Governor Steve Beshear has signed more bills that passed the General Assembly this session. Lawmakers will return to Frankfort Thursday to try and override any potential vetoes, but so far, the governor hasn’t vetoed anything. He has, however, approved more than a dozen bills since lawmakers left Frankfort late last month.
President Barack Obama's re-election campaign will open its first office in Kentucky this weekend. The Obama campaign will hold an open house at its new Louisville office tomorrow (Saturday) from 2 to 4 pm. Kentucky has never been a priority for the president, not in his 2008 bid and not now. But spokesman Frank Benenati says the president is serious about competing in all fifty states.
Child advocates are praising the General Assembly's passage of a handful of key bills aimed at making life better for Kentucky's vulnerable children. Terry Brooks, executive director of the non-profit Kentucky Youth Advocates, said Monday that he was pinching himself because so many pieces of legislation that could improve the lives of children were approved this session. "We think there were some really big wins for kids," Brooks said.
A bill to create a scholarship fund to help students from coal mining counties in Kentucky finish their education is once again in limbo. House Bill 260 would create a fund to give scholarships to college juniors and seniors who finish their degrees at schools in coal-producing counties. The program was originally meant only for students from eastern Kentucky, but it was expanded to apply to students from all 38 mining counties in the state.
By Jack Brammer, Lexington Herald-Leader & Beth Musgrave, Lexington Herald Leader
State lawmakers will face a heavy workload when they return to Frankfort April 12 to end Kentucky's 2012 General Assembly. Their biggest jobs will be to consider any vetoes issued by Gov. Beshear and to decide what to do with legislation that was left hanging when they left Frankfort Friday night. High on that list are two measures pushed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo: an anti-drug bill to regulate pain-management clinics in hopes of curbing prescription drug abuse, and a bill to set up a scholarship program for students in coal-producing counties.
As primary campaigns in Kentucky warm up, one of the highest-profile contests has turned into a blame game. State Representative Alecia Webb-Edgington is one of six Republicans vying to replace outgoing Fourth Congressional District Congressman Geoff Davis. One of her opponents, Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore, is criticizing Webb-Edgington for missing crucial votes on the state budget last week. Moore says his opponent was too busy fundraising to fulfill her duty as a state lawmaker.
With budgets passed and lawmakers in recess, the focus in Frankfort is now on Governor Steve Beshear and his veto pen. A host of bills are on Beshear’s desk. The most important are budget bills for all three branches of government. But many other relevant bills are waiting for the Governor. Most notably, bills that would create an alternative diploma for special needs students, an incentives program for the Kentucky auto industry and crackdowns on synthetic drug and methamphetamine manufacturing.
Confusion and last-minute lobbying have potentially derailed what some Kentucky lawmakers considered the hallmark of the current legislative session. House Bill 4 is better known as the prescription pill bill. It's centerpiece is the transfer of the KASPER drug tracking system to the attorney general’s office. Late last week, it appeared lawmakers had struck a last-minute deal to pass the bill before this week's recess. But confusion about which amended version of HB4 was up for a vote mired them in procedural minutiae.
Kentucky lawmakers have officially passed two-year budgets for all three branches of state government. After hatching a deal early Thursday morning, lawmakers finally received the compromise in bill form this afternoon. The Senate passed the executive branch budget 36 to 1 and passed a judicial budget compromise unanimously. The House also overwhelmingly approved the budgets.
Kentucky lawmakers are unlikely to approve new two-year and six-year road plans in time to override any gubernatorial vetoes. The conference committee working on the plans did not come to a compromise late last night, significantly decreasing the potential for a deal today. The plans fund many projects, including the widening of Interstate 65, the expansion of the Mountain Parkway and portions of the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville.
The Kentucky Senate has passed an amended bill that would help the state repay interest on a federal unemployment insurance loan. And despite concerns that the Senate amendments would derail the proposal, the bill’s original House sponsor has agreed to the changes.The amendment by Senator David Givens would defer an increase in the taxes employers pay on wages once the unemployment insurance fund is healthy again.
The Kentucky General Assembly is poised to vote Friday on a $19 billion, two-year state budget that provides $3.5 million to help the Kentucky Horse Park and $2.5 million to start the redevelopment of Rupp Arena. Leading lawmakers agreed on a compromise budget just minutes before a self-imposed deadline of 3 a.m. Thursday, giving legislative staffers enough time to make requested changes in the bill before rank-and-file members vote on it Friday.
Kentucky lawmakers seem to have reached an agreement on a bill to restart a tax amnesty program. The program allows Kentuckians with delinquent taxes to apply for reduced payments. Governor Steve Beshear proposed the program to help raise revenue. The House scaled back Beshear’s original proposal, and the Senate made further revisions. But legislative leaders have decided to remove most of those revisions and pass the bill.
An effort by Governor Steve Beshear to expand preschool services in the Commonwealth did not make it into the final state budget. Beshear put a $15 million appropriation for preschool in his budget proposal. The House cut that figure in half and funded other education programs with what was left. The Senate struck all the money, saying it wouldn't be right to expand some programs while slashing others.
