Greg Stumbo

Rae Hodge

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says his chamber’s version of the state budget will likely include no cuts to higher education in the current fiscal year. 

Speaker Stumbo said Friday that he could almost assure there will be no cuts this fiscal year to any universities in the House budget.  The Courier-Journal reports the Democratic leader made the comment shortly before lawmakers went into session.  Stumbo went on to say that the goal of his chamber would be to restore all proposed cuts to higher education and public school programs. 

Republican Governor Matt Bevin’s proposed budget would make 4.5 percent cuts to universities this year and reduce state funding by nine percent in the next two years.  Bevin argued the cuts are necessary to help make up a shortfall in the state pension system. 

House lawmakers will vote on their version of the budget early next week.  Governor Bevin has said that he will not sign any budget that includes more debt.

Kentucky LRC

On Monday, reporters huddled in the state Capitol waiting for a potentially big announcement. They were aware of rumors — incorrect ones, it would turn out — that multiple Democratic state House members had switched to the Republican side, changing the balance of power in the last Democratic-controlled legislative branch in the South.

That Kentucky political observers would even entertain the thought shows a palatable shift in the balance of power in a state where Democrats have a decades-long advantage in local politics.

Now, with an ascendant state GOP, the Kentucky Democratic Party is looking for a new leader.

Last weekend, Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Patrick Hughes announced he was stepping down after less than a year on the job.

State Democrats are in a perilous position. As party leaders look to replace Hughes, they should have a couple of things in mind, political observers say.

Stumbo Backing Medical Marijuana Bill

Jan 6, 2015

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo is sponsoring a bill that would make it legal for people to smoke marijuana in Kentucky for medical purposes.

The measure would require doctors to be trained before they could prescribe the drug to patients, and Stumbo said the state would have a strict oversight system in place to make sure prescriptions were not abused.

Kentucky lawmakers have softened their stance toward the cannabis plant in recent years. Last year, the state harvested its first hemp crop in decades and the state Legislature approved a bill allowing researchers to conduct medical experiments with cannabis extract.

Stumbo said he filed the bill because he believes lawmakers need to discuss the medical marijuana issue.

Kentucky LRC

A four-day event that is expected to generate $2 million for the local economy is coming to Lexington in the summer of 2016.  

The Southern Legislative Conference has announced its 70th annual meeting will be held in Kentucky July 16-20 of 2016. It’s the largest regional meeting of state officials.

The Lexington conference will come in the same year Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers will be serving as chairman of the SLC. Stivers, along with House Speaker Greg Stumbo are co-chairs of the planning committee for the 2016 meeting. 

Kentucky GOP Unveils "Handshake with Kentucky" Plan

Sep 2, 2014
RPK of Kentucky

The Republican Party of Kentucky has a wish-list of legislative priorities ready to go if the State House were to flip and come under Republican control following this fall's elections.

The party unveiled its plan, dubbed  "Handshake with Kentucky," on Tuesday. It consists of legislative priorities for the state GOP, pending potential victories come Election Day. Currently, Democrats maintain a narrow eight-seat margin in the state's lower chamber.

In a statement, House GOP Floor Leader lambasted House Democrats over poor leadership.

“For far too long, the majority leadership of the House of Representatives has made empty promises,” Hoover said in a statement. “Democrats in Frankfort have failed to achieve meaningful results on behalf of families and local businesses, and the current leadership in the House of Representatives has squandered real opportunities while surrounding states prosper."

The plan will include:

Kentucky LRC

A recent survey shows Kentucky ranks near the bottom when it comes to average Internet speed. One Kentucky lawmaker says a bill that passed with bi-partisan support the Senate, but languished in the House, could help boost access to broadband.  

Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover says Senate Bill 99 would have reduced companies’ obligation to provide traditional landline service to some areas of Kentucky, freeing them up to invest in broadband.

“Speaker[Greg] Stumbo made a commitment last summer that that bill would be voted on. He indicated he did not support it, but he would allow it to be voted upon this past legislation session,” said Hoover.

