Kentucky Exposition Center.  Image courtesy Kentucky Venues. 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A judge ruled last week that a bill reorganizing the Kentucky State Fair Board was unconstitutional. But there won’t be any sudden changes to the panel in charge of the city’s two major convention venues.

Jefferson Circuit Judge Mary Shaw ordered Monday that her ruling will not take effect until appeals in the lawsuit are complete. At issue is legislation approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly earlier this year that stripped Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of some fair board appointments.

Beshear challenged that action, and Shaw ruled Nov. 29 that House Bill 518 encroached on Beshear's powers. But GOP House and Senate leaders, along with Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Fair Board chair Dr. Mark Lynn and Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office, had asked for a stay in the case while they appeal Shaw's order.

Attorneys for Beshear argued against letting the fair board continue to operate with its current members, saying in court documents that it would “only serve to allow continued violation of the Kentucky Constitution’s bedrock separation of powers provisions.”

They also disagreed with claims by lawmakers’ attorneys that the fair board would be thrown into “a chaotic spiral” if its membership changed abruptly and would threaten administrative tasks like planning for the February National Farm Machinery Show.

“Defendants’ claim of chaos if the Judgment is not stayed rings hollow given that it was under HB 518 that the new board took control overnight and immediately changed its operations, all under the ruse of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency,” the governor’s lawyers argued.

Among other things, the bill moved the appointing power of the board from Beshear to Quarles, a Republican who also is a board member. It gave Quarles nine of the board’s 14 voting seats and let the governor name five.

The fair board oversees the Kentucky Exposition Center at the state fairgrounds and the Kentucky International Convention Center downtown.

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