By Jamie Vinson&Cassondra Kirby/News writers
Gov. Paul Patton vetoed House Bill 132 last week, which included updates to the new requirements for those who sit on university boards of regents — requirements initially spelled out in Senate Bill 152.Senate Bill 152, supported by both Sen. Ed Worley and State Rep. Harry Moberly, and passed by Patton March 10, called for the removal of Fred Rice from his chairmanship on Eastern’s Board of Regents. SB 152 requires regents to reside within the 50 United States and immediately removes those members who violate the residency rule.
When Rice was appointed to the Board in 1999, legislation allowed one board member to live out of state. That law is still valid, but Rice lives in the U.S. Virgin Islands — SB 152 excludes U.S. territories and the District of Columbia as approved residencies.
The two amendments tacked on to HB 132 by Worley at the end of the legislative session sought to change the language of SB 152 to allow regents to reside in the District of Columbia and to no longer force the Council on Postsecondary Education to notify regents if they violate the residency clause — Worley asked for that responsibility to be placed in the attorney general’s hands.
In a statement released following the veto last Thursday, Patton said the major factor in the HB 132’s failure to pass was the fact it violated Kentucky’s Constitution.
“This bill contains a variety of amendments including amendments relating to county officials, the executive branch ethics code and amendments to KRS Chapter 164, which change residency requirements for gubernatorial appointees to the board of regents for each of Kentucky’s public universities,” Patton said. “HB 132 is violative of Section 51 of Kentucky’s Constitution, which requires that laws enacted by the General Assembly must not relate to more than one subject, which must be expressed in the title of the bill.”
Patton also made a reference in his statement to the pending litigation involving SB 152. Rice filed suit March 14 challenging the constitutionality of SB 152 because he felt it should only apply to regents who move their residences after the date the legislation was signed.
A temporary restraining order issued by the judge overseeing the case has halted the CPE and Governor’s Office — both named in the suit — from taking any action to remove Rice from his seat on the Board until the parties reach an agreement about his Board membership. Rice’s attorneys are hoping for an out-of-court settlement between the parties before the next Board meeting in April. If an agreement is not reached, a trial will be scheduled.
Patton mentioned the controversy surrounding SB 152 and its effects on HB 132.
“The provisions of the bill appear inconsistent and in parts retroactive, as they relate to state universities, which by law must be expressly stated,” Patton said. “For these reasons, and in light of the ambiguity of the legislation and pending litigation regarding its intent, I am exercising my veto authority over HB 132.”
Tuesday Moberly told The Progress both he and Worley asked Patton to veto HB 132 following a letter the two drafted last week asking the CPE to agree with Rice’s attorneys that SB 152 should only affect regents who move after the legislation’s date. The two drafted the letter in hopes of resolving the turmoil SB 152 has caused at Eastern.
“We thought it (HB 132) would hinder a resolution to the whole issue, which we finally agreed upon by writing the letter saying that we thought it ought to be applied prospectively,” Moberly said. “The provisions of 132 that would have brought the attorney general into it and several other things would have hindered that resolution. Sen. Worley and I asked for it to be vetoed so that we could reach the resolution so Mr. Rice could stay on the Board.”
Worley did not return Progress phone calls.
Tuesday Dennis Taulbee, the CPE’s staff attorney, confirmed receiving the letter.
“The letter is significant in that it is a clear expression of legislative intent that will assist us as we move to resolve the lawsuit,” Taulbee said. “We have publicly stated that it is our belief the law should apply prospectively, not retrospectively.”
Taulbee said the CPE had no other comment on HB 132’s failure to pass other than the fact the CPE understood there were “technical problems” with the bill and that Moberly and Worley had asked that it be vetoed.
“The Council has said since the beginning of the controversy that it is the prerogative of the General Assembly to establish the criteria for boards of regents and that the Council will carry out, to the best of our abilities, any duties the Legislature assigns us.”
Moberly said his only regret in HB 132’s failure to pass is that it also eliminates another amendment both he and Worley supported regarding those who can serve as university presidents. Both filed amendments to the original bill that would not have allowed members of the General Assembly who also are full-time employees of institutions to become presidents of Kentucky institutions.
