Hoover's jabs set different tone during Ky. Chamber dinner

01/10/2014 11:09 AM

LEXINGTON — Breaking from the recent tradition of rhetorical back-slapping, House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover opened Thursday night’s Kentucky Chamber Dinner with some sharp remarks skewering House Democrats and Gov. Steve Beshear.

Hoover started by making light of Democratic Rep. Leslie Comb’s accidentally firing her handgun in her annex office with Rep. Jeff Greer in the room, before linking it to House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

“Rep. Greer said by the time he got back to his office from that incident there was a letter sitting on his desk … It said: ‘Have you been hurt by friendly fire? Are you suffering? Call me. I’m Greg Stumbo with Morgan & Morgan law office,” Hoover said.

But Hoover moved from straight jokes to more politically charged rhetoric when questioned whether Beshear was being disingenuous in Tuesday’s State of the Commonwealth Address by calling for bipartisan cooperation and putting politics aside.

Hoover said he saw a “line of potential” Democratic House candidates coming out of Beshear’s office and watched former Democratic Rep. Don Pasley, who is now Beshear’s commissioner of rural roads, escorting a potential House candidate from Clark County around the capitol on state time.

“Governor, I don’t know what changed on Tuesday night, but it appears to many that the words on Tuesday night rings hollow,” he said.

Stumbo, meanwhile, didn’t directly respond to Hoover but did say he wanted to help Hoover extend his run as the longest-serving House minority leader in Kentucky history.

But Hoover and Stumbo did engage in a kind of debate — separated by about 15 minutes — over Stumbo’s top priority of raising Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25.

Here were their arguments:

Beshear repeated many of the themes from his speech Tuesday night about what he wants to see the General Assembly accomplish, including tax reform and a constitutional amendment to allow expanded gambling.

But he used a new mantra to tee up the casino issue: “Let’s get it over with.”

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said he wants the Senate to “be bold.” And he outlined the debates he hopes the General Assembly will take up, including tax reform, regulatory reform, repealing the prevailing wage and “strengthening education.”

But it was the speech of Democratic Senate Minority Floor Leader R.J. Palmer that hued most closely to the 2013 post-session speeches that focused on how Democrats and Republicans in Frankfort could work together.

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