FRANKFORT, Ky. – Since Governor Andy Beshear was elected last month, Republican leaders in the General Assembly say they’ve had productive conversations with the new man in charge.
They just don’t want to share any details about those meetings yet.
“Speaker (David) Osborne and I have both had various opportunities to discuss, separately and jointly, with the governor. They have been good in tone and substance,” Senate President Robert Stivers said. “But much to your all chagrin, we’re not going to help you all create a story. So they were very, very productive, and we will continue to keep the confidences of those discussions between us.”
Lawmakers have filed at least 239 bills for the legislative session, ranging from expanded gambling, marijuana legalization, gun restrictions, and pension changes.
Democratic leaders hope having a Democrat in the Governor’s Mansion will help them get some of their agenda items through.
“The one thing we have is the Governor,” House Minority Caucus Chair Derrick Graham said. “We will be working with the Governor… I think we who are in the minority will be working with the Governor to try to forge a method by which we can work with the majority party. So the policies we espouse, and those being particularly education and health care, that we can get some legislation passed that benefits the commonwealth of Kentucky all across the state.”
House Speaker David Osborne said discussions about most bills, including revenue-generating items like expanded gambling, are still in the early stages.
“There’s been some general conversation back and forth between and amongst members (on expanded gambling), but at this point in time, we will deal with it the way we do every other bill that’s been filed.”
Stivers still plans to request a special counsel to investigate the state’s 2015 settlement with Purdue Pharma.
He feels like Kentucky could have received more than the $24 million it received, and previously cited Oklahoma’s recent $270 million settlement with the drug maker regarding its role in the opioid epidemic.
“Most of (my criticism) was directed at the former Attorney General, Jack Conway, and how he handled it going out his door,” Stivers said.
When the legislature meets again, there will be at least a couple of open seats in the House left behind by Rocky Adkins and Dennis Keene, who left to take positions with the Beshear administration.
Graham said Adkins has been helping the party recruit a solid candidate for the House District 99 seat, and he’s confident about retaining the House District 67 seat as well.
No special election dates have been set.
House Democratic leaders are set to elect new leadership jobs Friday, and with Adkins gone, there’s a vacancy with the House Minority Floor Leader position.
Graham said he believes House Minority Whip Joni Jenkins, D-Shivley, is the only one pursuing the role. He intends on remaining the House Minority Caucus Chair.
Jenkins has represented House District 44 since 1995 and would be the first woman to hold the Democrat’s top House leadership position.
She would be only the second woman to hold a Democrat to hold a House Democratic leadership position after Sannie Overly served as Majority Caucus Chairman from 2013 to 2017, back when Democrats had the legislative majority.