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Republicans say they lost committee seats for bucking House leadership


Republicans say they lost committee seats for bucking House leadership

Mar 31, 2023 | 3:16 pm ET
By McKenna Horsley
Some Republicans left wondering why House leaders stripped them of some committee assignments
Rep. Josh Calloway, R-Russell, addresses the House on March 13. (Photo by LRC Public Information)

FRANKFORT — Shortly after House members finished their business for this year’s regular session, six Republicans were removed from committee assignments, an action that some in the GOP are calling punishment for bucking leadership. 

Some of those who lost committee assignments say they were not given a reason. The changes were announced Thursday night before lawmakers adjourned until the next legislative session. 

Republicans say they lost committee seats for bucking House leadership
On Feb. 22, Rep. Steven Doan, R-Erlanger (left), confers with Supreme Court Chief Justice Laurance B. VanMeter before Doan presented a bill opposed by the chief justice. (Photo by LRC Public Information)

Freshman lawmaker Rep. Steven Doan, R-Erlanger, said in a Friday email to the Kentucky Lantern his committee removals could be related to a motion to table a later-passed bill banning gray gaming machines and supporting floor amendments from Rep. Josh Calloway, R-Irvington. Calloway also was stripped of two committee assignments.

“Leadership has not provided me with any reasons as to why I was removed from my committees,” Doan wrote. “However, I would imagine that it has something to do with tabling the skilled games legislation and supporting Josh Calloway’s efforts on SB 5, which ultimately led to the passage of SB 150 the next day.” 

On the night of March 16, as the House considered Senate Bill 5 which sets up a process for parents to challenge school materials they consider obscene, Calloway held the floor for at least a half-hour introducing multiple floor amendments — ranging from restrictions on drag shows to prohibiting school vaccine requirements — and passionately urging lawmakers to make sure “that our kids’ minds are not being perverted.” 

“I’m risking my political position. I’m risking friendships in here,” Calloway said during debate on March 15. “I’m risking positions that I have, potential positions that I could have and I am not intending to run for any big office … and I am willing to stand right here, right now, and risk everything that I have for my children and your children and the children of the state of Kentucky.”

None of Calloway’s amendments received enough votes for approval; Speaker David Osborne ruled one of them out of order.

“Without Rep. Calloway’s work on the floor, I do not believe SB 150 would have been passed as it was,” Doan said. “When Rep. Calloway said he was risking his political future on the House floor in calling all of his amendments, this is what he meant.” 

Senate Bill 150 was the omnibus anti-trans legislation passed by the General Assembly in the final days of the legislative session. Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto was easily overridden this week. 

Calloway echoed Doan’s comments Friday afternoon and cited his floor comment on SB 5 about risking his career for pushing the floor amendments. Calloway learned about his removal from committees after they were announced Thursday and spoke with leadership afterwards.

“All I’ve tried to do since I’ve been there is be effective and I will find ways to be effective,” Calloway said looking ahead to the next legislative session and the interim period.

As for the provisions in the floor amendments he filed around sexually-explicit or adult-oriented shows, Calloway said he will continue to work on them for the next session. Another piece of legislation he plans to work on would address “indoctrination from a curriculum standpoint,” like measures found in SB 150, he added.

“I know they (leadership) have a difficult job because they have 80 members, and it’s not easy, and I understand that,” Calloway said. “I’m a principled person and I just stand on my principles and try to fight for it as hard as I can, and I understand the risks whenever I take them that there could be consequences to those risks, and it is what it is.”

In an email, Laura Leigh Goins, a spokesperson for House Republican Leadership, declined to comment on “what happens within the caucus.” 

The representatives removed were: 

  • Calloway from the House Agriculture and Education committees,
  • Doan from the House Education and Judiciary committees,
  • Rep. Mark Hart from the House Agriculture Committee,
  • Rep. Felicia Rabourn from the House Agriculture, Families and Children, and Health Services committees,
  • Rep. Nancy Tate from the House Families and Children Committee,
  • Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser from the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee.

As of Friday afternoon, Hart and Rabourn had not returned requests for comment from the Kentucky Lantern. According to the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission website, the lawmakers still retain other committee assignments. 

Republicans say they lost committee seats for bucking House leadership
Rep. Felicia Rabourn

Rabourn told the Lexington Herald-Leader that after speaking with leadership, she was under the impression that it was related to appealing Speaker Osborne’s ruling that one of Calloway’s amendments was not germane to the bill under consideration. 

“It’s retaliation. A supermajority means nothing in this body because it’s all about power, and it will continue to be that way until we get the members of leadership out of here,” Rabourn said, the newspaper reported.

Moser, R-Taylor Mill, directed a Lantern reporter to contact House leadership for comments on committee assignments.

“I am consistently focused on strong policy which moves our Commonwealth forward, including ensuring that Kentuckians have access to quality health care,” Moser wrote in an email. “I take my role very seriously. I am proud of the many pieces of legislation which I have passed in this and previous years, which are making a positive impact in Kentucky.”

Earlier this session, Moser voted against House Bill 470, the original anti-trans bill that ultimately died in the Senate though

Republicans say they lost committee seats for bucking House leadership
Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser

much of it was later added to SB 150. At the time, she called it a “shortsighted and discriminatory” bill that “sets Kentucky back decades” and takes parents’ rights away. Some of her concerns were the bill’s penalties against care workers that she said “undermines everything we’ve done” to bolster that particular workforce.

Tate, R-Brandenburg, said in an email that House leadership had not spoken with her about her removal from the committee, so she “can only reach my own conclusion” and vowed to continue serving her district. 

“I was elected by the people in District 27 to be vocal and I will continue. Every session I have worked very hard to insure the bills that were passed were as strong as possible,” Tate said. “I can only conclude that leadership decided that I was not a good fit for the Families & Children Committee and they are probably right. I will continue to represent my district and our interests on the numerous committees that I sit on. I hope that the initiatives that I am passionate about will continue to be supported.”

Republicans say they lost committee seats for bucking House leadership
Rep. Nancy Tate

A member of Kentucky’s congressional district weighed in Friday on leadership’s decisions via a Twitter thread. Republican U.S. Rep Thomas Massie tagged members of House GOP Leadership, including Osborne, in his comments. 

“Punishing dissension is short sighted and doing so in the last hours of the session has an air of pettiness that voters detest,” Massie said. 

State Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, also tweeted about the committee removals, saying that “strong-arm tactics and political paybacks are alive and well in Frankfort.” She resolved to work through the issue with her colleagues and House leadership. 

“Differences of opinion are to be expected when you have a Republican supermajority of 80 people, and no two members will see eye to eye on every issue,” Maddox said. “However, I am troubled by the fact that punitive measures were employed to chastise members whom I believe were acting in good faith and doing their best to represent their districts.”