Kentucky Senate passes bill to revamp KET board

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“It’s time to blow up that board and start over,” said Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer about KET.

This article was first published by the Kentucky Lantern and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Republicans in the Kentucky Senate, in passing a bill Wednesday to reorganize the board for Kentucky’s public television broadcaster, also used the opportunity to tee up criticism against the state’s Democratic governor. 

Senate Bill 104, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, would disband the current board for Kentucky Educational Television (KET) and require future gubernatorial appointments to the nine-person board be confirmed by the Republican-controlled state Senate. 

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said he believed the KET board was already “politicized,” echoing concerns made by Meredith when the bill passed out of a Senate committee about Beshear’s past appointments to the board.

“Reporting at KET needs to remain fair and impartial with no threat of interference from members of the administration,” Thayer said. “It’s time to blow up that board and start over.”

Thayer pointed to how Beshear appointed his own communications director, Crystal Staley, to the board last summer as evidence of political influence on KET. Thayer also said the wife of Rocky Adkins, a senior advisor to Beshear and former House minority floor leader, sat on the board. 

Democrats in the legislature questioned the need for such legislation, with Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, saying both Republicans and Democrats have served on the KET board in recent years. 

“The truth of the matter is that there’s nothing polarizing about what KET has done now,” Thomas said. “It’s not broke. It doesn’t need fixing.”

The bill would require the partisan makeup of the board to reflect the voter registration of the state; Republicans currently have a slight plurality in registered voters. As of now, the members of the KET board do not have to declare their political party. 

The legislation would also implement demographic requirements for the board, including that the board reflect the minority makeup of the state’s population and for there to be an equal representation of the “two sexes.” 

The bill passed 30-6 along party lines.

A spokesperson for Beshear’s office previously called the bill an effort “aimed at controlling KET.”

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