Virus Outbreak Congress

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks after meeting with Senate Republicans, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

(The Center Square) - Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, filed a bill last week that would require a governor faced with picking a successor to a U.S. senator to select an individual from the same political party. 

Senate Bill 228 has the support of U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to a statement given by McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer.  

The bill comes as both McConnell and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul are Republicans, and Gov. Andy Beshear is a Democrat. 

Under the bill, if the seat was held by a member of a political party, that party's state executive committee would submit three names to the governor, who would pick from those individuals.

It’s also the latest legislation to put restrictions on gubernatorial authority. Last month, Beshear vetoed five bills that would either limit his powers or remove his authority. Republicans, which hold supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, voted to override those vetoes.  

Since then, Beshear has filed a lawsuit challenging three of them, all of those related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a press conference Monday, Beshear said he found the legislation “concerning.” He noted another bill, Senate Bill 3, which moves the state’s Agricultural Development Board and Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corp. from the governor’s office to the agricultural secretary. 

“I believe that we've got to believe in the institution of government, of the separation of powers more than we believe in our party,” Beshear told reporters. “Whether or not we change the way that a vacancy is filled shouldn't be decided based on who's currently in the office.”   

Kentucky’s last Democratic U.S. senator was Wendell Ford, who retired in 1999. 

Ford was also the state’s last appointed senator in December 1974. Then governor, Ford defeated Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marlow Cook in the November general election. Cook stepped down early to allow Ford to have more seniority than the other freshmen senators.