Keeping up with who’s who in Frankfort can be difficult. Here’s a short list of names you’re likely to see during the 2013 General Assembly:
Gov. Steve Beshear is a Democrat serving his second term. Though he’s the state’s chief executive, Beshear has limited sway during legislative sessions. However, his top priority — legalized casino gambling — could be revived again in 2013, and if so, he might involve himself. Also, lawmakers say Beshear should make a statewide push for tax reform if he expects political momentum behind an overhaul of the tax code.
Audrey Tayse Haynes is Beshear’s secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Look for Haynes to be enmeshed in several controversies, including the state’s shift to private management of Medicaid (medical providers are complaining about late and inadequate payments) and preparations for Obamacare, also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Her predecessor, Janie Miller, caught flak from Republican lawmakers and resigned during the 2012 session.
Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, is expected to be chosen by his colleagues as the next Senate president, replacing the departed David Williams. The leadership style of Stivers, a lawyer, remains to be seen. He’s generally more relaxed than Williams, who sometimes ruled the Senate with an iron fist. But he takes seriously his role as opposition leader and isn’t shy about challenging the Democratic administrations of Beshear and President Barack Obama.
Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, is presumed to be the next Senate majority leader, taking the No. 2 spot now held by Stivers. Thayer is a horse-industry consultant and — working with Beshear — advocates casino gambling at horse racetracks. Thayer also co-chaired a task force on state pension reform during 2012, so he will be a key player in whatever the legislature does on pensions.
Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, is a financial adviser at Civic Finance Advisors, raising money for cities, counties and special taxing districts. Democrats are a fast-shrinking minority in the Senate, so Palmer will have as much clout as Stivers allows him. When Williams was Senate president, Democrats seldom got their say.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, is a wealthy lawyer with financial interests in coal and banking. First elected to the House in 1980 while he was still in his 20s, Stumbo is now 61 and one of Frankfort’s most senior politicians. He skillfully uses his power to control the Democratic-led House. He’s also a possible candidate for governor in 2015, setting up rivalries with other Democrats.
House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, is president of RJA Enterprises, though he refuses to say what the company does. He has financial interests in coal and banking, like Stumbo, his fellow Eastern Kentuckian. As Stumbo’s man on the House floor, Adkins helps decide the flow of legislation, giving some bills a thumbs up and others a thumbs down.
House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, is a lawyer and radio executive. Hoover’s Republican caucus has clawed its way up to 45 of the House’s 100 seats. But without a majority, he will continue to deliver indignant floor speeches after Democrats get their way. That said, Hoover successfully challenged the Democrats’ political redistricting map last year, getting it tossed out by a court.