The newly elected governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, filed five executive orders this week. Among them were decisions that will strip former felons of voting rights and will lower the minimum wage for government workers and contractors.
Governor Bevin is a Tea Party Republican who took office less than a month ago from former Democratic Governor Steve Beshear.
While in office, Gov. Beshear restored voting rights to 140,000 former felons that have served their sentences. Now Gov. Bevin has reversed this.
“While I have been a vocal supporter of the restoration of rights, it is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people.”
His decision will affect mainly African Americans and individuals from lower income brackets, it will not, however, affect those who have already received a certificate confirming their restoration of rights.
Now former felons will have to petition for the restorations of their civil rights from the governor’s office. This is disappointing, as studies have shown that ex-felons that have their voting rights restored are less likely to end up back in jail.
The decision was a shock to many, as Bevin promised during his election campaign that he would keep Beshear’s reinstatement of voting rights.
Gov. Bevin also reversed former Gov. Beshear’s executive order that raised the minimum wage for state government workers and contractors to $10.10 an hour. Those that have already received the raise will be able to stay at that rate, but anyone that is newly hired will start at only $7.25 an hour.
Bevin’s reason for this was the following:
“The minimum wage stifles job creation and disproportionately impacts lower skilled workers seeking entry-level jobs.”
He also believes that “Wage rates ideally would be established by the demands of the labor market instead of being set by the government.”
A third executive order was filed to remove county clerks’ names from marriage licenses. This was the well known request of County Clerk Kim Davis. Davis is a county clerk that had her 15 minutes of fame this summer when she refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses in Rowan County based on her religious beliefs. Bevin has now granted Davis’s request as well as her additional demand: allowing for clerks to designate a third party to sign the marriage licenses.
The other two executive orders involved a hiring freeze for all positions in state government and abolishing the Governor’s Employee Advisory Council.