Gov. Matt Bevin responded to two recent events with a stunning display of petty adolescence and erratic temperament unworthy of Kentucky’s highest officeholder.
The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the governor had acted illegally in abolishing the University of Louisville board of trustees and appointing his own.
As he absorbed that blow, House leaders were finalizing details on a press conference blasting the governor for withholding $4.6 million owed to Kentucky schools.
So what did Bevin do when he got wind that a House smackdown was imminent?
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He raced into the Capitol Rotunda to record a seven-minute video where he attacked the court and university presidents, (who he previously called “crybabies”), and raged on House leaders calling them “liars” and “hypocrites.”
He brayed, almost incoherently, about why the payment to the schools had not been authorized, blaming everyone but the poor fellow filming the video.
House leaders and members calmly but firmly laid out the facts of the egregious nonpayment by the governor in the Rotunda an hour later, never once resorting to name calling or invectives.
Our goal was simply to expose the governor’s deliberate refusal to release the funds to Kentucky schools and students as state law mandated.
Imagine our surprise when two hours later it was reported that the governor would authorize the funds even though the reasoning for the turnaround was steeped in doublespeak.
As grateful as we are that the funds will finally go to our schools, we are more disturbed by the governor’s increasingly bombastic, virulent and unhinged reactions when faced with criticism and controversy.
Bevin’s actions are characteristic of the schoolyard bully who uses taunts, jabs and jeers to embolden his own self esteem and get his way.
Ironically, October is Anti-Bullying Month in Kentucky, a legislative initiative authored by Democrat State Rep. Rita Smart to bring awareness of the damage bullying inflicts on children, promote conflict resolution techniques and foster productive coping skills.
Research tells us that childhood bullies grow into aggressive, angry adults who wreak havoc in workplaces and relationships. I fear we have the poster child for this reality occupying the governor’s office today.
Bevin’s vindictive, explosive disposition has reared its head before.
He bullied Democratic state representatives to persuade them to switch parties, then canceled a critical road project and masterminded abhorrent political calls in their districts when they refused.
He threatened state university presidents to support his budget cuts. He sent a menacing text to the Kentucky attorney general for filing suit when the governor broke the law on several occasions.
No matter our political and philosophical differences, we expect the governor to exercise good judgment, refrain from vituperative rhetoric and above all, treat people with respect.
In the spirit of Anti-Bullying Month, we implore the governor to throw off his mantle of hostility and brinkmanship and employ calm, collaborative governing skills going forward.
As he is so fond of saying, “Kentucky deserves better.”
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian is a Democratic legislator from Louisville.
At issue: Sept. 28 Herald-Leader article, “Democrats cap off drama by calling for $4.6 million in school funding” and Sept. 29 Herald-Leader article, “Bevin approves funds for K-12 schools after facing criticism from Democrats”