The bill was approved by the Kentucky Senate on a 34-4 vote, but was not put up for a full vote in the House.  The Jamestown Rep. says the bill was changed this year to reduce the number of residents whose traditional landline service might be affected. He says it would have been less than 5,000 households.

“But the important thing was, it would have allowed AT&T and some others to move forward on their hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in infrastructure to better serve those exact areas,” said Hoover.

Critics object to the part of the bill that lets phone companies cut back on the areas in which they’re required to provide landline telephone service.

Yarmuth, State Lawmakers Rally To Raise Minimum Wage

Aug 4, 2014
LRC Public Information

Democratic U.S. Congressman John Yarmuth led a rally in Louisville Monday to advocate a raise in the federal minimum wage. The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is reviewing whether cities like Louisville can do it on their own without federal or state legislation.

 “It is critical that we keep the House in Democratic hands, or all of our progressive values will be gone,” said Louisville state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian.

She cosponsored a bill in the General Assembly this year that mirrors a federal effort to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. It passed the House along largely party lines, but died in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Despite her rhetoric that the issue is contingent upon keeping her Democratic Party in control of the state House, where it maintains a narrow eight-seat advantage, the Kentucky Attorney General is reviewing whether or not cities like Louisville can pass their own minimum wage laws.

A spokesman for the AG’s office said they are requesting input from the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office toward this end, but did not say when an official opinion will be issued.

Kentucky Speaker: Local Option Sales Tax is Focus

Jul 30, 2014
Kentucky LRC

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says House Democrats' top priority for the 2015 legislative session could be letting local governments temporarily raise taxes to pay for large construction projects.

Stumbo had previously said the House would focus on legalizing casino style gambling in Kentucky, an issue pushed by the state's formidable horse racing industry and its popular Democratic governor.

But that changed when Churchill Downs, Louisville's iconic horse racing track, donated money to a political action committee dedicated to electing Republicans to the state legislature. Democrats have an eight-seat majority in the House, one of the last Democratic-controlled state legislative bodies in the south.

The local option sales tax would let local governments impose a temporary 1 percent sales tax to pay for large projects. Voters would have to approve the tax first.

Kentucky LRC

Kentucky’s two top-ranking lawmakers have  some choice words about new coal emissions regulations announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers and Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo are slamming the proposed rules, which will cut carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by the year 2030.  .

“You can’t formulate energy policy for a growing country like ours, if you’re not going to consider, as part of that solution, your most abundant resource," Stumbo said. "It doesn’t make any sense at all, it’s a dumbass thing to do, and you can quote me on that.”

Stumbo added that he didn’t think that the rules will affect the outcome of the November House elections, where Democrats hope to retain a narrow majority over Republicans.

The regulations are subject to public input and will be officially enacted a year from now.

Kentucky LRC

The Humane Society of the United States is calling on House Speaker Greg Stumbo to strengthen the state’s cockfighting laws.  The request from Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle comes after a cockfighting ring was recently busted in McDowell, Kentucky. Three of Stumbo's distant relatives are accused of running the operation.  John Goodwin is the director of animal-cruelty policy at the Humane Society.

“Kentucky has one of the weakest cockfighting laws in the nation. The USDA’s affidavit said that is why people were coming from so many other states to the cockfights,” said Goodwin. “This is a lose-lose for animals and Kentucky’s communities, because this law is so weak it’s attracting this criminal element to Kentucky. They need to make it a felony, turn off the magnet and keep these criminals and animal abusers away from Kentucky.”

Kentucky is one of only nine states where cockfighting isn't a felony offense. It carries a misdemeanor charge in Kentucky, even though attending a fight is now a federal felony.

Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture

The list of confirmed 2015 Kentucky candidates for governor grew Tuesday, when Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway announced he was running for the office.

He joins Republican and former Louisville Metro Council member Hal Heiner, who announced earlier this year his gubernatorial bid.

Kentucky political observers will now turn their attention on a handful of other potential candidates for governor.

