Republican leadership from the Kentucky Senate are in western Kentucky this week for an annual retreat to prepare for the upcoming legislative session.
Senate President Robert Stivers, President Pro Tem David Givens, Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, Caucus Leader Dan Seum and Majority Whip Jimmy Higdon held a press conference Wednesday along with 2nd District Sen. Danny Carroll who lobbied for the caucus to be held in Paducah.
Carroll says it's important that the leadership see the issues important to this region, like the WAVE Mississippi River port initiative and the recent announcement of the GLE uranium sale and new facility plans.
“As we move forward in the state and a lot of legislation comes forward, when I bring up discussion on how it will impact our region, our caucus members are going to have a first-hand view and first-hand knowledge of the needs and what we do have going on in this region," said Carroll.
Stivers says while the Senate’s agenda is still in discussion, the top priority is jobs.
"We're not a new majority, we've had the majority since 1999," said Stivers. "The House has had a change as everybody is aware, but what we want to do is create an environment and atmosphere that has jobs at the end of our mission." On Election Day, House Speaker Greg Stumbo was ousted along with several democratic representatives, allowing Republicans to flip the House. The GOP now controls both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office, held by Gov. Matt Bevin, for the first time in nearly 100 years. Stivers says the Senate has historically pushed economic development bills, for example, that only went on to die in committee in the House. “That bill never got a hearing two years in a row in the house, that’s where we think the difference will come," said Stivers. "These types of bills that are common sense, apolitical, that are good for the whole state, will now get a review and favorable passage.”
The leadership will announce their agenda after the caucus concludes Friday.
"I think it's pretty transparent the things we're going to pursue when you look at the priority bills that we've passed in the Senate over the last several years,"said President Pro Tem Givens. "And most of them have died at the hands of Greg Stumbo in the House. Now that that obstacle has been removed, we have to go through a process to make sure by January 3rd we're not just focusing on Senate priorities but sit down with Speaker [Jeff] Hoover, Governor Bevin and the rest of Hoover's leadership team, and take a look at all these policies, and we've got to decide what is going to be in the bill, who's gonna sponsor it, what chamber it's gonna be filed in, and how we're gonna get this all done in 30 days."
Whip Higdon says although the Governor has called for a review of the Kentucky tax code, such complex issues would probably not be solved in this 30 day session, but may appear in a special session down the road.
"I don't think we can ever get the zero number [on income tax] that Tennessee's is at, " said Higdon. "And I don't think we will talk a lot about tax reform this session. I think we will see a special down the road to devote a specific period of time to tax reform to get it right."
The General Assembly convenes Jan. 3rd, 2017.