After a night of discussions, Kentucky lawmakers have finally reached a budget agreement. Negotiations on a budget compromise began Monday. By Tuesday, talks had stalled. Lawmakers were unable to work out differences over funding school construction, paying for indigent care at University Hospital in Louisville and reducing bonded debt. House and Senate leaders resolved their differences shortly before 3 am today. The compromise includes the House’s planned funding for school construction and U of L Hospital. It also cuts the state’s bonded debt, which was a Senate priority.
The Kentucky state Senate has approved two and four year road plans that have major differences with the House versions. The biggest difference is with the Louisville bridges project. Combined, the plans will fund the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville with bonds for two years, then federal highway funds for the following four years. That's a change from the House plan, which calls for highway funds to be used for all six years.
State lawmakers have approved two major pieces of legislation dealing with drug abuse in Kentucky. House Bill 4 tightens regulations on prescription pills. It passed the full Senate Wednesday afternoon. Around the same time, the House passed Senate Bill 3, which caps the amount of pseudoephedrine Kentuckians can buy every month without a prescription. Since both bills were amended, they will now return to their original chambers, where lawmakers must decide whether to agree with the changes or send them to conference committees for compromises
Budget talks in Frankfort appear to have stalled. Lawmakers have met for three straight days, usually twice a day, to resolve differences between budget proposals passed by the House and Senate. But there are firm disagreements over school construction, cuts to the governor’s office and coal severance projects.
A Kentucky Senate committee's changes to a bill to repay a federal loan could derail the plan. The state borrowed nearly a billion dollars during the recession to shore up the unemployment insurance fund. In 2010, lawmakers approved a plan to repay the loan through higher taxes on employers. This year, the House approved a plan to interest payments on the loan through higher taxes as well.
The Kentucky Senate Transportation Committee has amended the state road plan a second time. The committee met this morning to update and pass a two-year and a six-year road plan. Combined, the plans will fund the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville with bonds for two years, then federal highway funds for the following four years. That's a change from the House plan, which calls for highway funds to be used for all six years.
A Senate committee on Tuesday killed a measure that would establish outside oversight of Kentucky's troubled child-protective system, but a House committee revived it minutes later through a procedural maneuver. The Kentucky Press Association opposes the measure because it would exempt the investigations and records they collect from the state Open Records Act, which the state's newspapers have used to report on problems with the child-protective system.
Seven months after a brain-injured resident disappeared from a Falmouth personal care home and died, a bill aimed at preventing similar deaths moved closer to becoming law Tuesday. The House Health and Welfare Committee made one change to Senate Bill 115 before unanimously approving it and sending it to the full House for consideration in the final days of this year's legislative session. The sponsor of the bill, Republican Sen. Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon, said Larry Lee never should have been placed in the personal care home.
Kentucky lawmakers continue to work on a budget compromise. Both chambers of the General Assembly have approved budget bills and a conference committee has been meeting since Monday to work out the differences. One major point of disagreement is funding for school construction. It's a priority for the House. But Senators were not ready to haggle during a Tuesday morning session.
A Kentucky Senate committee has approved a bill that aims to toughen laws against prescription pill abuse. House Bill 4 is a collaborative effort between House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Attorney General Jack Conway and Governor Steve Beshear. The bill puts the KASPER prescription tracking system under Conway’s command and requires clinics that distribute pain medications to be owned by medical professionals. The Senate Judiciary committee made minor changes to the bill before passing it out of committee. And the bill will likely be changed further before passing the full Senate.
An attempt to piggyback charter school legislation on another bill has likely killed two plans for education reform in Kentucky. The state Senate Education committee today added language legalizing charter schools to a charter alternative plan sponsored by Representative Carl Rollins, who chairs the House Education Committee. Charter supporters hoped Rollins would allow the amendment in order to see his alternative become law, but it’s unlikely the plan will work.
There are a number of long-serving state senators and representatives retiring this year from the General Assembly. I wish we had time to interview or showcase all of the retiring legislators on KET. I’ll bet it would be a rather entertaining program.
The Kentucky Senate is proposing a change in funding for the Ohio River Bridges Project. Governor Steve Beshear’s road budget calls for $50 million in spending on new bridges and reconfigured highway interchanges in Louisville. Both the House and Beshear favor using a mix of bonds and federal highway maintenance funds to do so. Senate Transportation Chairman Ernie Harris says his chamber prefers to use bonds almost exclusively to fund the project.
Kentucky lawmakers are trying again to raise the state’s dropout age. Currently, students can drop out of school at 16 years old with parents’ permission. But lawmakers and Governor Steve Beshear have pushed to raise the dropout age to 18, regardless of parental consent. The latest proposal before the legislature would let local school boards decide whether to adopt the higher dropout age. But once 70 districts opt in, it will become mandatory statewide.
House and Senate leaders have agreed to cut a $30,000 annual living expense for Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson. That was one of few noteworthy agreements between the Republican Senate and the Democratic House on the first full day of negotiations over a two-year, $19 billion budget. House and Senate leaders met three times Monday to work out differences between the two budgets. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Robert Leeper, I-Paducah, said early Monday that there are few major differences between the House and Senate budgets. Once some global decisions are made — particularly involving debt — there will be few decisions left to make, he said.