Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

November 30, 2012

RONNIE ELLIS: Stivers brings new atmosphere to Frankfort

FRANKFORT — Early indications are that soon to be state Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, wants to do business differently than his predecessor David Williams.

That’s music to a lot of Frankfort ears – but will it last?

After the Republican caucus selected Stivers as their choice for President (the office is elected by the body but Republicans have a majority sufficient to guarantee his election in January), he said he saw no reason Bob Leeper, an independent who opposed Stivers, shouldn’t continue as Appropriations and Revenue Chairman.

Stivers was even the one who moved to suspend a rule that would have barred Leeper’s candidacy because he’s registered independent.

He went out of his way to say there would be no retaliation toward losing candidates through things like committee assignments. Most welcome of all for many in Frankfort, Stivers said that the new leadership team wants less confrontation and more conversation with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and the Democratic House on issues facing Kentucky.

“I think this group wants to have dialogue,” Stivers said. He wants “dialogue with all interested parties” on “big issues” facing the General Assembly. Some of Stivers’ colleagues are also hinting that he may spread decision-making among committee chairs more than Williams did.

Some lobbyists and lawmakers from the other party or the other chamber took note of the election of Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, as majority floor leader. Thayer supports expanded gambling and in the last session worked with Beshear on a constitutional gambling amendment. It failed in a Senate floor vote and proponents blamed Williams.

They view Thayer’s election over David Givens, R-Greensburg, who opposes gambling, as an indication gambling might face a more welcoming environment in the Senate. Thayer cautioned against that as an automatic conclusion.

Caucus Chairman Dan Seum, R-Louisville, told reporters at least one of the four contested races took more than one ballot. He wouldn’t say which one. But hallway wags say it was the Thayer-Givens race and claim it took four ballots before one unknown Republican Senator switched sides. That’s probably an indication of division on multiple issues and personalities, but it might also indicate a divide on gambling.

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