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New Batch Of Constitutional Officers Sworn In

Josh James

Kentucky’s new slate of Constitutional Officers have been officially sworn in. While the majority hail from the governor’s party, Monday’s ceremony set the stage for possible battles over voting rights and marriage licenses.

The row of fresh faces, several among the youngest elected officials in the country, were all smiles as they took the oath of office in the well of the State Capitol. Governor Matt Bevin offered a bipartisan welcome to Republican Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, Treasurer Allison Ball, Auditor Mike Harmon, as well as Democrat Andy Beshear, who takes over as Attorney General, and returning Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

"We have different parties that we represent, different ideologies even within our party, but I'll tell you at the end of the day we serve the people of Kentucky," he said.

Still, hints of future rifts were present – including Grimes’ full-throated endorsement of voting rights restoration for former felons, an issue addressed through executive order by former Gov. Steve Beshear only to be rapidly reversed in late December under Bevin.

"Whether it be by executive order or by Constitutional Amendment, we will continue to be their advocate in these halls," the 2014 Senate hopeful promised.

Bevin has expressed support for relaxing the restrictions but maintains the change must come through the legislature and the "will of the people." Meanwhile, the state’s new chief law enforcement official says the governor’s move to strike county clerks’ names from marriage licenses could cross his desk.

"It may, it may, but this is day one and we're focused on getting together and to start addressing the mission. Obviously we have a duty to uphold the law and we are going to uphold that duty," he told WUKY.

For now, Beshear says he’s focused on protections for children and seniors and ensuring the state’s backlog of more than 3,000 untested rape kits is processed.

The new team takes over as lawmakers gear up for a 60-day budget session where they hope to tackle , among other issues, the state’s ballooning pension obligations, right-to-work legislation, charter schools, and a local option sales tax.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.