Politics & Government

Legislative leaders pick Senate GOP staffer to head Legislative Research Commission

Jay D. Hartz, new director of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.
Jay D. Hartz, new director of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission. Kentucky Legislative Research Commission

Kentucky legislative leaders on Wednesday chose Jay D. Hartz, deputy chief of staff in the Senate president’s office, as the next director of the Legislative Research Commission, effective Thursday.

Hartz, 48, replaces David Byerman, whose contract was not renewed last Sept. 30. Legislative leaders have never said why Byerman, who took the job in 2015, departed.

After Byerman left, legislative leaders named Becky Harilson and David Floyd, chiefs of staff for Senate GOP and House GOP leadership, to run the agency.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said there needed to be “a singular point person” to be the director to handle the various duties of the office.

Hartz, of Simpsonville, has worked in the state legislature nearly 25 years. Before becoming deputy chief of staff for the Senate president, he was director of legislative operations in the president’s office and served two terms as the chief clerk of the Senate, the chief administrative officer for the chamber.

Stivers said Hartz’ annual salary will be similar or a little less than Byerman’s $145,000 and that Hartz’ contract was being negotiated. Hartz’s salary in the president’s office has been $110,000 a year.

Members of a search committee for an LRC director included Stivers and House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, the minority floor leaders of both chambers, a member of the Senate designated by Stivers, a House member designated by Osborne and the House minority caucus chair.

Stivers and Osborne said the committee decided to focus on internal candidates and solicited applications by April 15 from any current LRC employee. They declined to say how many people applied or to identify any of them except Hartz.

The LRC director is responsible for the work of nonpartisan staff hired by the General Assembly and for ensuring professional services to lawmakers. The LRC has 380 employees and an annual budget of about $50.4 million.

Hartz, who has a master’s degree from Villanova University and is a graduate of Ashland University, said he is “humbled” by the new job “and I look forward to building on the strengths inherent in LRC’s non-partisan staff structure.”

All legislative leaders voted to hire Hartz after a 51-minuted closed-door session Wednesday morning.

House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said he respects Hartz but added that House Democratic leaders have concerns about hiring a partisan staffer to work in a nonpartisan organization.

“We want to see the director succeed but we will be watching,” said Adkins.

Stivers said Hartz is “a nonpartisan director.”