Minority Party Impact in 2013

Jan 9, 2013

Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer at the microphone and Minority Floor Leader R.J. Palmer in the aisle.
Credit Stu Johnson / WEKU News

The G-O-P has long dominated the state senate and the house remains solidly under the control of Kentucky Democrats.  But, their actual numbers are always in flux.  For example, this year, there are more Republicans in both chambers….perhaps making collaboration between the parties a bit more attractive.

The legislative leaders in both chambers for both political parties are officially set now.  In the House Wednesday morning, Greg Stumbo was again sworn in as House Speaker.  From the house floor, the G-O-P minority also announced its leadership.

Speaking for his party was Republican Caucus Chair Bob DeWeese of Louisville.   The GOP picked up ten seats in the November elections, narrowing the Democratic majority.  Given a few more elections, DeWeese believes his party will take control of the lower house.

“Do you think a Republican House is coming some day? asked Weku’s Stu Johnson.

“I think so, yes,” said DeWeese.

“ When?” asked Johnson.

Well,  a couple of more times, 14, 18.  I think the state is trending in that direction,” said DeWeese.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover says Republican gains in his chamber were the biggest in nearly a century.  Hoover and Democratic Speaker Stumbo have talked about working together, but Hoover realizes both party leaders must satisfy their members and try to ensure their backing when negotiating sticky issues.

“Yeah, that’s always there, particularly from rank and file members who see us encroaching on the majority if you will.  But, we tried to exhibit in the past, a bipartisan approach in working on other matters and other issues,” said Hoover.

Palmer also says it’s up to all 38 Senators to ensure problems are tackled in the best manner possible. 

In the big scheme, Senate Minority Caucus Chair Johnny Ray Turner says losing another seat to the Republican majority isn’t critical.

“We’d like to have it 18, 19, 20, 21, but the fact of the matter is, it’s 14.  We’re gonna deal with that.  We’ll work as closely as we can with them, with the majority party and do the best we can,” said Turner.

Turner appreciates the bi-partisan attitude now on exhibit in the senate and he believes they’ll enjoy open dialogue.  And, Senate Democratic Whip Jerry Rhoads thinks major issues like pension reform can bring the two parties closer together.

“But, I think that we’re gonna have the courage to do it.  But, if either party perceives that the other is trying to do something for political gain or advantage, then the process breaks down. I don’t sense that here,” said Rhoads.

Sometimes simple acts can bring people together.  Today in the state senate, Republicans and Democrats shared lunch…something that’s not happened in a while.  The meal was noticed on the other side of the state capitol, where, brand new House G-O-P leader John ‘Bam’ Carney said it was a good sign.

“Just doing those small things together. Just to show people we are going to try to move forward and put some past issues behind us now.  Now, obviously we’re not gonna’ agree philosophically on the issues.  That’s why we have a two party system,” added Carney.

Former Kentucky Governor and current state Senator Julian Carroll took to the floor to comment on the luncheon.  Carroll praised both the Senate president and majority leader for what he called their ‘genuine’ comments about working together.