For Kentucky Public Radio
Published THU NOVEMBER 6, 2014
By RAE HODGE
Despite Republican promises to flip the House, Democrats in Kentucky’s House of Representatives won a slew of tight races to hold onto a majority in the chamber.
With a 54-46 majority and some wind in their sails, Democratic leaders wasted little time Wednesday in laying out an agenda for the 2015 legislative session.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo on Wednesday said the chamber’s focus would be mostly economic.
“We’re going to talk about some things, I hope, in this session that maybe got passed over, if you will, didn’t get a full and fair hearing in the last session,” Stumbo said. “We’re going to talk again about minimum wage and gender equity.”
Earlier legislation passed the chamber, but failed to clear the Senate. Stumbo said the issue has widespread support.
Stumbo said that along with raising the minimum wage, the Democratic caucus wants to push for public-private partnerships, local option sales taxes, and gender pay equity.
“Gender equity—I don’t think it’s just a matter of fairness, and I don’t see how you can defend not supporting gender equity,” Stumbo said.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, of Paris, also forecasted a push from the party on voting rights, domestic violence protections, as well as a bi-partisan attack on Kentucky’s heroin epidemic.
If Republicans had gained control of the House, Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, of Jamestown, promised to set an agenda called “Handshake with Kentucky.” The agenda highlights include Right to Work legislation, medical review panels, and public-private partnership legislation.
The Democrats’ control of the House also impacts Rand Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator who has all but announced his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination after touring key presidential states this year.
During the 2014 session of the General Assembly, the Republican-controlled state Senate advanced legislation which would allow a U.S. senator to run for both Senate and presidential offices at once. The bill never made it past the House.
When Stumbo was asked in March about it, he said that anyone who can’t decide which office he wants to run for doesn’t deserve either.
After Tuesday’s Republican sweep in state legislative elections across the country, the Kentucky House remains the last Democratic chamber in the “Solid South.” In Kentucky, Democrat have strategically distanced themselves from President Obama, who is wildly unpopular in the state.
“Our Democratic caucus has made an effort in recent years to distance itself from the policies and gridlock we have seen coming from Washington, and the voters rallied behind that,” Stumbo said on Wednesday.
“We have an ambitious agenda, but I’m more convinced than ever that we can enact it and other needed laws. The election season is over; now, it’s time to get to work.”
The 2015 Regular Session begins Jan. 6.
Correction: This story has been updated. It previously misstated the highlights of the Republican “Handshake With Kentucky” agenda.