We already knew that elections, like the governor’s race in Kentucky, have consequences.
But those consequences are even worse than we thought, because newly installed Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is making moves that, in some cases, are consistent with and, in other cases, go against promises he made during the campaign.
For example, Bevin reversed former Gov. Beshear’s 8 June executive order that raised the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for hundreds of the lowest paid workers in state government’s executive branch and the employees of vendors who signed contracts with the executive branch.
About 800 state workers who have already gotten raises will be able to keep them, but new hires will now have to start at the lower pay rate. In the order, Bevin hinted that he would prefer the state have no minimum wage at all: “Wage rates ideally would be established by the demands of the labor market instead of being set by the government,” he said.
That move is consistent with Bevin’s campaign promise to make Kentucky an anti-labor, Right to Work state.
Bevin has also reversed a move by his Democratic predecessor that had restored the voting rights of about 140,000 former felons, which runs counter to promises he made during the campaign to keep the restoration of voting rights in place.
He even told reporters in November that he would stand up to his own party on the issue and convince them it was the right thing to do. Now, thanks to his order, tens of thousands of Kentuckians will not only lose the opportunity to regain their voting rights, they will also be permanently unable to serve on a jury, run for office, or obtain a vocational license.
The only explanation Bevin offered for the reversal is that he believes “it is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people.”
Kentucky is one of a tiny handful of states where former felons have to individually petition the governor to restore their civil rights after they have fully completed their sentences — a process that can be arbitrary and humiliating. As a result, one in five African Americans in the state are disenfranchised. Studies have found that ex-felons who have their voting rights restored feel more invested in their communities and are less likely to end up back in the criminal justice system.
What we’re seeing in Kentucky, then, is a set of truth and consequences even worse than people had imagined. And Bevin hasn’t even started in on Kynect, Kentucky’s version of the Affordable Care Act, which he has promised to dismantle.