FRANKFORT, Ky. – House Democrats have elected the first woman to hold a leadership position within a Kentucky legislative caucus.
“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” New House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins said after the closed-door vote Friday. “It’s amazing that it took until almost 2020 for this to happen.”
Jenkins replaces Rocky Adkins, who left to take a job as Governor Andy Beshear’s senior advisor.
She said she’s ready to work with the Republican majority.
“I have been in leadership for a year now and have had a great relationship with the members of the majority leadership,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins was only the second woman to hold a leadership position within a caucus.
Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, became the third on Friday. She was elected as the House Minority Whip, the No. 3 role for Democratic leaders.
“I think people are tired of us fighting like gladiators for their amusement. I think there’s real work to be done,” Hatton said.
Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, will serve again as the Minority Caucus Chair, the No. 2 role in leadership.
They’re going into budget talks with Republicans as they try to pass a two-year spending plan, and they’re confident they can get some of their agenda items through.
“I think we certainly are fortunate to have the Governor of our own party, and we will be working with him and his administration to make sure that a budget is put forth that represents Democratic values of public education and health care and moving Kentucky forward,” Jenkins said.
But where will the money come from? The Consensus Forecasting Group warned lawmakers earlier this week that there won’t be much new revenue coming in the next few years.
“I think we saw a large number of folks sign on to the medical marijuana bill last time, and to the sports betting (bill). I would not be shocked to see casino gaming to be debated this session,” Jenkins said. “We know that we do not have enough revenue in this state, and I think a budget year is a great year to start talking about what things we can do to generate revenue.”
And with Governor Andy Beshear now in office, Democrats feel they’ll have a strong voice in the upcoming session.
“I can already tell a difference in the hallways and the atmosphere and the attitude,” Hatton said. “I think that everyone is really tired of all the fighting. We’ll see. You know some people are still going to want to scrap when we get up there, but I anticipate that it’s going to be a whole different ballgame.”