House Republicans take speaker's gavel, clear path for priority legislation in opening day of 2017 session

01/03/2017 05:43 PM

FRANKFORT — For the first time in nearly a century, a Republican is holding the speaker’s gavel in Kentucky’s House of Representatives.

House Speaker Jeff Hoover was confirmed to the position via acclimation during Tuesday’s opening of the 2017 General Assembly’s 30-day session.

In his opening remarks to the chamber, Hoover said the state faces a number of challenges that need to be resolved and that his focus as speaker will be doing what he can to address them.

He also had a message for lawmakers in both parties: the election season is done. Republicans wrested control of the House from Democrats in the Nov. 8 elections, winning a 64-36 supermajority.

“To those of you in the majority party, those who were a part of making this historic day in the Commonwealth of Kentucky possible, my message is the campaign is now over,” said Hoover, R-Jamestown. “It’s a part of history, and the job before us is now to begin the governing process.

“To those in the minority party, we know full well the position you are in. We’re well aware of the many feelings of uneasiness and the uncertainty that you are experiencing. As your speaker, as the speaker for all Kentuckians, it is my intent to do all that I can do to be responsive and inclusive of every member in the legislative process.”

Republicans wasted little time in putting their priority legislation in motion, giving first readings to House Bill 1, a right-to-work bill; House Bill 2, a pre-abortion ultrasound bill; House Bill 3, legislation to repeal prevailing wage on public works projects; and House Bill 10, which would ratify Gov. Matt Bevin’s reorganization of the University of Louisville’s board of trustees.

All are set for committee hearings on Wednesday.

Hoover said Republicans in the House and Senate are working out kinks in House Bill 10 with UofL placed on at least a yearlong accreditation probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, but the other priority bills may see action this week once they clear their respective committees.

HB 1 and HB 3 have been assigned to the House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee, HB 2 to the House Judiciary Committee and HB 10 to the House State Government Committee.

House Republicans are “very strong about policies that will spur economic growth, make Kentucky attractive to businesses wanting to locate here, and create jobs, and we are firmly convinced that House Bills 1 and 3 will do that,” Hoover told reporters after the House adjourned.

“We have a very strong pro-life caucus,” he said. “As you all know, I’m very strong pro-life, overwhelming majority of our members are, and that’s why House Bill 2 is important to us.”

Tuesday’s first day in the House included a scuffle over adopting rules for the chamber. Democrats complained that no one had seen a copy of the resolution detailing rules for the 2017 session and that Republicans removed a provision allowing lawmakers to retain previous committee assignments.

Their efforts proved futile, though, as House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins’ motion to lay the rules resolution at the clerk’s desk failed on a 33-63 vote. House Resolution 2 ultimately passed on a voice vote.

Bevin, during a House recess after Hoover’s initial speech, says he expects to see great things from Hoover in the speaker’s role.

“I expect him to lead with class,” the governor said. “I expect him to deliver on the promises that he made, that I made, that others who ran made, that people have been making in recent years, which is what has led to this change in the House. The things that we’ve been calling for are the things the people of Kentucky want.”

When asked what would make the session a success in his eyes, he said to “stay tuned” to what the legislature does in the next days and weeks.

House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, says he anticipates a more efficient House chamber under Republican guidance.

He was also elected via acclimation in his role as speaker pro tem.

“I want to see us create a professional environment here, one that is worthy of the chamber that we are assuming the role of, and I hope that we are able to address some pro-business legislation that has been neglected for a lot of years,” Osborne said, “and I think that we will and look forward to doing that.”


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