BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — 30 out of the 38 state senators will be in Sen. Mike Wilson’s district in December.
“We will be talking to each other about different things that we have in mind that we want to do and come to a consensus on what our priorities will be,” Wilson said.
The retreat will be at Western Kentucky University this year and usually happens every Dec. for Republicans, who hold the majority in both chambers of the legislature.
Wilson (R-Bowling Green) said the budget will take up most of the discussion during those three days, including what to do with federal money coming from the new infrastructure bill and COVID-19 relief measures.
“We’re looking at what’s going to be the greatest bang for our buck,” he said.
But there are a number of other issues lawmakers plan to tackle between Jan. and April, especially as the state continues to deal with COVID-19.
Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) said there are a few long-term policies they’re looking at.
“One of those is a continued conversation about broadband,” he said. “And COVID has made it apparent how vitally important broadband is across the commonwealth and all of our counties.”
Givens said the pandemic also exposed some issues with how Kentucky pays for schools.
“Should education be the old-fashioned butt-in-seat time that we measure to get to graduation? Or should it be the ability to produce; the ability to indicate proficiency?” he asked.
One thing that likely won’t be discussed here during the retreat next month is redistricting.
Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said his caucus is prepared to put out congressional and legislative maps; the problem is with the governor.
“I don’t plan to go to the governor on anything,” Stivers said in regards to redistricting. “He knows we’re ready. He should call us into special session.”
Only the governor can call a special session, and Gov. Andy Beshear has said in the past he wants to see the proposed maps before calling one for redistricting.
“It is not his role to set policy; it is ours,” Stivers said. “And where the districts are is our prerogative, and he can either veto it or not, and if he does in the regular session, we will override.”
There’s only a few days between the beginning of session and the filing deadline for the next election, so the clock is ticking.
Stivers said pushing the filing deadlines back is almost a certainty to begin the next session, but he expects legislative and congressional maps to hit the governor’s desk by the second week of session.
Lawmakers only need a simple majority to override the governor’s veto of any legislation. Republicans control more than three-quarters of the entire legislature.