Kentucky lawmakers will begin a special session today that could become election fodder for legislative candidates on both sides of the aisle this fall. This is the seventh straight year lawmakers have gone into special session, which costs the state sixty thousand dollars a day to fund. And Democratic Governor Steve Beshear and Republican Senate President David Williams are locked in a stalemate over the state’s road plan template.
Fifth District Rep. Melvin Henley and First District Sen. Ken Winters will remain in Frankfort for another week of legislative duty following Gov. Steve Beshear’s call for a special session. Lawmakers adjourned the 2012 regular session without funding a $4.5 billion transportation bill and a bill imposing new regulations on prescription drugs that was left in limbo. Taxpayers will reportedly be stuck with a $300,000 bill to fund another week of legislative action. Henley said he has become used to returning to Frankfort for special sessions during his four terms.
An education proposal favored by Kentucky House leadership will not be included in next week’s special session, effectively killing its chances this year. A bill that began as a measure to bring the University of Pikeville into the state system morphed into one that would have created scholarships for college students from coal counties.
A blame game over important legislation is turning into a full-blown repeat of last year’s gubernatorial election. Democratic Governor Steve Beshear and Republican Senate President David Williams are arguing over who is to blame for lawmakers adjourning their regular session without passing key bills. A bill to crack down on Kentucky’s prescription drug abuse died in the final minutes of the session, and even though lawmakers passed a road plan, they neglected to pass the bill that funds the projects.
Governor Beshear is expected to call the Kentucky legislature into special session this Monday. It comes after another hectic and long last day of the regular 2012 session Thursday. The governor says lawmakers will return to Frankfort early next week to take up the transportation budget bill and legislation to crack down on prescription drug abuse.
Kentucky lawmakers have once again reached a late night agreement on an important revenue bill to avoid a special session. The House and the Senate finally compromised on two-year and six-year road plans early this morning, after Governor Steve Beshear threatened to call a special session if they could not do so. House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the impasse was finally broken at about the same time the budget conference committee passed their compromise two weeks ago.
Kentucky lawmakers have one more legislative day in their calendar this year, but they likely won’t spend it overriding vetoed bills. Governor Steve Beshear spent most of the day Wednesday signing bills into law. And outside of the almost mandatory line item vetoes every governor has in budget bills, Beshear says he doesn’t expect to use his veto pen.
Supporters of a bill that would put more restrictions on prescription pills say they believe the measure will pass soon, despite increased lobbying efforts by doctors to weaken the bill. The bill would move the KASPER prescription tracking system to the Attorney General’s office and strengthen restrictions on pain clinics. Kentucky lawmakers were unable to pass a compromise version of House Bill 4 before leaving for a veto recess. When they return, they’ll have one day to pass the bill.
Drivers of slow moving vehicles now have the option of using reflective tape instead of the standard orange triangle while on Kentucky roads. Governor Steve Beshear signed Senate Bill 75 into law today. The bill is in response to the jailing of Amish men in Western Kentucky, who refused to use the orange triangles for religious reasons.
A commission tasked with coming up with elements of a new tax code for Kentucky held its second meeting in Frankfort today.The group is chaired by Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson and is made up of business leaders from across the state. During the all-afternoon meeting, the group received overviews of the dozen tax commissions that came before the current one.
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.