Kentucky Political News Headlines

Monday, January 4, 2021

2021 Session Preview




2021 Session Preview

 

The Kentucky General Assembly will convene on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, for its odd-year, thirty-day, short session, and is currently scheduled to meet four legislative days until January 8 when it will recess before reconvening on February 2 for the remaining 26 legislative days. Sine die adjournment is currently scheduled for March 30.

  

While it is customary for the first four legislative days of the short session to be chiefly focused on organizational matters such as the formal election of leaders in each chamber and designation of committee chairs and committee assignments, 2021 may be an exception. It is possible that legislation can move during the first week as happened in 2017. If legislation is considered during the first week, the legislature would need to meet at least until Saturday, the 9th of January for a bill or bills to pass both chambers and could extend into the following week. 


Leadership & Partisan Makeup

The partisan makeup of both the House and Senate remain overwhelmingly Republican with the GOP holding supermajorities in both chambers. The November elections saw the Republican majority swell to 75-25 in the House and to 30 to 8 in the Senate. 

Constitutional legislative leadership elections will not be formalized until each chamber takes floor action on the first day of the session, however these elections took place in Majority caucus action in December when the following leaders were elected:

Senate

Senate President Robert Stivers 

Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens

House

House Speaker David Osborne

House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade


The election of partisan officers by the respective Majority and Minority caucus in each chamber has also been completed and is as follows:


Senate 

Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer      

Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams   

Majority Whip Mike Wilson 

Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey 

Minority Caucus Chair Reggie Thomas

Minority Whip Dennis Parrett  

House

Majority Floor Leader Steven Rudy

Majority Caucus Chair Susan Miles

Majority Whip Chad McCoy

Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins

Minority Caucus Chair Derrick Graham

Minority Whip Angie Hatton

 

Committee rosters have not been officially announced yet and won't be formalized until the session begins next week. An unofficial copy of the House committee rosters is available HERE. Committee Chairs have been announced in the House & Senate, here are the changes from last session:

 

Senate

Sen. Robby Mills - State & Local Government

Sen. Wil Schroder - Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor 

Sen. C.B. Embry - Veterans & Military Affairs

 

House

Rep. Jason Petrie - Appropriations & Revenue

Rep. Ed Massey - Judiciary

Rep. Kim King - Tourism & Recreation 

 

Political Dynamics

Given the overwhelming Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature and a Democratic governor, vigorous debate is expected as both parties promote their priorities. As is mentioned below, legislative efforts to limit the Governor's authority could set the tone for how the legislature and Governor will work together during this session. 

 

The Governor is the only Democrat voice in statewide offices and Democrats will be challenged to remain relevant in the 2021 debate. Governor Beshear will deliver a State of the Commonwealth address on January 6 at 7pm, when he will outline his priorities and budget proposal. However, given the GOP supermajorities, they will be able to largely craft their own agenda and budget. 

 

While there are certainly worse problems to have, the magnitude of the GOP's success may prove to be a somewhat mixed blessing as leadership seeks to keep the large caucus contented and avoid factionalism.  Moreover, the 2023 gubernatorial election is just over the horizon with a deep bench of prospective Republican candidates who will be positioning themselves for a run for the nomination. 

 

Legislative Process

The 2020 session of the General Assembly ended under extraordinary circumstances and unprecedented processes with the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic. The 2021 session will begin and operate under extraordinary circumstances and unusual processes as the pandemic continues. 

 

Access by the public to the Capitol Annex and the Capitol will be severely restricted and limited to those testifying on legislation or by appointments with legislators. It is expected that committee meetings will continue to take place virtually and that the logistics of those virtual hearings will shorten the amount of time that committees will be able to meet. This will likely impact the amount of legislation that can be considered and further we anticipate that the volume and the flow of legislation to be restricted by leadership in each chamber. The Senate has gone as far as removing a chamber rule that forces bills to be referred to committees. 

 

Floor action will also be impacted by COVID restrictions this session. In the House, it is expected that many members will watch floor proceedings from their offices and vote remotely. The Senate plans to meet in Chamber but with modifications to enable social distancing.  

 

Issues

The pandemic will also shape many of the issues that will be the focus of legislators' attention in 2021.

