Hoover says he is still House speaker after Speaker Pro Tem gavels in 2018 session

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Tuesday marked the start of Kentucky's 2018 general assembly. As it begins, there are still some questions about leadership.

Rep. David Osborne, Speaker Pro Tem, gavels in the House for Kentucky's 2018 legislative session on January 2, 2018.

Back in November, Republican Representative Jeff Hoover stepped aside as House speaker following a report that he settled claims of sexual harassment. On Tuesday, his nameplate was back on the Speaker's chair in House chamber because he has not formally resigned his position.

The House Majority held a closed-door caucus meeting ahead of the session's start on Tuesday. At noon, the House gaveled into session with Representative David Osborne, the Speaker Pro Tempore, leading the house. The state Senate also gaveled in at noon.

After Rep. Osborne began the 2018 legislative session, State Representative Jeff Hoover released a statement emphasizing that he is still speaker.

"When I announced on November 5th my intention to resign as Speaker of the House, I felt, based on the Governor's comments, it was the best decision for me, as well as for my colleagues in the House of Representatives. My decision was made primarily with the intent to protect House members from the intervention of the Executive branch into purely legislative matters. Almost immediately, I began hearing from members of the House, both Republicans and Democrats, as well as business leaders, political leaders and others across the Commonwealth, encouraging me to reconsider my decision to resign. As I consider the best course forward, and in light of the two pending issues before the Legislative Ethics Commission, I have asked Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne to serve, as the Rules of the House of Representatives provides, as the presiding officer until further notice. I appreciate the continued prayers and support that have been offered by so many and look forward to doing my part to make the Commonwealth of Kentucky a better place for all of us," said Hoover.

The House spent most of Tuesday trying to come to an agreement on procedural rules. Rep. Hoover was not in the chamber as the members debated the rules.

Rep. Jim Wayne was on of the members who expressed concern over a rule that would give constitutional powers of the Speaker to the Speaker Pro Tempore. "We do not need a permanent substitute who is not a speaker," said Rep. Wayne.

Others also questioning the disciplinary rule regarding complaints saying it seems they are voting on the speakers status.

"This rule change means that the gentleman from Russell will remain as speaker and we have all voted yes or not. At a point when our body needs to actually debate that, we need to properly debate that," said Rep. Kelly Flood.

Rep. Diane St. Onge then joined the conversation saying that members looking for "nefarious ... hidden agendas" in the the clarification of the rules are "wasting the time of the people of Kentucky."

Just after 2:00 p.m., the House passed the rules of procedure by a vote of 64 to 26. After the vote, a letter of empowerment from Rep. Hoover was read. It asked Rep. Osborne to act as speaker while the two issues in front of the Ethics Commission move forward. Around 2:40 p.m., the House adjourned until Wednesday afternoon.

Lawmakers have some big issues to deal with, including the state budget and the ailing pension system. On Tuesday morning, lawmakers said they hope to move forward and have a productive session.

"There's a lot of talk about this that and the other and who's going to lead but, at the end of the day, we are here to do the peoples business and that's what we are going to be doing, nothing else really matters. We are moving forward," said Representative Jason Nemes.

Lawmakers told WKYT's Hillary Thornton they expect pension reform to happen early in the session. As of right now, no pension bill has been filed.

"I'm confident our members are ready to go to work," said Rep. Osborne at the end of Tuesday's session.

This is a 60-day session. It's scheduled to run through April, with a few breaks.

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