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Bevin Orders Change to Marriage Licenses, Rescinds Minimum Wage, Suspends Felon Voting Rights

Governor Matt Bevin announced five executive orders on Tuesday pertaining to marriage licenses, minimum wage, hiring practices within the state government, the restoration of voting rights for felons, and what he called a "superfluous state board".

“Today, I took action to uphold several commitments I made during my campaign so that we can implement real solutions that will help the people of Kentucky,” said Bevin, in a statement. “While I have been a vocal supporter of the restoration of rights, for example, it is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people. As we move into the New Year and upcoming session, I look forward to working with legislators and stakeholders to build consensus and drive policy that makes a meaningful impact on the lives of all Kentuckians.”

The following Executive Orders are being filed Tuesday:

MARRIAGE LICENSES

Bevin ordered the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives to issue a revised marriage license form to the offices of all Kentucky County Clerks, removing the name of the clerks from the form. Kentucky became the center of national attention after the United States Supreme Court determined that same-sex marriage was legal nationwide, including in states like Kentucky that had previously banned the practice through the state constitution. Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses and was supported by Bevin during her opposition. In his announcement, Bevin stated that the order was "to ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored". 

MINIMUM WAGE FOR STATE WORKERS

In June, former then-Governor Steve Beshear raised the minimum wage for state workers in the executive branch to $10.10 and urged private industries to follow suit. On Tuesday, Bevin rescinded that order, relieving executive branch agencies and vendors of that obligation. The new order does not affect classified employees with status who have already received increases as a result of Beshear's order.

MERIT SYSTEM

Executive Order 2015-050, according to Bevin, "prioritizes effective and efficient management of state government operations by implementing a new moratorium on hiring."  This order removes all oversight of the merit system hiring from the Governor’s Office. Unlike Governor Beshear’s Executive Order which had the Secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet approve all personnel actions regarding merit employees, this Executive Order transfers that responsibility to the Personnel Secretary.  Approval of non-merit employees will remain the duty of the Secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet.  "Furthermore, effective immediately, all vacant positions in any agency will be reviewed to determine if they are necessary to the maintenance of essential government services," Bevin said in the news release.

EMPLOYEE ADVISORY COUNCIL

Executive Order 2015-051 rescinds Governor Beshear’s Executive Order 2008-471 which established the Governor’s Employee Advisory Council (GEAC). The GEAC was created to discuss issues pertaining to wages, hours, and terms of employment for merit employees, but, according to Bevin, is non-value added given that the Governor has no power to extend negotiation and collective bargaining rights to employees of the Commonwealth. The merit system, along with the policies and procedures enacted through the Personnel Cabinet, provide sufficient protections and oversight of these issues and functions in a streamlined and efficient manner, the announcement said.

FELON VOTING RIGHTS

While Bevin has been a strong advocate for the reinstatement of non-violent felony offenders’ voting and civil rights, Executive Order 2015-052 suspends the provisions of Executive Order 2015-871 as that order is contrary to the Kentucky Constitution and undermines the very right it seeks to restore by circumventing elected representatives in the state legislature and the voice of the people at the ballot box, the governor stated. The Office of the Governor will continue to utilize the processes and procedures under current law in the same manner as the previous administration pending further study and consideration by the Kentucky General Assembly, Bevin said. This Executive Order does not affect anyone whose rights have already been restored by the previous Executive Order.

-Staff report