Jay D. Hartz, a top staff member in the Kentucky Senate president's office, was selected by legislative leaders on Wednesday as the next director of the Legislative Research Commission. Hartz replaces David Byerman, whose contract was not renewed last year.
The LRC director oversees employees who assist lawmakers in both parties in writing and researching legislation. The commission is led by a panel of Republican and Democratic leaders from the state House and Senate who approved his hiring Wednesday.
Hartz has most recently served as deputy chief of staff in the Senate president's office.
While he's worked in a partisan role in the past, his new job will be in a nonpartisan capacity in leading the LRC, Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker David Osborne told reporters.
"This has been a nonpartisan agency and should continue to be so," Stivers said.
Republicans have overwhelming majorities in both legislative chambers.
The expectation will continue to be that work done by LRC staff members should be of equally high quality, regardless of whether the request came from a Republican or Democratic lawmaker, Stivers said.
Legislative leaders voted to hire Hartz after a 51-minute, closed-door session Wednesday.
Top House Democrats had expressed concerns about hiring a partisan staff member to lead a nonpartisan organization, House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins told reporters afterward.
Adkins said he respects Hartz, but added: "We're going to work with the new director, but we're going to be watching."
Hartz said he looks forward to "building on the strengths inherent in the LRC's nonpartisan staff structure."
Osborne said Hartz "possesses both the understanding of the legislative process and the institutional knowledge" that lawmakers were looking for in a new LRC director.
Terms of Hartz's contracts were being negotiated. Several internal applicants for the LRC directorship were interviewed by legislators, Osborne said.
Hartz, of Simpsonville, has worked in the state legislature nearly 25 years.
Prior to become deputy chief of staff for the Senate president, he served as 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.