Warren County is well-represented in the Kentucky House this legislative session.
Democratic State Representative Jody Richards was elected Speaker Pro Tem in leadership elections Tuesday. Richards takes the number two spot from Larry Clark of Louisville who chose not to seek re-election to the post.
Richards of Bowling Green is making a return to leadership, having spent 14 years as House Speaker. He was defeated in 2009 by current Speaker Greg Stumbo.
Richards told WKU Public Radio he looks forward to tackling the issues, both new and perennial.
"Education, human services, and transportation are issues that recur," stated Richards. "Of course there are things like the local option sales tax that's fairly new, but generally, the issues are the same."
Another Warren Countian, Representative Jim DeCesare, was elected House Republican Whip. He replaces Bam Carney of Campbellsville who decided not to seek another term as Whip.
Veteran State Representative Jody Richards of Bowling Green is facing his first Tea Party challenger in the November election. Jenean Hampton is taking on the longest continuously serving state representative in Kentucky history.
"There was much prayer involved. This wasn't my plan," said Hampton in an interview with WKU Public Radio. "Sometimes you're screaming at the TV, you see things that need to be improved, and you're screaming that someone needs do something, well sometimes that someone is you."
Hampton serves as chair of the Bowling Green-Southern Kentucky Tea Party. The 55-year-old Republican is an Air Force veteran and businesswoman who wants to use her private sector experience to spur economic development in the commonwealth.
In her first run at public office, Hampton is taking on political heavyweight Jody Richards who was first elected to the legislature in 1975 and served as House Speaker from 1995 to 2009. Over that time, he's become the recipient of several plum committee assignments, including Appropriations and Revenue. Richards told WKU Public Radio that his influence in Frankfort could not be matched by a newcomer.
"No new person would have my committee lineup nor would they have the connections I do," he suggested. "I pride myself in working well with both sides of the aisle."
A Bowling Green lawmaker says a legislative redistricting plan under consideration would not place three southern Kentucky GOP incumbents in the same district.
A plan put forth by House Democrats earlier this year would have placed Warren County's Jim DeCesare, Brownsville's Michael Meredith, and Morgantown's C.B. Embry Junior in one House district. But Democratic Representative Jody Richards told WKU Public Radio that such a plan is no longer being considered.
"Now, C.B. Embry and Jim DeCesare may well run together, but most of that district would be in Warren County," said Richards.
Kentucky lawmakers will meet in Frankfort next month for a special session to draw new legislative maps based on the latest U.S. Census data. Both Richards and Warren County Republican Senator Mike Wilson told WKU Public Radio they believe lawmakers can get a deal done over the course of five days--that's the quickest a special session can start and finish under state law.
A Warren County lawmaker says he agrees with Governor Steve Beshear on the need to get legislative redistricting maps done before the 2014 General Assembly.
Bowling Green Representative Jody Richards told WKU Public Radio he hopes House and Senate leaders can come to an agreement on new maps ahead of a possible special legislative session this fall.
"I hope that everybody gets together, and that we do a five-day session, which is the quickest you can possibly do," said Richards. "We don't need to get up there and argue. Everything needs to be settled before we go."
Richards says two lawsuits filed against the state over the lack of a redistricting plan are adding to the urgency lawmakers feel about getting new maps passed. Those lawsuits were filed by a group of county clerks in northern Kentucky and the state chapter of the ACLU, and accuse the state of violating federal law by not having in place new legislative maps based on the latest U.S. Census data.
Students wouldn't be allowed to drop out of school before their 18th birthday under legislation that's passed the Kentucky House. The House also passed a bill sponsored by Bowling Green Democrat Jody Richards that would allow foreign born students to stay in school until they're 23.
Governor Beshear has been promoting the drop out legislation for years, most recently in his annual State of the Commonwealth speech last month. The proposal would increase the dropout age incrementally from 16 to 17 to 18 over a period of six years, giving both students and school districts time to adjust to the change.
The Democratic-controlled House has approved the measure in past years, but it has never been passed by the Republican majority in the Senate. Critics fear, among other things, that classrooms would be disrupted by students who don't want to be there.
South-Central Kentucky area House members from both sides of the aisle are teaming up to push legislation that could send millions of dollars to the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport over the next five years to expand flights and services.
The Bowling Green Daily News reports the bill's sponsors include Democratic Representatives Jody Richards of Bowling Green and Wilson Stone of Scottsville, and Republican Bowling Green Representative Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green.
Yet to be determined is which airline route, either to Chicago or Atlanta, would best serve the airport's business customers if a commercial service is landed. Also under consideration is a less than daily flight with a leisure carrier.
If approved, the bill would direct $2 million for each of the next five fiscal years to communities that already have federal Small Community Service Grants. Bowling Green has received a $500,000 grant in that category.
Warren County's newest school is named in honor of career educator and long-serving state representative former Speaker of the House Jody Richards. The $12 million school on Elrod Road in south Warren County features state of the art energy efficient systems and a healthy cafeteria kitchen with no deep fried food.