State Rep. Steven Rudy is pretty familiar with his role as the newly elected House Majority Floor Leader of the Kentucky House of Representatives.
That’s because the Paducah Republican filled in for his friend, Rep. Bam Carney, of Campbellsville, last year as temporary floor manager after Carney was hospitalized with pancreatitis and subsequent surgeries.
“Bam’s still in recovery and wasn’t going to be able to do it (floor leader),” Rudy said. “I got a lot of encouragement from the membership to seek it and we were successful.”
Rudy, who was first elected to the House in 2004, also previously chaired the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, a position he will relinquish to take on the new responsibilities.
“Besides making all the procedural motions, as I did last year in that role kind of filling in, it will be a lot more behind-the-scenes working to set the agenda, to decide what bills are called each day and crafting, working and negotiating with the Senate to decide which policy decisions will be brought forward and voted upon and ultimately implemented by the General Assembly,” he said.
Being familiar with the role of majority floor leader will certainly be an advantage, according to Rudy.
“We’ve got a bigger conference than we’ve ever had,” he said.
“I have worked through the summer helping people, and in the fall helping them with their campaigns, just trying to fill that leadership role of getting resources to the people in their elections and giving advice through that, so I’ve forged a relationship with most of the members and I think it’s a pretty natural fit.
“We’ve got a lot of opportunities and a lot of challenges ahead of us,” he said. “But, we’re ready to hit the ground running.”
One of the challenges is getting new members acclimated.
“We had more (new members) than usual. We were at 62 members and now we’re going to be at 75, so we have a net gain of 13,” he said. “And, then with retirements of some of those positions that stayed in the majority, I think we’ve got 20 or 21 freshmen just in the majority alone.”
According to Rudy, “With the pandemic and all that comes with it, there are going to be challenges in getting those 20-some-odd members up to speed on just how to vote, how to file a bill, what motions to make, all of that. The continuity of having been there certainly is an advantage for me and I look forward to working with all the members.”
The legislator points to his past experience as head of the budget committee in helping him prepare to consider the needs of west Kentucky and the rest of the commonwealth.
His new role may be a first for a representative from far west Kentucky, according to Rudy.
“It’s the first time I can remember, although I’m sure it’s happened in my lifetime, but I don’t remember certainly since I’ve been in politics, anybody in the Jackson Purchase, in the eight counties down here being in majority leadership,” he said. “Maybe years ago before I got here.”
Rudy somewhat likens his role as being from west Kentucky but representing the whole state in a way similar to how U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell puts Kentucky “in a different seat at the table in Washington. I like to think that now the Jackson Purchase will be able to ‘punch above its weight’ in Frankfort.”
COVID-19 will continue to provide challenges in 2021, Rudy said.
“We’re going to be looking, come January, in addressing the imbalance of power and one person unilaterally making all these decisions in COVID response,” he said.
“I mean, we’re the people’s house. We are the ones who are supposed to set policy and the job of the governor is to implement that policy that we vote on, and it’s frustrating to me that he has not reached out to the legislative branch,” he said, referring to Gov. Andy Beshear.
“We will pass a budget, and we will look at some other things revolving around COVID,” Rudy said.
“We’ve got a 30-day session, we’ve got a lot of new members and we’ll try to get as much done as we can to make Kentucky a better place.”