Kentucky’s General Assembly convened Tuesday in Frankfort, where legislators are getting appointed to their committees, participating in their caucuses and trying to get the people’s business completed over the next three months.

It will be a tall order, as there are many issues facing the state that must be dealt with, beginning immediately with the once-a-decade task of redrawing congressional and legislative maps. Republicans – who hold supermajorities in both General Assembly chambers – are fast-tracking that work, though as of press time for this piece the final maps had not yet been determined.

Writing a new state budget will be the session’s most important task, however.

As The Associated Press’ Bruce Schreiner wrote last week: “Top lawmakers have signaled they want to return to passing a two-year budget after the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic led to one-year budgets the past two years. Unlike the lean years of the past, lawmakers have the advantage of deciding what to do with unprecedented amounts of surplus state money as well as another huge round of federal pandemic aid.

“Other issues expected to be at the forefront include education, taxes, workforce development, abortion and sports wagering. (Senate President Robert) Stivers said he will push for legislation to help overcome shortages in health care professions, especially nursing, that worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear will deliver his budget speech this week, which is expected to include “historic investments” for education, a pay raise for state workers and investments aimed at spurring more economic growth, according to the AP. But Beshear’s wishes will almost certainly be extensively reshaped by Republicans, who have the numbers to override any of the governor’s vetoes.

In Kentucky, just as around the nation, our deep political divisions seem to have intensified in the wake of a contentious 2020 presidential election and amid sharply different philosophies on how to handle the pandemic. But regardless of political party, we are all Kentuckians at the end of the day.

No matter whether our legislators are Republicans or Democrats, they should come together and do their best to do the people’s work. This might be particularly important this year, considering many people in western Kentucky – including in Bowling Green – need swift and sustained action from state government as they recover from the December tornadoes that killed 77 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.

That issue was the centerpiece of Beshear’s State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday, when he asked for bipartisan support of his proposal to direct $150 million to help affected communities rebuild and another $50 million to help the region’s schools, as well as to provide “additional tools” to attract and keep jobs in those communities, the AP reported.

In the moments after Beshear’s speech, the state GOP signaled a willingness to cooperate with the governor, at least on the issue of tornado recovery aid.

“I think the governor set the right tenor and tone about trying to work together,” Stivers told Kentucky Educational Television after the speech, adding that he believes such collaboration has occurred too infrequently during much of Beshear’s term, according to the AP.

We certainly hope legislators and the governor really are willing to proceed with an attitude of compromise. Too often, the citizens of this state have endured pointless and wasteful partisan bickering and political games between the parties. As a result, taxpayers have sometimes footed the bill for special sessions – at a six-figure cost per day – to do what could and should have been done during the regular session.

We would be naive to believe that both sides of the aisle will agree on all pieces of legislation. That’s simply politics, but we hope there will be civil discourse among our legislators in debating the issues before them during this session.

That is why we urge Stivers, of Manchester, and House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, to encourage their chambers to get to serious work early during this session. We urge Beshear to be flexible and to recognize that Kentuckians have chosen to give Republicans control of the General Assembly. Time is of the essence, so lawmakers must take advantage of their limited time in Frankfort to come together for the common good of all Kentuckians.

“Our Opinion” pieces in the Bowling Green Daily News exclusively represent the majority opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints or beliefs of any other Daily News employees.

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