Key House Republican outlines which takeaways from session will be campaign themes and which won't

04/22/2014 09:57 AM

House Republicans must tread carefully when using the saga surrounding sexual harassment against a former Democratic lawmaker, said Rep. David Osborne, R-Prospect.

The issue for voters is not necessarily the alleged conduct but how Democratic leaders have dealt with it, he said.

“I think it’s difficult to make someone else’s tragedy a campaign issue, so I’m going to say ultimately it will not be a campaign issue,” said Osborne, who also is the Republican Party of Kentucky’s chief fundraiser as he serves as finance chairman. “But, I do believe that it is more evidence that there is a desperation among the part of the current majority to hold onto their leadership, and they will stop at nothing to make sure that that continues.”

Republicans are expecting to throw anything they can at House Democrats, who control the chamber 54 to 46.

And the response to the sexual harassment allegations has left more questions than answers. A House special investigation committee formed to investigate former Rep. John Arnold, D-Strugis, essentially called off their work in December after doing nothing. The panel’s chairman, Rep. Jeff Donohue, D-Louisville, said the committee had no authority to investigate a former lawmaker. And the Legislative Ethics Commission did not find Arnold guilty of ethics violations after not enough members showed up to have a full vote earlier this month.

However, Osborne said he does not believe that there is a larger problem at play within the House relating to ethics.

“I don’t believe that it is a rampant problem. I think there are people there that certainly behave inappropriately and need to be dealt with severely and sternly,” Osborne said. “I do not think that it is a widespread problem.”

The 2014 session produced about 800 bills filed. The two chambers approved a little over 15 percent of those. Most notably lawmakers did finish the $20 billion two-year state budget and the road plan.

Left unfinished was the bill designed to curb heroin in the state by improving treatment, increasing education and toughening penalties for those caught trafficking the schedule I substance.

But, while other lawmakers are calling on the governor to call lawmakers back to Frankfort to deal with that, Osborne said he’s “reluctant to suggest that we call a special session” — even though he said he knows there is a need for the legislation.

“I know that this is a horrendous problem throughout many areas of the state it’s causing hardship and just real tragedy throughout the state, so I think it’s something that we need to address, but at the same time I’m reluctant to say that it’s something we need to call a special session for,” he said.

Osborne said he hopes lawmakers can work during the interim to agree on the language behind fighting heroin and pass that legislation as soon as the 2015 session begins in January.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.