Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 2, 2012

More clout

Top leaders in legislators may all be from this region

The Independent

ASHLAND — If Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, is chosen to replace David Williams as president of the Kentucky Senate, this region stands to benefit greatly from Williams’ departure.   

Already the top two leaders of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives —  Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook — are from this region, and if Stivers becomes leader of the Senate, then the leaders of both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly will be from neighboring districts. That gives this region a lot of clout in the state legislature  

Ironically, this region lost one of its most influential legislators when Gov. Steve Beshear three years ago appointed Sen. Charlie Borders, R-Grayson, then chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, to the Public Service Commission, a post from which Borders has since resigned. Now the governor’s appointment of another Republican Senate leader could restore and even strengthen the influence this region lost from Borders’ departure.

 Stivers has said he is interested in seeking the Senate presidency and he thinks he has the votes to win. He has been majority floor leader since 2009, and while he faces Democratic challenger Ralph Hoskins in Tuesday’s election, Stivers is expected to easily be re-elected to another four-year term from District 25.

Beshear appointed Williams to fill the two years remaining in the term of southern Kentucky Circuit Judge Eddie Lovelace, who died in September. To keep the seat, Williams will have to run when it comes up for election in 2014.

The next Senate president will not be elected until the opening days of the 2013 General Assembly in early January, but both Republicans and Democrats alike are assuming Stivers will get the job.

“It will be Robert Stivers, in my opinion. I think it’s pretty well given,” said Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville. “... If there is anyone opposing that, they haven’t said anything to me.”

As a majority party in the Senate, Republicans typically get to choose the Senate president with little or no input from the minority party. The one exception came in 1997 when five Democrats — then the majority party in the state Senate — broke with their party to join the Republican minority to oust Senate President John “Eck” Rose of Winchester. State Sen. Walter “Doc” Blevins, D-Sandy Hook, who is being challenged by Tony Downey of Ashland in Tuesday’s election, is the only one of the five Democratic senators who helped oust Rose who still is in office.

No such surprises in Senate leadership elections are expected in 2013.

“I have great confidence in Robert’s ability to lead this group,” Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, said of Stivers.

Assuming Stivers will be the new Senate president, Sen. Jerry Rhoads, D-Madisonville, said Democrats hope for a better working relationship with him than they had with Williams. So do we as do most other Kentuckians, we suspect. A change of tone is definitely in order in the Senate, where Williams has been at odds with Democrats on budget issues, which led to stalemates, special legislative sessions and consternation of Democratic governors and House leaders.

As one would expect, Stivers disagrees with Stumbo, Adkins and other Democratic legislators on a number of issues and they often find themselves at odds with each other. However, we also can think of many times when area legislators from both parties have put aside their political and philosophical differences to work for the benefit of the region.

The leaders of both the House and the Senate also have a long record of delivering “pork” to their districts. In fact, Beshear used the line-item veto to eliminate a number of pet projects Williams had put in the budget to benefit his district.

However, we should not expect “pork” just because the leaders of the General Assembly are from this region. However, we should expect a powerful and united voice for this region in the legislature for issues and bills important to us.