Ky lawmakers to face tough issues, shifting politics as 2016 Gen - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ky lawmakers to face tough issues, shifting politics as 2016 General Assembly gets underway

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Big issues, a tight budget and shifting politics - that’s what lawmakers face as the 2016 session of the General Assembly got under way Tuesday.

As the 2016 session opens, the political landscape at the Capitol looks much different than last year.

Lawmakers convened in newly refurbished House and Senate chambers, but that's the least important of the recent changes.

There's a new Republican governor, Matt Bevin, who is promising to champion conservative causes.

“There's a fresh set of ideas that are floating around this Capitol, and it’s created a real new sense of energy,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown.)

And there's a shrinking Democratic majority in the House, now 50–46, after two Democrats switched parties.

There are also four vacancies to be filled in a special election in March.

It adds up to uncertainty for House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

“Even at worst it would be 50-50. How would that work? I don’t know. I hope I don’t have to find out,” said Stumbo.

But does the Republican trend improve the chances for passage for issues such as charter schools and right to work, which have previously been blocked in the House?

“I would hope that Speaker Stumbo would recognize the changing political landscape in Kentucky,” said Thayer.

“You know, we'll just have to wait and see,” said Stumbo.

Lawmakers are also likely to address the concerns of county clerks such as Kim Davis who oppose same sex marriage, the restoration of voting rights to some non-violent felons, and the Local Option Sales Tax.

But above it all is the budget.

“Believe me, that’s what this entire session is about,” Bevin told WDRB News.

The governor says the state is facing a half-billion dollar budget shortfall caused by the pension crisis and the rising cost of Medicaid.

“It's going to be a daunting task for the governor, whether it’s this governor or any other governor that may have come in, to balance this budget,” said Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester.)

Will programs be cut, or will lawmakers find new sources of revenue that do not involve raising taxes?

“It's likely going to mean that there are not going to be increases in other areas of the budget, and there are probably going to be cuts in many areas,” said Thayer.

“I think we'll be able to manage our way through it,” Stumbo said.

If history is any guide, very little of importance will get done until the very end of the session in April.

Copyright 2016 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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