Posts Tagged ‘Greg Stumbo’

Key Senate Leader Ponders Session Sabotage

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Consternation over public employee pension reform reached the pinnacle of political posturing last week — Senate Republicans pushed back against the House Democrats’ proposal conjoined to a funding idea that expands lottery gaming options and instant racing to help chip away at the billions in the system’s unfunded liabilities.

On Wednesday of last week, the House democrats’ version of public pension reform advanced from the State House on a party line vote. Representative Brent Yonts shepherded the House committee substitute to Senate Bill 2. Yonts’ plan keeps the traditional, defined benefit plans for new hires as opposed to a hybrid plan with a 401-K style approach preferred by Senate Republican floor leader Damon Thayer. It also provides a mechanism to retain the cost of living adjustments so long as they can be paid for — something that Senator Thayer sought to repeal.

The other bugaboo is a plan by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, embodied in House Bill 416, which would expand lottery games and instant racing. On the House floor Wednesday, the Speaker tried to persuade members to vote for the funding idea in order to dodge a special session later.

Republican Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover said lawmakers were being dealt a bad hand with House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s plan. The House GOP caucus believes there’s another way the issue can be approached, and that’s through a reduction in government spending by way of slicing personal service contracts and the number of executive branch employees.

On Wednesday, Republican Floor Leader Hoover proposed those spending reduction ideas to be adopted in a floor amendment he offered up, but it was rejected.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s House Bill 416 that would expand lottery options to include games like Keno and tax revenues from instant racing to help the cash-poor pension fund was narrowly approved 52 to 47. Senate Republicans rebuked the plan, asserting the rule that during odd-year, 30-day sessions, a measure dealing with appropriations and revenue must earn a three-fifths, or supermajority of votes from each chamber; 60 in the House and 23 in the Senate. It’s a rule Stumbo, a lawyer, interpreted to apply only to a measure’s “final” passage.

Senate Republicans soundly rejected House Democrats’ ideas on tackling the public pension crisis on Thursday. And, Senate Republican floor leader Damon Thayer, issued blistering criticism, admonishing the lower chamber Democrats for dismissing key recommendations of a year-long task force, and being too preoccupied with an ill-conceived pension funding idea rather than focus on its structural maladies.

Senator Thayer expressed optimism Thursday that key leaders in both chambers can reconcile their differences on the public pension plan. But, media reports quickly circulated Speaker Stumbo’s resistance to further negotiations on the matter in the waning days of the session. In a volley of responses and denouncements on the Senate floor on Friday, Senator Thayer expressed an aversion to special sessions and hinted that the intransigence of the House might be part of a conspiracy to force a special session.

Senate President Bob Stivers relinquished his gavel and retreated to his floor seat. He claimed he’s been careful to preside over the chamber in a new chapter devoid of political gamesmanship. In a reference to former Senate President David Williams, Stivers said of his friend, “the bully of Burkesville is not here anymore.”

Today marks day 23 of the 30-day session. Please interject your own predictions and opinions here, and post them if you’re so inclined.

Watch “Legislative Update” each weeknight during the session at 11pmET on KET and follow @ReneeKET on Twitter for constant updates.

Annual Kentucky Chamber Event is “Fancy Farm Gone MILD”

Friday, January 11th, 2013

At Thursday night’s 18th Annual Kentucky Chamber Day with 1500+ politicians, lobbyists, and business leaders looking on, affirmations of bipartisanship abounded from the podium speakers that included the governor and top ranking legislators from both chambers. KET’s Bill Goodman emceed the event held in Lexington. While business attire at the Kentucky Chamber dinner is expected, spectators are eager for the Capitol’s top brass to infuse a less buttoned-up approach in their addresses.

Think of it as “Fancy Farm Gone Mild,” with light-hearted partisan punch lines and polite audience laughter instead of the fist-pounding, call and response rhetoric to which the yearly western Kentucky political event claims ownership.

Some of the speakers come with prepared text that’s more policy than joviality. House Speaker Greg Stumbo started with the latter, but cranked up the decibels on his main takeaway: “It’s time to quit kidding ourselves in Kentucky with 1 in 4 kids in poverty…we need to stop talking and be courageous to do something for Kentucky, he said in signature animated fashion. “Let’s stop talking about bi-partisanship and do it,” he added.

