Hoover slowing down voting on House floor after Dems short GOP in committees

02/17/2015 05:00 PM

Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction — something House Democrats are finding out firsthand.

In the first week of the legislative session House Democrats chose to underrepresent the minority party in committee assignments. That action has resulted in legislation leaving committees in a hurry, and often with unanimous consent, to be debated individually on the House floor as the House’s top Republican pushes back.

House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover is using procedural objections to pump the brakes and slow the flow of legislation to the House floor for approval.

Bills clearing a committee with unanimous approval can go to the “consent calendar,” a mechanism to quickly move legislation off the House floor with the approval of the body.

The Legislative Research Commission’s glossary of legislative terminology defines the consent calendar as “a list of bills having had one (or two) reading(s), and on which members in attendance are presumed to vote yes unless they indicate a negative vote prior to the call of the roll.”

With a 30-day session underway, lawmakers seek to make the most of their time and not debate each proposal, but so far Hoover has twice objected to the bills on consent, forcing the House to debate and vote on the bills individually.

“When we have a committee system that is not following the rules then I think it is incumbent upon me as the leader of the Republican caucus to do everything that I can to slow down the process to make sure that we have an opportunity to thoroughly examine all bills,” Hoover, R-Jamestown, said in a phone interview with Pure Politics Tuesday.

Democrats hold a 54-46 majority over Republicans in the House, and the chamber’s rules state that committees should be made up of a proportional number of representation of each party.

As the Courier-Journal pointed out in a recent column the committee numbers are far from within the rules — the GOP is underrepresented in nine of the 16 standing committees.

House Democrats say that no Republican objected to the committee assignments when the House voted by voice vote on the last day of the organizational period. Hoover said the GOP was unprepared for that vote.

“We had no time to study it, to look at it, to review it,” Hoover said.

“But what’s (House Speaker Greg Stumbo) going to say to the fact that rule 39 which they adopted also without objection — the House rules on the very first day. Rule 39 says committees shall be comprised proportionate to representation. What’s he going to say to that?”

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, was unavailable for comment at the time this report was published.

Rep. Steve Riggs, chairman of the House Local Government Committee, said Republicans should be “happy” over the committee assignments.

“I thought they wanted less government,” he said in a phone interview with Pure Politics.

But Riggs, D-Louisville, said he has “concerns” over a fiscal impact the delay could have on state government.

“We’re making LRC employees work longer into the evening, which increases the cost of government,” he said.

Hoover said he understands the underpinnings of majority rule making and that some might place blame, but he says there is still time to make it right.

House Democrats, Hoover said, should place freshman members of the GOP on three committees, not one. Adding freshman to more committees could adjust the makeup of the proportionality issue, Hoover said.

“That’s not too late. That could be done at any time,” he said.

Hoover will face the blame for slowing down the legislative work in a short session, something he said he is proud to do.

“That can put that blame on me and I will accept that and I will continue to do everything I can to slow down the process as long as they act in a way that does not follow or adhere to the House rules,” Hoover said. “I will proudly do that at every opportunity.”


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