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Jabs, Jokes, And Just Hint Of Mystery At 2016 Kentucky Chamber Day

Josh James

Gov. Matt Bevin joined House and Senate leaders for a spirited night of speeches at Kentucky Chamber Day in Lexington Thursday.

A who’s who of state politics and business, the annual Chamber Day combines serious policy addresses with what sounds like Kentucky’s answer to the White House Correspondents Dinner. This year, most of the jokes were directed not at those present but at one glaring absence: Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who has courted controversy in recent days by suggesting caucus defectors could face legal action by the party.

"Let me know if any of you want to join a lawsuit with the Chamber and we'll file suit against [Stumbo] for fraud," Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover chided.

Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones kept the theme going, adding, "At first blush, when I heard that Speaker Stumbo was not going to be here tonight , I thought Governor Bevin's already hired him."

Though the evening was short on new policy specifics, the former did light up Twitter with a cryptic hint that Monday could be a “historic” day in the Commonwealth. Pressed for details afterward, the Jamestown Republican declined to elaborate, leading to speculation that the Democrats’ fragile ranks could grow even slimmer over the weekend. The majority in the chamber for nearly a century, the party currently holds a 50-46 lead, but the perfect storm of four special elections in March and more party members abandoning the caucus could affect the balance of power.

"Monday could be a big day, but I'm not going to say anything beyond that," Hoover told reporters.

Wrapping up the night, Bevin ticked off a familiar list of priorities – from pension reform to charter schools – and continued to tamp down expectations for the next biennial budget.

"We have received requests from people for budget increases, as I've rolled up the requests that have come from each of the cabinets from $1.4 to $2.1 billion dollars in extra spending. Newsflash: It's not coming," he said.

As for Stumbo’s empty seat, the speaker was reportedly attending a meeting of his law firm, Morgan & Morgan, in Florida.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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