Bipartisanship was the theme of the night, as were calls to act on public pension and tax reform, legislative redistricting; even industrial hemp got a mention. With about 2/3 of the state legislature in attendance and a handful of former governors sitting among the packed crowd, newly-elected Senate President Robert Stivers kept to the script on policy points after jokingly expressing gratitude to Governor Steve Beshear for the judicial appointment of former state Senate chief David Williams that made way for Stivers’ ascension to the top slot. Perhaps the most salient remark from the 17-year legislative veteran was that “systemic changes in Kentucky will be made through education.”

That remark is particularly poignant on the same day he stood among a phalanx of lawmakers and university presidents to announce bipartisan support for a plan to let public universities issue their own bonds for projects ranging from classrooms, to housing, and athletic complexes. House Republican leader Jeff Hoover pointed to that shared goal as one demonstration of the new day in Frankfort.

Senate Democratic leader R.J. Palmer spoke of how tax reform has been “studied to death and now it’s time to act,” and stressed the need to tackle legislative redistricting this year.

“This is the first legislative session in five years that I’m looking forward to,” said a grinning Governor Steve Beshear at the dinner. He bragged about recent rankings showing Kentucky’s progress in education and government metrics giving the state a second place ribbon for job growth. Beshear also tempered pleas for public pension reform now without creating “a massive influx of revenue” to mitigate the system’s multi-billion dollar unfunded liability. He added that it can’t be accomplished by slicing and dicing government programs. What he didn’t mention was the prospect of expanded gaming as a coffer-plumping measure.

Many folks are cautiously optimistic about a new day in Frankfort. By session end, there will be a clear record of vows made and kept. When the seasons change from winter haze to spring’s splendor, we’ll know if (in the words of Senator Stivers) “gotcha politics are a thing of past.”

“Legislative Update” has the wrap-up of the first week tonight at 11pm ET on KET. And, we will present a one-hour highlights program of the Kentucky Chamber dinner on Monday night at 9pm ET following “Kentucky Tonight.”

Pork, Pie and Politics Collide for “Fancy Farm” Picnic

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

The small western Kentucky town of Fancy Farm is host to the largest political picnic in America. Since 1880, the St. Jerome Catholic Church has put on an outdoor family shindig that’s a homecoming celebration for natives now relocated. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that political stump speaking was added to the picnic menu when two-term Kentucky governor and U.S. Senator A.B. “Happy” Chandler, who at the time was running for lieutenant governor, became the first politician to attend.

Kentucky State Senate President David Williams is quite acquainted with the campgrounds and the political antics that overtake them. Last year, he endured the rising mercury from Mother Nature and dished out a super-sized helping of the fiery rhetoric he’s known to deliver. In an interview to air this weekend during KET’s coverage of the 132nd Fancy Farm picnic, Williams glibly recalls the reception he received on the speaking stump last year during his unsuccessful run for governor.

“A long time people have had pitchforks and torches after me. I will tell you that no matter how poorly the crowd would treat me it was always better than the Courier-Journal, Herald-Leader, editorial boards, reporters treated me. So I actually felt like it was an improved situation for me, I had a fairer chance then.”

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo describes it this way: “It’s really a baptism by fire to some extent for political candidates, this is the first time you actually get to stand up and have people yell bad things at you and hurl insults at you and there is always that watchful eye of how you going to handle it. It gives people some idea of how you’re going to handle the rigors of a campaign and the future tests you’re going to be placed in as a candidate.”

On Saturday at 2:30/1:30pm CT you’ll hear Williams and Stumbo comment on the presidential race and whether the Kentucky House of Representatives will remain under Democrat’s control.

Our resident political commentators John David Dyche and Jennifer Moore will join Bill Goodman and I on the big green wagon under the pavilion to hash out predictions and expectations on the stump this year before the speechifying begins live on KET.

Our summer intern Kara Ferguson will be gauging reaction from young folks active in politics. You’ll see her report during our Fancy Farm 2012 recap on Monday at 8/7pm.

Kara is a fun-loving, adventurous spirit from Lexington who has strong family ties to western Kentucky. She’s been known to kick up her heels in a line dance or two down in the Jackson Purchase area.

“After spending a year living in Europe, I have come back to my roots to work as an intern at KET, says Kara. “My mother made a career for herself at KET and so it seems I am following in her footsteps. While I am no stranger to the western Kentucky area, this will be my first time at Fancy Farm, where I will be working as a field correspondent speaking with some politically active youth about important issues and how critical the youth vote is for the upcoming presidential elections,” she adds.

You can check out Kara’s first impressions about the picnic on my blog next week. In the meantime, learn more about Kara in this video. Or watch it on YouTube.

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