 

Budget

First and foremost is the adoption of a budget for FY 2022, since the 2020 General Assembly deferred a biennial budget because of the economic uncertainty of the times. Revenue estimates for the current fiscal year and Fiscal Year 2022 are more positive than anticipated with an estimated surplus in the General Fund of $126M in FY 21 and $53M in FY 22. The Road Fund also includes better than expected projections with a surplus of $34M and $16M, respectively.

 

When Governor Beshear introduces his proposed budget on the 6th, it will be much earlier than in a normal budget session. This is because the General Assembly has only thirty days to complete this work, and the process is being expedited.

 

COVID Related Priority Issues

The Legislature is likely to consider the following COVID related issues:

 

- Executive Authority - Majority parties in both Chambers have indicated that they will pass limitations on a Governor's authority during times of emergency. Bills have been prefiled in the House and Senate, but efforts are underway on consensus legislation that could be acted on very quickly, potentially during the first week.  

 

- Education - The effects of the pandemic on schools in increased expenses and the effects of long-term closure with reliance on virtual learning will be considered.  

 

- Liability Relief – Legislators plan to enact limitations on civil liability resulting from Covid 19 litigation. Leaders have said over the past several months that providing liability relief to employers, churches, schools and healthcare facilities is a priority.

 

- Unemployment Insurance – Efforts will be made to look at changes to limit rate increases on employers and stabilize the trust fund. 

 

- Broadband - The pandemic has highlighted the need for better broadband connectivity particularly in rural areas. This may be an area where there is less partisan strife as leaders in both parties and the Governor have discussed the need for investment in broadband. 

 

Other Issues

Other issues will come from unfinished business from the 2020 session. Infrastructure needs and the consideration of an increase in revenue in the Road Fund have been before the legislature for several sessions and will be discussed again in the 2021 session. Various aspects of criminal justice reform and substance abuse treatment have been the subject of interim study and will be before the General Assembly along with law enforcement reforms. Other issues that could be addressed in this short session include telehealth reforms, the Kentucky Supreme Court decision on historical horse racing, and workforce issues.

 

Prefiled Bills

You can access lists of prefiled bills by subject area via links below:

 

Education Bill List

 

Energy-Environment Bill List

 

General Business Bill List

 

Health Care Bill List

 

Health Insurance Bill List

 

Insurance Bill List

 

Transportation Bill List

 

Legislative Calendar 

 

The Legislative Calendar for the 2021 session is available online, but here are a few dates to keep in mind under the current calendar:


January 5 - Session Convenes

January 5-8 - Part I. Organizational Session - Swearing in of new members, formally electing leadership, naming committee chairs, and setting committee rosters 

January 11-February 1 - Recess - Some committees will meet, but they don't normally take any action

February 2 – Part II, Regular Session Convenes

February- 5 - Last day for Bill requests

February 12 - Last Day for new Senate bills

February 16 - Last Day for new House bills

March 15 & 16 – Concurrence Days

March 17 -30 -- Veto Recess

March  30 - Final Legislative Day and Sine Die Adjournment.



Wednesday, November 4, 2020

KY Election Results


Below is a summary of the results, as of this evening. It is important to note that due to the additional absentee balloting procedures put in place for this election, official results may be delayed for several days. So the results we are sharing are based on unofficial results available as of this writing.

 

KY Election Results

 

Republicans had overwhelming victories this evening in Kentucky. President Trump carried the state and US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell easily defeated challenger Amy McGrath. Republicans also had a big night in state legislative races reaching a record number in the House and Senate Majorities.  Support at the top of the ticket clearly carried down the ballot and impacted state legislative races. 

 

State Senate 19 of the 38 seats were up this cycle - New Margin: 30-8 in favor of GOP. Senate Republicans appear to have picked up 2 seats as of this writing. The Turner vs Turner battle has Democrat incumbent and member of the minority leadership team, Sen. Johnny Ray Turner down 2000 votes with 96% of the vote counted.

 

GOP Flips

District 7 - Southworth (Open-Carroll)

District 29 - Johnnie Turner (R) leads Johnny Ray Turner (D - incumbent)*

 

Other New Faces

District 1 - Howell (R-Murray from Humphries)

District 21 - Storm (R-London from Robinson)

District 26 - Berg (D-Oldham from Harris in special election in June)

District 37 - Yates (D-Louisville from P.Clark)

 

State House - All 100 members were up this cycle - New Margin: Appears to be 75-25 in favor of GOP, but one race has incomplete results, so it could be as low as 74-26. Regardless, a big night for the House Republicans picking up 12 or 13 seats. It will be a big Freshman class with possibly 22 new members. 

