2020 General Assembly begins with leadership and procedural changes

Published 9:08 pm Tuesday, January 7, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) — The 2020 General Assembly was gaveled in at noon in Frankfort on Tuesday, with lawmakers meeting on 60-days before wrapping up on April 15.

There was a new look in House Leadership for both Republicans and Democrats on the opening day. Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, R-Stanford, took over the duties as Majority Leader from Rep. John “Bam” Carney, who has been hospitalized since before Christmas with a severe case of pancreatitis.

“For this week, Speaker Pro Tem Meade will be handling the floor activity,” said House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect. “Now that Leader Carney is awake and responsive, we’re going to try and have a more in-depth conversation with him, to try and get a better feel on long his absence might be and try to make some more permanent arrangement from there.”

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville says Carney will be missed. “Bam Carney is our leader. He’s somebody who all persons in the House, certainly all the Republicans in our caucus, have a great deal of respect for. Not only as a person because we like him, but because we trust him. We trust his judgement we trust what he says we can take to the bank. Losing Bam is a tremendous loss.”

The Democrats also have new leadership, as Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, was elected Minority Floor Leader by the Democratic Caucus last month. She replaces Rocky Adkins, who resigned his House seat to become Senior Advisor to Gov. Andy Beshear.

The set of rules by which the House is governed was adopted on Tuesday and had several changes from earlier years.

What may be considered the biggest change involves the elimination of the consent calendar, which is a method by which several non-controversial bills are voted on together, without debate.

Osborne says the consent calendar worked for several years after it was instituted by then Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “But there continued to be concerns about public disclosure and transparency about what we were doing. Our members felt we needed to slow that process down.

Another change involves the time members can speak when they are allowed to “change or explain their vote” during roll calls. That has been reduced from three to two minutes. There is still no limit on debate during consideration of legislation before the roll is called.

The House also adopted a resolution that invites Gov. Andy Beshear to deliver his first “State of the Commonwealth” address on Tuesday, Jan. 14, and his budget address on Jan. 28. Both will be held in the House chamber at 8 p.m., Eastern Time, and broadcast statewide on Kentucky Educational Television.

In the Senate on Tuesday, President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, held off introducing a resolution to begin the process of investigating the settlement with Purdue Pharma entered into by former Attorney General Jack Conway in his final days in office. The state agreed to $24 million in 2015, while Oklahoma netted $270 million in March 2019.

Stivers also said Senate Bill 1, a designation given to the chamber’s top legislative priority, will go to a measure that would ban so-called sanctuary cities in Kentucky.

Although he had stated earlier that he planned to introduce the resolution on the first day of the session, Stivers says he needs to do more research.