“I regretted having to do it (asking Patton to veto HB 132) because I was interested in keeping my language on the president there,” Moberly said. “But I’m going to pre-file that bill … I already have it drafted, and I’m going to make sure that it passes in our next session.”
Moberly filed the amendment to clear up speculation that the reason he supported SB 152 was because he was upset he was not chosen for the Eastern presidency.
“I was nominated, and after I was nominated I did submit a letter of application and the appropriate application materials,” Moberly said, “and I was in the process for a short period of time.”
However, Moberly said he quickly lost interest in the presidency.
“I decided I would prefer to stay in the General Assembly after I thought about it,” he said. “I actually applied because I had people urging me to do so and at some point in the process I realized I wasn’t really interested, and that my heart was in the General Assembly.”
In addition to clearing up speculation about the Eastern presidency, he said the amendment also made a strong statement for the General Assembly.
“There are other employees at state institutions who work for the General Assembly who are in a similar situation to me,” Moberly said. “None of them are interested in being president either. As a group, it sort of indicates that we don’t have a conflict of interest when we are considering qualifications for boards of regents, and I think that’s important not just to me, but to all of us, that we don’t have ulterior motives that we want to be president of our institutions when we are considering these sorts of bills.”
Moberly said if the legislation passes it will only affect those General Assembly members employed by universities at the time the legislation is signed. There are five House members returning in January who could be affected by the bill, he said.
“If there was somebody, for instance, working at EKU that took my place in say two years, four years, six years or whatever, since they would not be employed the date of the act, it would not apply to them,” Moberly said. “It only applies to those currently serving on the date of the enactment of the bill.”
*The following is a timeline tracking the controversial legislation that e
ssentially removed Rice from his position on the Board and other events that followed.
– Sen. Ed. Worley had Sen. Lindy Casebier file an amendment to Senate Bill 152 Feb. 26 making it illegal for a board of regents member to reside outside the 50 states. Rep. Harry Moberly publicly announces support of the bill as well, which only directly affects Eastern Board Chair Fred Rice, who recently moved to the Virgin Islands.
-On March 9 a letter is drafted and signed by seven Regents and two other Eastern employees opposing the legislation. It is forwarded to Gov. Paul Patton.
– Gov. Paul Patton signs the bill on March 10 immediately removing Rice from his position.
– On March 14 Rice files suit challenging the legislation and the constitutionality of the bill because it’s retroactive and he feels it should only affect those move move after the legislation date.
– On March 24 Worley files amendments to HB 252 (the bill that set original guidelines for national board certification of teachers) that eliminates mandating the CPE to notify regents if they violate the residency guideline of SB 152 and makes it OK for a regent to reside in Washington, D.C.
Moberly and Worley also filed amendments (Moberly’s to HB 132 and Worley’s to 252) outlining who could not serve as a university president. Basically, the amendments said that any General Assembly member who is also a full-time employee of a university can’t be president of that institution.
Worley’s amendments on 252 were ruled out of order. He said the Senate floor leader asked him to pull the amendments so 252 could be used to pass other legislation. Thus, Worley withdraws amendments and adds them onto the Free Conference Committee Report of HB 132.
-On March 25 Franklin County Circuit Judge William Graham temporarily halted the controversial legislation signed by Patton by issuing a temporary restraining order and preventing the CPE and the Governor’s Office from removing Rice from his position until an agreement is made between the parties.
– On April 2 Worley and Moberly draft a letter to the CPE requesting it agree with Rice’s attorneys that the language of SB 152 be interpreted to apply only to any person appointed to one of the seven boards after the effective date of the act. They feel Rice should be allowed to remain on the Board, and say their letter will help resolve the issue and end the turmoil the issue has caused.
– Moberly and Worley ask Patton to veto HB 132 because they feel the amendments hinder the resolution to the problem — a resolution they outlined in the letter to the CPE.
– Patton vetoes HB 132 April 3 stating it violated the Kentucky constitution because it included more than one subject and also makes reference to the “pending litigation” of Rice’s suit.
– On Monday Eastern’s Faculty Senate postponed until May a motion to support Rice and protest the legislation.
– Tuesday the Student Government Association’s agenda will include a motion to pass a resolution in support of Rice.