FRANKFORT — The Republican-led Kentucky House of Representatives last Tuesday voted without opposition to repeal a recently enacted rule governing investigation of charges against members, including most notably one-time Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown.
The 90-0 vote effectively ends the internal House investigation of Hoover over charges of sexual harassment, but it does not end an investigation by the Legislative Ethics Commission or a resolution from eight House Republicans seeking to expel Hoover.
The House adopted the new rule last week, setting up a “due process” system for handling charges against members or resolutions seeking expulsion. The next day, eight House Republicans filed a resolution seeking Hoover’s ouster.
Hoover has been embroiled in controversy since last November when The Courier-Journal reported he and three other House Republicans had signed a confidential settlement of sexual harassment claims by a legislative aide.
Gov. Matt Bevin and the eight House Republicans publicly called on the lawmakers to resign and Hoover announced on Nov. 5 he would resign as Speaker but retain his House seat. However, he had to wait until the full House convened to make his resignation official and, by Jan. 2 when lawmakers returned to Frankfort, Hoover had reconsidered.
Hoover had a letter read to the House in which he said members of both parties had asked him to reconsider and he was ceding control of the House to President Pro Tempore David Osborne, R-Prospect, while the Legislative Ethics Commission pursued its investigation.
The next day, the House — mostly on party lines — adopted a new rule which established a bi-partisan committee to hear charges against its members although some Democrats warned the new rule could lead to frivolous and politically motivated charges.
The next day, Republican House members Phil Moffett, Stan Lee, Kim King, Addia Wuchner, Joe Fischer, Russell Webber, Tim Moore and Robert Benvenuti filed a resolution seeking Hoover’s expulsion.
The special committee was named and met on Friday and Monday, primarily for organizational purposes.
But Hoover took the floor both on Monday and Tuesday, defending himself, criticizing those who alleged misbehavior and his colleagues seeking to expel him. He promised to “expose” all of those who he alleged were orchestrating his downfall.
While Hoover continued to enjoy support from a number of House Republicans, the issue was clearly also becoming both a political liability and a policy distraction in General Assembly session planning to tackle public pension reform, a “brutal” budget outlook and, perhaps, tax reform.
Then Wednesday when the House convened, Osborne announced the chamber would recess for party caucuses and word circulated they were meeting on the Hoover issue. After 30 minutes or so, the House reconvened and Osborne stepped down from the podium to ask for passage of a new resolution repealing the rules adopted last week.
Osborne said Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins and his members supported the repeal after many members expressed concerns about its potential misuses.
Adkins and other Democrats took to the floor to endorse Osborne’s resolution as well as Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, who chaired the special committee.
“This is not closure on the issue,” Miller told the House, “but it is the right thing to do, to make clear the Legislative Ethics Commission should take the lead.”
No one voted against the resolution, although eight members did not vote — including Hoover and Moffett, perhaps Hoover’s most vocal critic in the House. (There are two current vacancies in the 100-seat House.)
Afterward, the special committee created by the now-repealed Rule 23A met for the purpose of formally disbanding.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnhifrankfort.