Kentucky Political News Headlines

Friday, January 3, 2020

Session Preview


The 2020 session of the Kentucky General Assembly will be gaveled in on Tuesday, January 7.  This will be a long, sixty-day, budget session that is now scheduled for sine die adjournment on April 15.  

Political Dynamics

The 2020 session will begin a time of divided government in Kentucky.  Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Matt Bevin by just over 5,000 votes in the November general election.  Beshear will be the first Democrat governor who will face not only Republican majorities, but super majorities in each Chamber of the legislature.  The extent to which the new Governor can find grounds for cooperation with the Republican majorities will be a key, not only to the outcome of the session, but to the success of his administration.  

The stage may be set for legislative actions like those in Wisconsin and North Carolina where Republican legislative majorities cut back on the powers of newly-elected Democrat governors.  In Kentucky, this year, this sort of push-pull between the executive and legislative branches may be even greater because of the outgoing Bevin administration's actions that pushed the envelope on executive power with reorganizations, pardons and commutations and controversial contracts with Medicaid MCO's and a privately-owned prison facility executed in the eleventh hour of Bevin's term.  

2020 is an election year when 100 House members and one-half of the 38 member Senate will be up for re-election.  Already surrounded by Republicans who hold all statewide elected offices, including the Office of Attorney General, and super legislative majorities, Gov. Beshear and Democrats may be hard pressed to hold the ground they currently have.  Two vacancies were created in the Minority House Democrat caucus when long-time Representatives Rocky Adkins and Dennis Keene took positions in the Beshear administration with special elections set for February 25 to fill these vacancies.  In addition, several veteran Democrat House members from rural, conservative areas of the state have announced that they will not seek re-election, creating open seats ripe for an increase in the number of Republican legislators, especially in view of the expected re-election bid of Donald Trump that will be on the ballot in November, 2020.  There is also a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat created by the retirement of Sen. Dan Seum (R).

Partisan Makeup

Legislative leadership positions were set in the 2019 organizational session and will remain as in 2019, with a couple of exceptions.  The resignation of House Minority Floor Rocky Adkins created a vacancy in that post which has been filled with the selection of Rep. Joni Jenkins, who will be the first woman to serve in the position of floor leader in either chamber of the Kentucky legislature.  Rep. Angie Hatton has been selected to take on the role of House Minority Whip with Jenkins' move to the floor leader position. Also, at this writing, House Majority Floor Leader Bam Carney is gravely ill and, sadly, it is not clear if he will recover in time to resume his legislative duties.  Our thoughts and prayers are for his speedy recovery.  

Senate Leadership:

Senate President Robert Stivers 
Senate President Pro Tem David Givens 
Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer      
Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams   
Majority Whip Mike Wilson 
Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey 
Minority Caucus Chair Johnny Ray Turner 
Minority Whip Dennis Parrett   

House Leadership:

House Speaker David Osborne
House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade
Majority Floor Leader Bam Carney
Majority Caucus Chair Susan Miles
Majority Whip Chad McCoy
Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins
Minority Caucus Chair Derrick Graham
Minority Whip Angie Hatton

As noted, both the House and Senate are firmly in Republican control with the GOP holding supermajorities in both chambers. Republicans hold a 61-37 majority in the House, with two vacancies due to the resignation of Adkins and Keene, and a 28-9 majority in the Senate, with one vacancy due to the retirement of Sen. Dan Seum. 


Gov. Beshear, aside from political challenges, will also inherit a financial situation of the General Fund that is in crisis.  The General Assembly have to pass a budget in 2020 and it will be the biggest issue considered in the session and will drive and be impacted by the political dynamics discussed above.  Outgoing Bevin Budget Director John Chilton has predicted a shortfall of roughly $1.2 billion in the General Fund over the remainder of the current and upcoming biennium. Such a shortfall will make Gov. Beshear's campaign pledge to increase teachers' salaries problematic.  

There are also other numerous and growing demands on state revenues.  The underfunded public employees' pension funds will continue to drain spending on other areas.  School safety measures that were a part of 2019 Senate Bill 1 were deferred for funding until 2020.  Continuing overcrowding of the Commonwealth's prisons and jails drives correctional spending.  

The General Assembly took steps toward tax reform in 2018 and 2019, and legislative leaders have indicated that there is more to come in this area, though no specific proposals have been made public.  In any case, significant additional general fund revenue is unlikely. Though Gov. Beshear campaigned on expanded gaming as a source of more revenue, this has not been welcomed by majority legislative leadership.  The authorization of sports wagering may be an exception, but the modest revenue from this source is not a solution to the budget needs.   

Many of the major issues that the General Assembly will face in 2020 have lingered on the state's agenda for several years.  Reform of the public employees' pension systems was, of course, a priority of Gov. Bevin that was not accomplished and seems unlikely under the Beshear administration.  Prison and jail overcrowding, particularly as related to substance abuse, are perennial issues that drive continued efforts toward bail reform, criminal justice reform and treatment for substance abuse.  Similarly, efforts to address chronic underfunding of the road fund will be on the legislative agenda.

Aspects of the Medicaid program have been considered by the legislature in recent years and can be expected to be prominent again this session.  Pharmacy benefit management was the topic of several hearings over the interim and can be expected to be a major issue in 2020. Gov. Bevin's Kentucky HEALTH Medicaid reforms have been shelved by the Beshear administration, but it remains to be seen whether the General Assembly may seek to legislatively revive the plan in some form. 

Prefiled Bills

Starting next week during the 2020 session of the General Assembly, at the links below you can view the following bill lists updated nightly. Currently they are pre-populated with prefiled bills listed with their Bill Request (BR) number. We expect most of these to be filed during the first day or two of the General Assembly session.

Legislative Calendar 

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

January 7 - Session Convenes
January 8 – Welcome Back to Frankfort Reception – 5pm to 7pm - 229 Shelby St. Frankfort KY
February 21 – Last Day for Bill Requests
March 2  - Last Day to File House Bills
March 3 - Last Day to File Senate Bills
March 31 & April 1 – Concurrence Days
April 2 to 13  -  Veto Recess
April 14 & 15 -  Two Final Legislative Days with Sine Die Adjournment scheduled for April 15

Back to Frankfort Reception

Finally, we invite you to join us for the unofficial kick-off to the legislative session, the Government Strategies annual Welcome Back to Frankfort Legislative Reception. For over a decade we've hosted this event as an opportunity for clients, legislators and friends to gather with us to celebrate the session ahead. We hope to see you on Wednesday, January 8 from 5-7pm!