Looking Ahead to the 2016 Session

capital dome

The legislative calendar for the week of December 21-25, 2015 is blank. Everyone is in their districts or hometowns celebrating the holidays.  In the rush of holiday observance we still want to pause and consider what the new year will bring to Kentucky.

Gov. Matt Bevin/Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton

gov-bevin-bio

Governor Matt Bevin

Lt Gov Jenean Hampton

Lt Gov Jenean Hampton

Certainly Kentucky’s election of Matt Bevin and Jenean Hampton to the office of Governor and Lt. Gov respectively is a historic moment in the state’s political history. In the last 40 years of political history only eight have had Republican governors, Louie B. Nunn in 1967-1971 and Ernie Fletcher 2003-2007. In the midst of Bevins’ transition we have to first consider the big ticket items that he and Hampton ran on. Will 2016 set the stage for the realization of Bevin’s platform of:

  • Enacting pro-business “right to work” legislation
  • Modernizing Kentucky’s tax code
  • Resolving our pension crisis
  • Reforming Kentucky government
  • Modernizing Kentucky’s education system
  • Improving Kentucky healthcare
  • Fighting federal government overreach

Certainly Kentucky is interested in seeing if these newcomers to Kentucky politics can deliver on these promises.

Attorney General Andy Beshear

andybeshear

Andy Beshear, Attorney General-elect

Kentucky’s election in November taught us a lesson, that no one party can win it all. The Attorney General’s race was certainly one that was close and in fact, one that should have been contested. History being a guide for the next four years, can we expect Andy Beshear (who’s father just left the Governor’s Mansion) to execute his office fairly, or will he like previous Attorneys General of Kentucky to use his office in a similar Stumbo/Fletcher scenario?

While Beshear championed the issues facing Kentucky’s families like drug use and child abuse, only time will tell what Beshear will actually do. In his announcement on December 18, 2015 he named a few of his father’s appointees in his new administration, namely Tim Longmeyer, who was Gov. Beshear’s Personnel Cabinet Secretary, who also served on the Kentucky Health Group Insurance Board and the Kentucky Retirement Systems Board.

Also named was J. Michael Brown, who was Gov. Beshear’s secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet for eight years. he will lead the Criminal Branch of the AG office.

While Beshear said “he would work with Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in a bipartisan manner in his duty to advise the governor when needed” Kentucky voters may worry that Andy will use his office to make sure that the programs of his father stay intact, primarily the state’s healthcare exchange Kynect, and he may use his office to go after Bevin in a political manner, and relive the days of the Fletcher scandal around hiring.

Auditor Mike Harmon

Mike Harmon - Auditor Elect, KY

Mike Harmon – Auditor Elect

Perhaps no other race was so upsetting to the Democratic Party than the Auditor’s race between Adam Edelen and Mike Harmon. It was a close election to be sure, but when politicos saw that Harmon defeated the Democratic darling Edelen, Republicans knew that they were headed for a good night of returns.

Further, last week Harmon named some pretty big names in the Republican party to important staff positions.  Namely, the former senator from Wayne County, Sarah Beth Gregory as general counsel, and the House Republican Caucus Communications Director Michael Goins. Further, he appointed Alice Wilson, CPA as assistant state auditor and Ginger Wills as Chief of Staff.

It’s unclear at this point what Harmon will do with such big players. Perhaps the wheels already are in motion to use the office to clean up the books in Frankfort and to discover waste and corruption that predecessors may have ignored. We do know this, that having such heavy hitters in the Harmon administration indicates that Harmon may intend on using the office for something bigger than it has been used in the past.

The Kentucky House

Kentucky House of Representatives

Kentucky House of Representatives

Already, the drama unfolding around the bastion of the last democratically controlled legislative body in the south is playing out with twists and turns. Most, if not all state legislatures in the south have long been taken over by the Republican party in sweeping elections amidst Tea Party pressure and persistence. However, Kentucky’s State House is the last holdout.

Turnabout is fair play perhaps, in that Gov. Bevin is already at work dismantling the Democratic majority in the house in the same way that his predecessor was in the Kentucky Senate. Clearly, some of the measures that Gov. Bevin wishes to realize in the commonwealth don’t stand a chance in the House unless the political climate is a little more conducive. Which means, it must be flipped.

In an effort to do so, Bevin has appointed two very prominent Democrats to positions in state government. John Tilley of Hopkinsville and Tanya Pullin of South Shore.  John Tilley was appointed to the Bevin administration as Secretary to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. Tonya Pullin was appointed to an administrative law judge in the Department of Workers Claims.

Also, earlier this month we saw the switch of Denny Butler (R-Louisville) from Democrat to Republican.

So, in a chamber with now 50 Democrats (from 53) and 45 Republicans the chances are very likely that the chamber will flip in November of 2016. Note that with the election of Ryan Quarles (R-Georgetown) and Mike Harmon (R-Danville), there are now two open seats.

Questions, however, remain.

Will Gov. Bevin continue picking apart the democratic majority?

With the 2016 General Assembly just fifteen days away, will the constituencies of four districts be able to elect new representation?

These things, and more are what we have to look forward to in 2016.

About the Author

Jonathan Gaby
Jonathan Gaby is BluegrassConservative.com's Editor-in-Chief. Jonathan brings years of online communication expertise as well as his years of political experience as an activist, campaign professional, and observer to bear on state and local politics. Contact him at editor@bluegrassconservative.com or @bgconservative.