FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - House Republicans on Friday discussed some of their goals for the upcoming legislative session and presented their leadership team for the next two years.
House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, was chosen without opposition for a second term in that post, as was Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, R-Stanford. Both men face election by the full House, but with the GOP having a 75-25 majority following the November general election, that is a virtual certainty, when lawmakers convene in January.
Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, was elected Majority Floor Leader; Rep. Suzanne Miles< R-Owensboro, has received a second term as Majority Caucus Chair; and Rep. Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown, was re-elected Majority Whip.
Rudy replaces Rep. John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville, who became seriously ill last December and was unable to attend the 2020 session. Rudy filled in for him during much of the session.
“Bam Carney, my dear friend, has been in the fight of his life since December 23,” Rudy told reporters at the Friday press conference.
“He’s had some really good weeks, he continues to improve,” Rudy said. “His constituents remain on his mind, but his recovery is first and foremost to him and his family, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to serve in this capacity. I’m honored to step in for him and pick up the torch now that he’s passed it on.”
Carney did win easy re-election earlier this month. Osborne said their leadership team is still discussing who will replace Rudy as chair of the powerful Appropriations and Revenue Committee, where all revenue and spending bills originate in the legislature, as well as other the committee chairs.
At the top of their list for the session is enacting the second year of a two-year budget, with the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2021. Lawmakers only passed one year in the 2020 session, due to uncertainty in state revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Osborne says there are two main reasons crafting as budget will be difficult. “First and foremost, dollars will be tight. I don’t think there’s any rational observation that would lead to anyone to believe that the revenues are not going to be limited, as we go into this budget cycle.”
The other reason is the ongoing pandemic. “With the distortion of revenue caused by the artificial stimulus, it is impossible to predict what those revenues are going to look like,” he said.
Osborne says he is awaiting action by the Consensus Forecasting Group, made up of ten economists, who will offer a prediction of the state revenue when they meet on Dec. 4.
Osborne and the others also complained about methods used by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to comb at the COVID-19 pandemic, including his executive orders.
“You don’t get compliance, you don’t get buy-in, by making orders,” Osborne said. “You get compliance by getting buy-in. People need to feel that they are part of the conversation, they need to feel like their voices are being heard, and we commit to doing that.”
He said: “We have had several members prepare legislation to curtail emergency powers in some degree. About four months ago, I put together a working group that would try to find consensus among those bills, look at what other states do, and try to find good long-term policy.”
Osborne admitted, no one contemplated emergency powers lasting longer than needed for such things as natural emergencies and terrorist acts, which would be limited in geographic area or time.
However, they did not offer specifics on how they would have dealt with the pandemic.
Other legislation that is expected to be considered during the 2021 session includes medical marijuana, which easily passed the House but was not acted upon in the Senate; sports gaming and expanded gaming.
Osborne says with 21 new members taking office, how some of those issues will fare is not yet known, although they will be holding a caucus retreat in a few weeks.
Beshear’s communications director, Crystal Staley, issued a statement in response to the GOP complaints:
“The governor has long said his focus during the pandemic is not on politics, but on defeating the coronavirus, especially as the case surge is starting to overwhelm our hospitals and kill more of our loved ones and neighbors including our health care workers, teachers and now a 15-year-old student.
“The governor has followed the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and public health experts, and many other Governors across the country are taking similar actions.
“Gov. Beshear knows these actions, which the Supreme Court ruled unanimously were constitutional and necessary to protect Kentuckians, are not popular, but they are needed to save lives. State lawmakers are quick to criticize the Governor, but they do not offer any solutions to stop this health care crisis.”