SHELBYVILLE - Paul Hornback, entering his third year as an elected state senator, will be taking on a bigger role in the upcoming General Assembly.
Recently, senate Republicans met in Frankfort for two days to choose several committee chairs.
For Hornback (R-Shelbyville), who is also a long-time tobacco, grain and cattle farmer, being named a committee chair so early in his political career was a nice honor.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I guess the fact that I’m so closely tied to Agriculture, closer than most up here, is as much a reason any [for the appointment].”
Hornback represents Bullitt, Shelby and Spencer counties.
Al Cross, the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky and former chief political writer for The Courier-Journal, said it’s not too uncommon for relative newcomers to the political scene to hold committee chairs. And it might becoming more common.
“It’s unusual, but not unprecedented, and they made a rank freshman [a senator just elected in November and has not yet been sworn in] chairman of Judiciary,” he said, referring to Whitney Westerfield, a Republican lawyer from Hopkinsville. “Judiciary is a much more important committee than Agriculture, which has declined in importance as the number of farmers has declined and agricultural issues have largely migrated to the federal level. But I think Paul is well respected among his colleagues, as his appointment indicates.”
The biggest issue Hornback said he believes the committee could hear this year is a push for the legalization of industrial hemp.
“I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to the [Agriculture] Commissioner [James Comer] about the issues yet, but I do know he’s really pushing for he legalization of industrial hemp as an agricultural force and a job creator,” Hornback said.
Although he’s not sure where he stands on the issue yet, Hornback did say he wants Kentucky to the be at the forefront of decisions like these.
“If there’s an opportunity out there and the commonwealth gets the chance to get in on the ground floor, that’s a good thing – as long as it pans out in the long run.”
Hornback said he still has several questions about industrialized hemp, a plant that is similar in appearance and chemical make up to marijuana.
“As a famer, I still have many concerns,” Hornback said. “Mainly, if you plant hemp in a large field, and someone comes and plants marijuana in the same field, can you distinguish it [the marijuana]? Can the police, or FBI or whoever needs to still identify it from the air? And, if it [hemp] reaches maturity, does it produce the same hallucinogenic high that marijuana produces?
“These are questions I don’t feel like I’ve gotten a good answer to. But I do think it’s something that the commissioner is going to want to discuss.”
Other issues Horn-back said he thinks could be brought up during the short session in January:
* “There are always animal care issues,” he said. “I think there may be a livestock care standard that is brought up from some Ag groups.
* “Another issue is the default of a large livestock broker, which left several farmers empty handed. I don’t feel like that has been fully addressed yet. There are several regulatory issues, like bonding, and having balance sheets checked, that could come up to keep that from happening again.”
The legislative session will begin on Jan. 8, and last 30 days. In an odd year, or a short session year, the regular session can be completed no later than March 30.