Republican-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate were racing forward with their conservative agenda – passing seven bills in the first five days of the 2017 Session. The speed is not the same in 2018 for a number of reasons.
Among the bills passed early last year were two strong pro-life bills: Senate Bill 5 – 20-Week Abortion Ban and House Bill 2 – The Ultrasound Bill. Other bills included conservative fiscal matters relating to unions and prevailing wage laws. All seven were heard in the committees of both Chambers and on the Floor of both Chambers and passed by Saturday evening Jan. 7.
This year, with the House “texting controversy” decapitating the House Leadership and causing significant pain and division in the Republican Caucus, there are major questions about whether that Chamber can settle and get anything done. Clearly, when the majority Party is in disarray, there is often no consensus to move forward on anything.
Even the Democrats have been divided by the fallout from the controversy. On Jan. 9, former Speaker Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) proposed a resolution to the recently altered House rules regarding disciplining House members. When the House voted on whether to consider Hoover’s proposal, 40 members voted “Yes” – including 27 Republicans and 13 Democrat), 40 voted “No” – including 26 Republicans and 14 Democrats, and 18 members did not vote at all – 6 Republicans and 12 Democrats. (Only 98 votes were counted because there are currently two open seats in the 100-member Chamber.)
The question now is whether the House members, particularly in the Republican Caucus, will be able to set aside their differences over the texting issue and move forward on the bills and issues that unite them and got them elected to the majority in 2016. By Jan. 31 – 20 legislative days into the Session and clearly one third of the way through this 60-day “long” Session – that question is still unanswered.
This “uncertainty dynamic” puts the people of Kentucky in the driver’s seat as to what will get done. Legislators need to hear from those back home. If they do, the encouragement they receive will likely make the difference as to whether this will be a successful Session or simply a gathering that results in little getting done.
The fact of the matter is that in the legislature, “Nothing moves unless it’s pushed.” When the legislators are not aligned they are virtually hamstrung. In these moments, it is the people that can be the “prime movers.”
“We are highly encouraging those citizens who care about the family to speak up at this moment in time,” said Kent Ostrander, executive director of The Family Foundation. “Their calls could easily become the rallying cry for legislators, helping them to coalesce and focus in order to get good, pro-family things done.”
The stage is set for a highly productive 2018 Session if Kentucky citizens do in fact get involved, or for a mediocre Session if they choose not to. That’s exactly how government of the people, by the people, and for the people was designed.