Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration rejected a request Tuesday from Democrats in the Kentucky Senate to rescind an executive order that abolishes the board responsible for safety regulations in workplaces and transfers its powers to the state labor secretary.
Abolishing the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board harms the health and safety of Kentucky workers, said a letter Senate Democrats sent the Republican governor Monday. House Democrats sent a similar letter last week.
The letters follow a request last week by Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat who is running for governor, that lawmakers demand Bevin rescind the July 17 executive order. Lawmakers earlier this year rejected Bevin’s previous attempt to abolish the board and adopted several regulations regarding its operation.
Bevin’s acting labor secretary, David A. Dickerson, sent a five-page letter Tuesday to House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, and Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, saying he appreciated the invitation to rescind the executive order, but “we decline to do so.”
Dickerson noted that “newly minted gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear” made a similar request. He said the positions “illustrate a profound ignorance of the board’s true impact on workplace safety in this state.”
Dickerson said Bevin wants to “implement meaningful and reasonable reforms to the size and scope of state government — through more economical and efficient means. His decision to abolish the board is consistent with this well-supported agenda.”
The acting secretary also said the governor’s order was legal.
The board, said Dickerson, has met only 11 times since 2008 and only twice since Bevin took office in December 2015.
Created under Kentucky law, the board is responsible for safety regulations that apply to workplaces, ranging from factories to public schools.
The board has 12 members who represent industry, labor, agriculture, safety and health professionals, and promulgates and adopts occupational safety and health regulations for Kentucky workers as an independent board.
Beshear said Bevin’s order removes the expertise of these members, who are nominated by their associations and then appointed by the governor for three-year terms, and transfers the authority to a single individual, the labor secretary, who is appointed by the governor.
The 11 Senate Democrats said Bevin’s order conflicts with Kentucky’s plan for enforcing federal Occupational Safety and Health standards, which lawmakers adopted and the U.S. Department of Labor approved.
They also noted that while the labor secretary heads the standards board, the members “are the men and women who are most knowledgeable of the safety and health needs of the workers of the commonwealth.”