A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky Senate Republicans set to plan 2019 strategy during two-day retreat this week

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Senate Republicans will map out their strategy for the 30-day session that begins in January with a two-day retreat Thursday and Friday at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park.


Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, explained to reporters what will transpire.

“We’re going to try and discern what we want to make our priorities, what the governor is going to say his priorities are, and then sit down with our colleagues across the aisle and across the hall in the other chamber, to try to come up with our agenda,” he said.


Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said one of their priorities will be a school safety bill.

Senate Republican leaders will be heading a two-day retreat Thursday and Friday to map out a strategy for the 2019 session. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)


“We empaneled a task force of House and Senate members that travelled across the state gathering ideas on the school safety issue, after the Marshall County shooting,” Thayer said. “When that task force issues their report, we’ll figure out which elements will be turned into legislation to strengthen school safety.”


Thayer says another item likely to be addressed is tweaks to the tax bill that passed the 2018 General Assembly.  “That’s really what a session like this is for,” he said.  “Like cleaning up the tax reform bill, where there may have been unintended consequences, like what we feel is a wrong interpretation by the Supreme Court leading to non-profits being taxed.”


Another topic likely to be discussed by the Senate GOP Caucus is expanded gaming to include sports gambling.


Stivers said projections of $30 million in annual revenue by Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear is the highest he’s heard.  “The best I’ve heard is $18-20 million and that’s full implementation with bricks and mortar interactive betting, and every sport.”


Stivers says the NCAA has not told them what their position is, but his understanding is they don’t want to be involved in sports betting.


“If the NCAA is not included in sports betting, virtually every expert you talk to will say sports betting in Kentucky will probably be cut in half,” he said.


Another topic that may be discussed is legalizing medical marijuana.  Stivers says they passed the cannabidiol bill only after they received undeniable evidence of its benefit to those suffering from seizures.

“People want to know is there therapeutic medicinal value for medical marijuana?  Where is the study?  If people can give us those studies, give us that evidence through the AMA, Johns Hopkins, I think the legislature is very open to doing things.”


One thing that is not likely to see action in 2019 is an increase in the gas tax, or a fee on hybrid or electric vehicles that use little or no gas or diesel.  “There is not an appetite out there to raise taxes at all,” Stivers said.


Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, who has been nominated to serve as Senate President Pro Tem next year, said with the changes in technology, a change in tax policy is needed.


“I think the car ownership model is going to change drastically. Maybe we’re going to have peer-to per ownership, or we have an Air BnB model in that transportation sector, we’re going to see fewer cars on the market.  We’re going to have to have a true paradigm shift in the approach to tax policy and infrastructure.”


The 2019 General Assembly begins with the Organizational Session Jan. 8-11, then will be in recess until Feb. 5, with final adjournment on March 29.   

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