Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says casino gambling will be on the agenda for next year’s legislative session and voters have delivered a clear message for lawmakers to work with him on the issue.
The governor was in Louisville Thursday, speaking at the 92nd annual Kentucky Farm Bureau meeting.
Previous efforts to get the proposal through the legislature have failed in large part due to the opposition of Senate Republicans, led by state Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, who lost to Beshear in the general election by 25-points.
Beshear says he will revive his push for expanded gaming and he hopes his re-election victory sends opponents of the measure a message.
“I think the biggest message it sent was that folks want the legislature to work with me. They want us to work together and move the state forward. I think that most folks out there are ready to vote on expanded gaming. That’s obviously one of the big differences between myself and my opponent in the November election. I’m hopeful that folks will say, ‘Look, it’s time.’ Let’s get this behind us, one way or the other,” he says.
In 2007, gaming was the focal point of Beshear’s race against then-Governor Ernie Fletcher, but Williams has out maneuvered the Beshear administration and successfully blocked it in the Senate.
Political observers estimate the fall win gives the governor a much needed boost and Beshear has begun crafting the margin of victory as a mandate in his speeches.
Beshear says he’s had conversations with individual state lawmakers about gaming and is open to any ideas for its passage, including a constitutional amendment.
Such a move would require three-fifths approval in both the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate. It would then be left to voters statewide for ratification.
But House Democrats have voiced concern that a ballot initiative could result in an electoral backlash against them.
According to the Courier-Journal, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, reiterated that point, saying he doesn’t believe ballot initiative is necessary to expand gambling and has advocated changing state law.
Asked about concerns within his own party about a gaming amendment being on the ballot next November, Beshear downplayed its significance and said turnout will have more to do with the presidential election.