Attorney general sides with GOP lawmakers on voiding some of Beshear’s line-item vetoes Skip to content

Attorney general sides with GOP lawmakers on voiding some of Beshear’s line-item vetoes

AG’s office said bill wasn’t an appropriation bill, so line-item vetoes don’t apply – even though the bill title said “an appropriation therefor.”

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Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman’s office ruled Tuesday that some of Gov. Andy Beshear’s recent line-item vetoes are void, upholding the General Assembly’s move to make all of House Bill 8 a law. 

At the end of this year’s legislative session, Beshear issued two line-item vetoes on HB 8, a Republican-backed bill with wide-ranging provisions affecting state revenue, including paving the way for income tax cuts in future sessions. 

However, Republicans in the legislature did not attempt to override the vetoes, instead calling them unconstitutional and forwarding the bill to the secretary of state’s office for filing. Kentucky governors may issue line-item vetoes to appropriations bills, and House Bill 8 was not an appropriations bill, lawmakers argued. 

The attorney general’s opinion, written by Executive Director of the Office of Civil and Environmental Law Aaron J. Silletto, agreed with that distinction. HB 8 was about “generating income for the state and local governments, not spending public funds,” Stiletto wrote.

“The Governor’s attempted line-item vetoes of House Bill 8 were nullities, as they exceeded his constitutional authority,” the opinion says. “Therefore, those portions of the bill against which the Governor purported to use his line-item veto became law with the rest of the bill when it was filed with the Secretary of State on April 12, 2024.” 

James Hatchett, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, said the attorney general “never contacted our office about this request or opinion. The AG’s opinion is incorrect, as the very title of the bill at issue says it makes an appropriation.”

When it was filed, the bill’s original title said it was an act relating “to revenue.” It was later amended to say the bill was about “to fiscal matters, making an appropriation therefor, and declaring an emergency.”

“The Governor properly exercised his constitutional authority to veto parts of the bill, and previous legal opinions have upheld similar line-item vetoes,” Hatchett said. “In the future, and in basic fairness, we hope the AG’s office will reach out to the Governor’s Office before issuing any advisory opinions on the Governor’s authority.”

Beshear had attempted to veto sections of the bill that create a sales tax exemption for currency and bullion and what he called an “unfunded mandate” for tax amnesty. 

The opinion was requested by the General Assembly’s top Republicans — House Speaker David Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers. 

Typically, when governors do not sign or veto a bill, they become law without their signatures. That’s the last action recorded on HB 8.


Written by McKenna Horsley. Cross-posted from the Kentucky Lantern.

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Kentucky Lantern

The Kentucky Lantern is an independent, nonpartisan, free news service. We’re based in Frankfort a short walk from the Capitol, but all of Kentucky is our beat.