By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — A freshman legislator has been tapped to head a key Senate committee and the powerful Appropriations and Revenue Committee will continue to be run by an independent but will have a Republican vice chairman, Senate Republicans said Friday.
In a written release, Republican Senate Caucus Chairman Dan Seum announced that the Republican majority selected new chairs for legislative committees after meeting for two days this week.
Sen. David Givens of Greensburg will be vice-chairman of the powerful Appropriations and Revenue Committee with current chairman Sen. Robert Leeper, an Independent from Paducah. Both men ran unsuccessfully for leadership positions earlier this month. Leeper challenged Sen. Robert Stivers for senate president and lost. Givens was bested by Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown for the senate majority leadership position.
Stivers said Friday that the Republican caucus decided to keep Leeper, an independent who has previously been a Republican and a Democrat, as chairman of Appropriations and Revenue. But the caucus felt that Givens should be named vice chairman. Stivers also said that he has asked Leeper to switch back to the Republican Party.
Givens will step down as chair of the Agriculture Committee to take the current job. Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville was named the new chairman of the Agriculture Committee.
The Republicans also selected a freshman as the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Whitney Westerfield, a lawyer who beat longtime Democrat Joey Pendleton of Hopkinsville on Nov. 6, will be the new chairmen of the key committee that handles legislation that deals with everything from domestic violence to prescription drug abuse. The committee was formerly chaired by retiring Sen. Tom Jensen of London.
Stivers, who was Senate Judiciary chairman before Jensen, said the caucus felt that Westerfield, who is a former prosecutor, was best qualified for the position despite having no previous legislative experience. The House and Senate Judiciary Committees are typically overseen by a lawyer. The Republican caucus has only a few lawyers and many of those lawyers now hold leadership positions.
Sen. Mike Wilson of Bowling Green was tapped to head the Education Committee. The chairmanship became vacant after Sen. Ken Winters decided not to seek re-election. Sen. Joe Bowen of Owensboro was named head of State and Local Government, a key committee that handles legislative redistricting. Thayer has served as chairman of State and Local Government for several years. Senators in leadership positions do not typically chair committees at the same time.
Rep. Sara Beth Gregory of Monticello was named chairwoman of the Government Contract Review Committee even though she has not been officially elected to the Senate. The election to replace former Senate President David Williams is scheduled for Dec. 18. Gregory is expected to win the seat in the heavily Republican district. She faces Democrat Bill Conn.
Other committee assignments that include new chairmen:
Sen. Jared Carpenter of Richmond was named chairman of Natural Resources and Energy
Sen. Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon will chair Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection
Newly-elected Sen. Stan Humpries of Trigg County will chair Capital Planning Advisory Board
Newly-elected Sen. Chris Girdler of Somerset will chair Capital Projects and Bond Oversight
Newly-elected Sen. Chris McDaniel of Taylor Mill will chair Program Review and Investigations