By RONNIE ELLIS
If Republican candidate Albert Robinson is returned to the state Senate in a special election, the London realtor wants a seat on the State and Local Government Committee he once chaired.
But Robinson, 73, who served 10 years in the Senate before losing a primary race to London attorney Tom Jensen in 2004, said he has received no assurances about committee assignments from Republican Senate leadership. Nor has he discussed with anyone the possibility of chairing the committee.
“I hope to at least serve on that committee,” Robertson said Friday. “I have had no discussions with anyone about that committee. If I did, I would not discuss it until after the election.”
Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, currently chairs the committee which typically deals with such issues as re-districting and pensions, both of which are on the 2013 General Assembly agenda. He said he expects to continue in that role.
“I plan on being chairman of the State and Local Government Committee when we come back up here in January,” Thayer said this week.
Shortly after Robinson was nominated by Republicans in the 21st District to run for Jensen’s seat after Jensen withdrew to run instead for circuit judge, three Republican Senate leaders sent Robinson a letter saying his previous service in the Senate will be counted toward seniority.
Robinson served 10 years before losing to Jensen in the 2004 primary. Thayer has been in the Senate just over nine years.
“Please be assured that your previous years of service will be recognized in establishing your
seniority in the Majority Caucus,” Senate President David Williams, Senate Caucus Chairman Dan Seum and Majority Whip Carroll Gibson wrote Robinson in an Aug. 17 letter.
Robinson also said he’s neither promised nor been asked to promise his vote for Williams or anyone else for Senate President.
“I haven’t heard a word about that,” Robinson said.
Robinson first has to be re-elected in the district which covers Laurel, Estill, Jackson, Menifee and Powell counties. He is opposed by Democrat Amie Hacker, 34; a London businesswoman some say may mount a stouter challenge to Robinson than might be expected in such a heavily Republican district.
Thayer said if Robinson does win that any seniority previously accrued by Robinson won’t affect his position as chairman. “Seniority isn’t the only thing that determines chairmanships,” he said.
Thayer and Williams had some well-publicized disagreements during the last legislative session, disagreements over expanded gambling, the state road plan and a congressional re-districting plan.
No issue is more important to lawmakers than the way their individual districts are drawn. While the General Assembly approved a congressional re-districting plan, the Supreme Court ruled their redrawn state legislative maps unconstitutional and lawmakers will try again after this fall’s elections.
The legislature has appointed a task force to recommend changes to the state pension system which Williams and the Senate have tried to address for several sessions. That brings up an issue often associated with Robinson, a 2000 amendment which would have boosted legislative pensions. The measure was later thrown out by the courts and never became law.
Robinson said his other committee preferences are Veterans and Military Affairs and “Transportation so I can help my district through roads.”
Robinson has been criticized for steering state road money in the past for projects near property he owned. But Robinson said he had nothing to do with the location of one project. He said he assisted the local government in securing money for the other and the road is heavily used. As a professional realtor, he said, he’d actually benefit more if the roads affected property he didn’t own.
“I can make more money selling someone else’s land,” Robinson said. “I don’t want to sell my land; I want to sell someone else’s as a realtor.”
CNHI News left a message seeking comment on Hacker’s voice mail but she didn’t immediately return the call.