Latest development on road bill sparks heated exchange between Williams and Thayer

04/19/2012 03:14 PM

Republican Senate President David Williams and Sen. Damon Thayer got into a shouting match in the Capitol Annex on Thursday after a Senate committee re-inserted road projects from Williams’ district back into the transportation funding bill.

Thayer, a Georgetown Republican, wanted to know if Williams had told Sen. Bob Leeper, the Senate budget chairman, to do that and was concerned the move could extend the special session beyond Friday. The two men then raised their voices before Republican Sen. David Givens of Greensburg got between them.

“We’re at a point in the session when a lot of nerves are frayed. It was a couple of men who are both friends of mine having some cross words,” Givens said in a phone interview after the exchange. “I don’t think it was the finest moment for either of them.”

Givens said the men raised their voices, but there was no contact or threats.

During Thursday’s meeting of the Appropriations and Revenue committee, Leeper proposed amending the road budget bill to put back nearly $50 million in projects from Williams’ 16th District that Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear struck from the road project list.

Williams said he didn’t know Leeper was going to do that and didn’t instruct him to.

“I did not know prior to today’s A&R meeting that Chairman Leeper would restore the vetoed infrastructure projects to HB 2 and while appreciative of his sentiments, I am still considering with Leadership the path forward,” Williams said in a statement.

Givens said Thayer has repeatedly talked during Republican caucus meetings about the need for lawmakers to wrap up the special session to deal with the transportation funding bill and a prescription pill bill in the minimum five days, ending Friday.

After Thayer saw the action in the budget committee Thursday afternoon, he became concerned the move would lead to more gridlock with the Democratic-controlled House and extend the session into next week, Givens said.

As Thayer left his office on the second floor of the Annex, Williams had just left his office to go to lunch.

“Senator Thayer pointedly said, ‘What’s going on here?’ And Senator Williams told him, ‘I had nothing to do with it,’” Givens said.

Williams, through his spokeswoman Lourdes Baez-Schrader, said Thayer had “misunderstood.”

“Senator Williams understands that toward the end of the session, people get tired and intentions get misunderstood,” Baez-Schrader said adding that Williams has “no hard feelings” toward Thayer.

Thayer said he had “no comment right now on my private conversation with the Senate President.”

“My focus right now is on behalf of the taxpayers who want to see the road budget passed tomorrow and the special session ending tomorrow. I will continue to make that my focus and make no further comment right now,” Thayer said.

Givens said the key now will be to see if the House Democratic leaders would agree to putting the road projects from Williams’ district back in the transportation budget considering they previously agreed on that last week as part of the road project list that passed both chambers at the end of the regular session.

“The headline should be that the House needs backbone in terms of reasserting its legislative authority,” Givens said. The House already passed on the chance to reassert that authority when the House Democratic majority decided not to override the governor’s line-item vetoes to the $19 billion executive branch budget bill last week.

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