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo has said he is strongly considering a run for Governor, but only if Democrats hang on to their majority in the state House.

Stumbo was the running mate for gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lundsford in 2007, a ticket that lost the primary to Steve Beshear and Daniel Mongiardo.

Other potential Democratic 2015 candidates include state Auditor Adam Edelen and former U.S. Congressman Ben Chandler, who is currently executive director of the Kentucky Humanities Council.

Former state Auditor Crit Luallen announced last month that she won’t run for governor.

On the Republican side, the most high-profile would-be candidate appears to be Agriculture Commissioner and Monroe County farmer James Comer.

Senator Rand Paul says raising the minimum wage would negatively impact job prospects for minorities and children.

The Courier-Journal reports that while speaking Monday night to a group of business owners and officials in Louisville, Sen. Paul said Congress could help the poor and unemployed by cutting corporate and personal income taxes in struggling areas.

The Bowling Green Republican has introduced a bill that would create what he calls “economic freedom zones” in zip codes where at least one-quarter of the residents live at or below the poverty line.

That move comes amid a debate at both the federal and state governmental levels over whether the minimum wage should be hiked. Congress is considering whether to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo sponsored legislation this year that would have increased the state’s minimum wage to that same level over the course of three years.

Kentucky LRC

By law, the only piece of legislation that the 2014  Kentucky General Assembly had to pass was a two-year state budget.

All else, as Will Rogers put it, is applesauce.

And with a session that began with a bang and ended with a whimper, it's what happened in between that House Speaker Greg Stumbo says lawmakers should be "proud" of.

Specifically, that they passed a compromised version of Gov. Steve Beshear's $20.3 billion state budget. House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, however, took to the editorial page of The Courier-Journal to vent about what he dubbed a "lackluster" session.

But the truth probably lies somewhere between the extremes of "proud" and "lackluster."

Many political observers noted a reluctance among lawmakers to tackle controversial measures—chief among them tax reform—because of the impending November elections that will prove as a test for House Democrats to retain their slim eight-seat majority.

Here's a look at the winners, losers and downright lost causes of the 2014 General Assembly.

WINNERS

The coal industry—A slate of coal-friendly bills easily cleared the legislature, including one that allows coal-fired power plants in the state to regulate their own carbon emission standards at lower-than-federal-levels. Lawmakers also approved a bill that provides a new round of tax incentives for coal and coal-related industries to subsidize their purchase of new equipment.

After Late Night, Lawmakers Wrap Up Legislative Session

Apr 16, 2014
Kentucky LRC

This year's Kentucky legislative session is now over. Though many bills failed due to lack of compromise or attention, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says lawmakers did what was expected of them from taxpayers by passing a two-year state budget.

But that chamber’s highest ranking Republican, Jeff Hoover, decried tactics by Democrats to amend bills at the last minute without giving Republicans enough time to study them. Lawmakers debated new amendments and legislative procedure right until the stroke of midnight.

Among the failed bills was a measure that would raise penalties for heroin traffickers and legislation that would restore voting rights for felons.

Kentucky LRC

A series of bills that would amend the state constitution and implement a local option sales tax to fund city and county projects has won support in the Kentucky House of Representatives.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Thursday he now supports the bill following a conversation with Gov. Steve Beshear, and expects it to head to the House floor for a vote.

House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins says the bill will likely be voted on Friday in order to give the Senate enough time to discuss it.

“I know that the issue is being worked right now, and don’t know myself … exactly where the vote count is, but I know there’s a lot of work going in by a lot of people to see if the votes are there to be able to bring it out here and debate it and see if it can more forward," said Adkins, a Democrat from Sandy Hook.

One House Republican had some strong words for Stumbo regarding his apparent about-face.

“It shows that he’s playing every side that he can," said Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover of Russell Springs. "He’s concerned about the political ramifications in November, and he’s playing every side that he can on every issue that he can and this is another example.”

If passed, the measure would go before voters this November, and would implement a 1 percent sales tax on top of Kentucky’s 6 percent sales tax to fund local projects.

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