 

Incomplete Results

District 10 - Calloway(R) leads incumbent Schamore (D) by nearly 1000 votes with 94% of votes counted

 

GOP flips

District 11 - Dixon (Wiederstein)

District 13 - Johnson (Glenn)

District 22 - McPherson (Open-Stone)

District 39 - Lockett (Open-Meyer)

District 47 - Rabourn (Open-Rand)

District 48 - Fleming (Sorolis) 

District 56 - Fister - (Open-Graviss)

District 70 - Lawrence - (Open-Sims)

District 91 - Wesley - (Open-Howard)

District 93 - Kirk-McCormick (Open-Harris)

District 96 - Flannery (Hinkle)

District 100 - Sharp - (Clark)

 

Other New Faces

District 5 - Imes (R-Murray Open-Elkins)

District 43 - Stevenson (D-Louisville Open Booker)

District 45 - Timoney - (R-Lexington Open Lee)

District 58 - Decker (R-Shelbyville Open Rothenburger)

District 71 - Bray (R-Mt.Vernon from Travis), 

District 73 - Dotson (R-Winchester from Yates)

District 83 - Branscum (R-Jamestown from Hoover)

District 85 - Baker (R-Somerset from Turner)

District 86 - Smith (R-Corbin from Stewart)

 

Congressional Races

In addition to Senator McConnell winning his 7th term in the U.S. Senate, all of Kentucky's incumbent U.S. House members were victorious.

 

1st District  - Comer defeats Rhodes

2nd District - Guthrie defeats Linderman

3rd District - Yarmuth defeats Palazzo

4th District - Massie defeats Owensby

5th District - Rogers defeats Best

6th District - Barr defeats Hicks

 

State Supreme Court

There was one Supreme Court seat up for election in the 7th District in the Eastern part of the state. The incumbent was defeated in the primary, having come in 3rd in a three way race. Tonight Greenup County Circuit Judge Robert Conley appears to have defeated former State Rep. Chris Harris by a 55-45 vote margin with 93% of the votes counted.

 

Constitutional Amendments

There were two proposed amendments to Kentucky's Constitution on the ballot.

 

Constitutional Amendment #1 - Marsy's Law, which passed two years ago but was struck down by the Kentucky Supreme Court due to vague ballot language has been passed by the voters of Kentucky for the second time, following this evening's results.

 

Constitutional Amendment #2 - A ballot initiative to increase office terms for Kentucky's district judges as well as increase years of experience required for those judicial positions. Constitutional Amendment #2 was not approved by voters and failed.


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

KY Primary Election Results


Primary Election Results

Results from last Tuesday's primary election were released this afternoon. You will recall that results were delayed due to the decision to allow mail-in ballots, which were required to be postmarked by election day, because of precautions against COVID-19.

U.S. Senate
The Democratic primary for US Senate came down to the wire with Amy McGrath pulling out a victory over Rep. Charles Booker with 45.1% compared to Booker's 43%.  McGrath will face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.

State Legislative Elections
Additionally, there were a handful of close legislative races with unknown outcomes until final vote counts were submitted to the Board of Elections this afternoon. Several incumbent legislators were defeated and for the first time in roughly 10 years a Democrat won a seat which had been held by a Republican in the state Senate. Karen Berg defeated Bill Ferko in the special election called to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Ernie Harris. Other state legislative results of interest:

Incumbents Beaten in Primary

- Sen. Albert Robinson was beaten by Brandon Storm, an attorney from London, in a three way race. Storm faces Walter Trebolo in November.

- Rep. Travis Brenda lost by less than 100 votes to Josh Bray, a City Administrator. Bray has no opponent in November.

- Rep. Les Yates was beaten by Ryan Dotson, a local pastor in the GOP primary. Dotson faces Kenny Blair who won the Democrat primary.

New State Legislators & Re-Elected Legislators
These folks were elected to new terms in the General Assembly joining the 28 legislators unopposed this election cycle that don't have a general election opponent in November. *Incumbents in Italics

Senate
Karen Berg
Rick Girdler
David Yates

House
Steven Rudy
Josh Branscum
Nima Kulkarni
Charlie Miller
Tom Burch

Pamela Stevenson
David Osborne
Ken Upchurch

Josh Bray
Regina Huff
Shane Baker
Tom Smith

Supreme Court
Incumbent Justice Sam Wright won't be returning to the Supreme Court in 2021, as he ran third in the primary for the 7th District Supreme Court seat, and only the top two vote getters move on to the general election in November. It will be Robert Conley vs Chris Harris in November.

