Shane Baker may be new to Frankfort, but soon he may have to help make one of the key decisions in this state’s history.
That is, whether or not to impeach Gov. Andy Beshear.
The major narrative from the GOP-controlled State Senate and House of Representatives coming into the 2021 legislative session has been addressing Beshear’s actions in light of the COVID-19 situation. Pushback to many of Beshear’s actions in terms of shutdowns (including entities like businesses considered non-essential and churches), regulations and school directives has been strong, and legislators immediately set about working on bills that would involve them more in the decision-making process for emergency powers.
But others want to go further. After a quartet of Kentucky citizens filed a petition claiming Beshear, a Democrat, violated Kentuckians’ constitutional rights by imposing virus-related lockdowns, including numerous portions of the state constitution as well as the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the rights to worship, to peaceably assemble, and of pursuing their own safety and happiness were violated by Beshear, according to the petition. Also criticized are actions like the travel ban and changes to the way people vote, according to WHAS in Louisville.
Because the petition was filed with the State House of Representatives, the House is constitutionally required to form a committee to review the petition, noted Baker.
This creates a “delicate situation” for the new state representative.
“Because the impeachment comes through the House, they’re required to form a committee that will make a recommendation to the House,” he said. Should impeachment be recommended, “the House will be the jury in that case. Since I will be a part of that jury if it comes to that, then I can’t say anything because of the process. I’m trying to just let the process play out.”
Baker has been busy in first week or so on the job, and much of that has been fielding phone calls from constituents unhappy with Beshear’s actions over the last year. As such, Baker is “not surprised” impeachment has become a possibility.
“All the messages I’ve gotten in the last nine to 10 months, people have been concerned about the overreach of the governor, and how it’s impacted their constitutional rights,” said Baker.
He can’t predict an outcome, however. “It will depend entirely on what the committee recommends.” He also doesn’t have a timetable for the process.
The committee includes four Republicans and three Democrats: Rep. Jason Nemes (chair), Rep. Ed Massey, Rep. Kim King, and Rep. Suzanne Miles for the GOP, and Rep. Angie Hatton, Rep. George Brown, and Rep. Patti Minter for the Democrats. None of Pulaski’s own representatives are on the committee.
According to the Associated Press, Beshear said Monday there’s “zero grounds” for his removal, declaring it would invalidate his 2019 election.
“We don’t need it, shouldn’t go anywhere and don’t anticipate it will go anywhere,” said Beshear during a press conference. “I think that’s one where everybody will rise above and put our democracy here in the state above four individuals who are upset.”
WHAS in Louisville quoted Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne as saying, “We have to take it seriously. This is a serious issue regardless of whether anything comes of it or not. ... For someone to propose undoing an election of a state executive, it’s only happened four times in the history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
But what does Pulaski County’s party leadership think about the matter?
Bill Turpen, Pulaski County Republican Party Chairman, isn’t sure if the petition will be followed through upon or is more of a warning motion in Beshear’s direction.
“Personally, I’m not ready to impeach him — I’m not supporting impeachment yet,” said Turpen. However, “some of the measures that he took caused drastic things to happen to some people.
“In terms of his leadership, he didn’t draw in anyone else, be it legislators, business leaders, or leaders throughout the state as an advisory group,” added Turpen, who said that Somerset’s own Mayor Alan Keck had offered some good ideas on managing the economy in the midst of the coronavirus to the governor, in particular. “When you take the actions that (Beshear) did, you have to take all the blame for it. I think good leaders reach out to others for advice and make them a part of the process.”
Dr. Rodney Casada, chair of the Pulaski County Democratic Party, is sick of hearing about impeachment in general — and that includes talk of impeaching Republican President Donald Trump just before his term is set to conclude.
“It’s crazy,” said Casada. “I hope it stops. If we’re ever going to get our country and state back together, we’ve got to learn to work together. That’s the new word, ‘impeach, impeach, impeach.’ We’ll never heal as long as we’ve got this stuff going on.”
He added that he doesn’t think anything will ultimately come of the Kentucky petition. “It’s all political,” said Casada. “They may disagree with how (Beshear) has gone about it, but it’s to keep everyone safe.”