Plagued by strained relations with the former Republican leader of the state senate, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said he expects a better rapport now that a new GOP leader is in place. Beshear told reporters Friday he's "excited" about the prospects for collaboration.
The Senate's GOP majority earlier this week elected Robert Stivers of Manchester as president to replace David Williams of Burkesville. Beshear had enticed Williams out of the Legislature by offering him a judicial appointment in southern Kentucky.
Beshear and Williams had a long history of political confrontations that grew worse after the two faced off in last year's gubernatorial race.
"I do feel excited about the election of the new Senate leadership," Beshear said during a Capitol press conference. "I feel that we will be able to communicate and to collaborate on issues. We obviously won't agree on everything. That's pretty typical in any kind of political environment no matter what party you're in. But I look forward to a very good and positive working relationship."
Stivers' promotion to Senate president left open the job of majority floor leader. Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown was elected to that post. Beshear and Thayer had worked closely earlier this year in an unsuccessful push to legalize casino-style gambling in Kentucky.
Stivers pledged after his election on Tuesday to have an open dialogue with Democratic leaders, including Beshear.
Senate President Pro Tem Katie Kratz Stine was unopposed for re-election to her leadership post. GOP senators also elected Brandon Smith of Hazard as whip and Dan Seum as Republican caucus chairman.
Williams, an anti-gambling lawmaker, had led the Senate for more than a decade. He had been a hindrance to Beshear on some of his top legislative priorities, including a push to lift a constitutional ban on casinos.
Beshear has a record of appointing anti-gambling Republicans to more lucrative government positions to get them out of the Senate.
Beshear said Friday he and lawmakers have much to accomplish in the upcoming legislative session, which begins on Jan. 8. He said he wants the Legislature to take up reforms of the state's tax code and pension system.