Attached is an updated spreadsheet denoting House and Senate primary winners. More analysis to come in the days ahead.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

KY Primary Election Results


Historic, Incomplete and Inconclusive


Today will be marked in the history books as one of Kentucky's oddest primary elections. The primary was held after being moved from the original May date, in response to concerns related to COVID-19 and spurred further - and also historic - changes to Kentucky's voting process. Voters were allowed and encouraged to vote via mail-in ballots which it appears many chose to do. In-person voting was available in all 120 counties today, but the number of polling locations was significantly limited including only one polling location for Jefferson and Fayette counties. 

The most significant impact of these historic changes is that it will slow the tabulation of votes and delay official results until June 30th.  

Some county clerks did report results this evening from today's in-person voting, however not from all counties including Jefferson County. With so many voters using mail-in voting these results are unofficial and very preliminary. Here's what we think we know so far:

- It's reported that there's been historic voter turnout. Secretary of State Michael Adams estimated this evening that 1.1 million Kentuckians cast a vote which is roughly 32%, breaking the 2008 record for highest voter turnout in a primary election.

- The United State Senate Democratic primary became the race to watch as Charles Booker gained tremendous momentum the past several weeks over once-assumed front runner, Amy McGrath. Based on results from today's in-person voting as of this writing McGrath has a (45-36 margin). The winner takes on US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November. McConnell appears to be easily defeating his primary challenge with more than 80% of the in-person votes as of this writing.

- State House: There were 28 contested primary races with 11 incumbents facing a primary challenge. The highlight here is that three incumbents are trailing in their primaries based on today's in-person votes. Those incumbents trailing after in-person voting are: McCoy (R), Yates (R), and Brenda (R). 

- State Senate: There were 6 contested races with 2 incumbents facing a challenge. Additionally, a special election was held to fill the seat vacated by the retirement of Ernie Harris following the legislative session. The highlight here is that Republican Bill Ferko has a large lead (79-21) over Democrat Karen Berg based on today's in-person voting results in the special election to replace Ernie Harris. It is important to note that no Jefferson County in-person votes in this race were reported as of this writing.

- State Supreme Court: Incumbent Sam Wright is running to keep his 7th district seat. The race is nonpartisan with the two top vote getters moving on to November. Retiring State Rep. Chris Harris is also running for this seat. Based on today's in-person voting both Harris and Wright trail Robert Conley who has 45% of the in-person votes reported in roughly 50% of the precincts as of this writing.

We will update you as more information is available with official results expected next week.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Budget Update - CFG Meeting



Budget Update - CFG Meeting

The Consensus Forecasting Group (CFG) met this afternoon to revise the official revenue estimate for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. The group of nonpartisan economists were asked to revise the estimates in today's special meeting due to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on state revenues. It is highly unusual for the CFG to meet outside of what state law requires and the group can only provide revised official estimates at the request of the Legislative Research Commission or the Office of the State Budget Director.

The CFG members were presented with two scenarios - control and pessimistic models. Both the control and pessimistic forecasts assume that the pandemic peaks in the fourth quarter of FY20 and also assumes an identical fiscal and monetary policy response. 

After several hours of discussion and debate, the CFG chose to adopt the pessimistic forecasts for both the General Fund and Road Fund. Under these revisions, the General Fund is estimated to be 4% below the official enacted budget, while the Road Fund shortfall will be 10.4% based on today's actions. 
The 4% shortfall in the General Fund reflects a decrease of $456.7 Million and the 10.4% shortfall in the Road Fund reflects $161.8 Million less than expected.

Kentucky law allows the Governor to implement budget reduction orders for shortfalls less than 5%. For shortfalls over that, legislative action is required. With these new official estimates, the Governor will be able to adjust spending in the General Fund. It has been reported that state agencies have already been asked to provide information on the impacts of a 12.5% cut to close out the fiscal year June 30. The Road Fund, however, will require legislative action which could trigger a special session. We will update you as additional information is made available.

Documents from today's meeting can be accessed HERE.

Today's actions only impact the remaining days of FY 20, which will end on June 30th. It is likely that revisions to FY 21 will also be needed, but at this time that request has not been issued.