bill, the legislature overrode it, and now, Beshear filed a suit that claims it violates the state’s constitution.

“Why he sued us, I don’t know. But we’re gonna defend agriculture. We’re gonna defend the rule of law and the co-equal branch of the legislature next week in court,” said Quarles.

The new law gives the commissioner, Quarles, the power to appoint nine of the board’s 14 voting members and the governor, Beshear, the other five voting members.

“I don’t know why the governor has a problem with the Kentucky State Fair board,” Quarles. “I don’t recall the governor ever actually attending a single Kentucky State Fair board meeting.”

Beshear this week said, “There’s only one executive branch and it’s headed by the governor.”

The lawsuit claims the new bill doesn’t allow the governor to ensure the board uses taxpayers’ money properly.

Meanwhile, Quarles thinks the suit sets a dangerous precedent.

“I think it’s important for us to follow the letter of intent of the law that was passed, the legislature is a deliberative body,” he said.

Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker David Osborne are listed on the suit as defendants in addition to Quarles. The first hearing is scheduled for Monday in Jefferson County.

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