Congratulations to House Speaker-elect Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, both on his election to the leadership role and the tone he has set.
“It’s not a time to gloat, it’s not a time to be prideful, it’s not a time to be arrogant because we have to govern,” Hoover said after the Kentucky landslide that gave Republicans not only a majority in the House for the first time since 1921 but a veto-proof 64-36 dominance.
He’s right. The Kentucky GOP, now firmly in control of the governor’s office, the Senate and the House, and with a Republican president and national Congress, must govern.
So far, so good. Hoover, who has served in the House for 20 years in a seat previously occupied by both his father and his mother, has called on four former Democratic colleagues to make up half of his transition team — a group charged not with developing policy but with legislative processes.
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Equally important, he has been quick to brush back members of his party who’ve engaged in offensive or simply outlandish remarks. He called on Republican candidate Don Johnson to withdraw from his race after it was revealed that Johnson posted photographs of President Barack Obama and his family with ape-like features online. Johnson stayed in and won. Hoover said recently that he plans to talk with Johnson about the professional conduct expected of a member of the General Assembly.
He’s also demurred on some of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s more incendiary comments about outgoing Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. Saying he and Stumbo “have disagreed, sometimes rather strongly, but it’s always been on a policy level or a political level. It has never been personal.”
Former state representative and senator Kathy Stein, now a circuit court judge, one of the most liberal members of the General Assembly during her years there, praised Hoover in an online post. She described him as “one of the best examples of a public servant the Kentucky General Assembly has.”
But now comes the test.
Hoover has promised greater transparency in the legislative process, including on legislative pensions, and must deliver. He’s supported restoring voting rights to non-violent felons but serves in the same party as a governor who has not restored rights to even one felon. Hoover has also championed allowing cities to pass taxes for local improvements, something his own party has blocked in years past.
There are plenty of other challenges — pension fund debt, delayed infrastructure investment, education funding cut to the quick, Kentucky leading the nation in cancer deaths — that will require everyone in Frankfort to pull their weight.