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With Total Control In Frankfort, Republicans Consider Priorities

J. Tyler Franklin

With Republicans in control of the state House, Senate and governor’s office, Kentuckians can expect a new push for conservative policies during the upcoming legislative session.

At the top of the list, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said on WHAS’ Leland Conway show Wednesday morning that he wants to pass so-called “right-to-work” legislation, repeal the prevailing wage on public works projects, revoke Common Core public school standards and allow charter schools in the state.

Bevin campaigned on the same issues during his race for governor last year, but soon-to-be-ousted Democrats leading the state House refused to take up the issues during his first year in office.

Now that Republicans control the chamber, House GOP leader Jeff Hoover wouldn’t say which specific policies his caucus would push for.

“Our focus is on making Kentucky a better state, a state that is more attractive to companies wanting to locate here, on companies wanting to expand, to create jobs,” Hoover said during a news conference on Wednesday. “There are things that we are not doing that we need to do and that’ll be part of our discussion as we move forward.”

Hoover has been a state representative for 21 years and says he will run to be Speaker of House — a position to which the Republican caucus would have to elect him.

Republicans increased their membership in the 100-member House from 47 seats to 64, securing a majority in the chamber for the first time in 95 years.

The party has never had majorities in both chambers of the legislature and a Republican governor in Kentucky’s history, though Democrats have several times, most recently in 1996.

One broad policy that Hoover, Bevin and Senate President Robert Stivers all say they want to tackle soon is comprehensive tax reform. Stivers said that even with a Republican super-majority in both chambers, leaders will have trouble wrangling lawmakers’ different priorities.

“Everybody is for it, but the question becomes how you define it,” Stivers said. “And everybody will have a little bit different perspective based on their life experience and the region of the state that they come from.”

Bevin has suggested supplementing the upcoming 30-day legislative session that starts in January with a special session dedicated to hammering out a tax reform plan.

Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear created a task force dedicated to coming up with tax reform solutions during his administration, but its legislative proposals were never taken up in earnest.

Republicans in the legislature have also pushed for anti-abortion and “religious freedom” bills in recent years, policies which were never taken up by the erstwhile Democratic-led House.

On Wednesday, Hoover wouldn’t say if his caucus would push to pass a “transgender bathroom” bill similar to North Carolina’s controversial law that would require public school students to use the bathroom that corresponds with the sex on their birth certificates.

The Republican-led Senate passed a similar bill last year, though it wasn’t taken up by the House.

Bevin has joined a multi-state lawsuit suing the federal government for trying to enforce a rule that would require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choosing.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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