Bills Impacting Dropout Age, Hemp, Pension Reform Still Up in the Air at Kentucky Legislature

Mar 9, 2013

Senate Majority Whip Brandon Smith, R-Hazard (left), confers with Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, as Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, looks on
Credit Kentucky LRC

With time running short, several key bills, including one to increase Kentucky's high school dropout age to 18, still were pending in the Legislature heading into the weekend.

The odds grow longer with each passing day as lawmakers and the Governor negotiate.

Gov. Steve Beshear told reporters Friday that he hopes compromise legislation on the dropout bill will become law in time.

He said a bipartisan proposal is being crafted that would allow school boards to vote on increasing the age in their districts. After 55 percent of school districts raise the age, the remaining districts will have to follow suit during the next four years.

The House bill originally called for statewide participation while the Senate proposal allowed school district discretion.

Four days remain in this year's legislative session. Two are on Monday in Tuesday. An eight-day break will follow during which lawmakers will continue to negotiate before they meet again for the final two days of the session, which are March 25 and 26.

"I think we're all committed to just seeing how far we can get, what we can put together and whether we can get the votes to pass it," Beshear said.

The governor could call a special session to try to pass failed bills.

The list of unfinished business includes conflicting proposals from the House and the Senate to reform the state's unfunded pensions for government employees. The governor said he's working with lawmakers to craft a solution.

Redistricting is another contested issue. The Democratic-led House passed a bill that would redraw its members' districts, forcing some Republican incumbents to run against each other in the next election. The bill is awaiting action in the Republican-led Senate. Senate leaders have said they're unlikely to approve of the House map without submitting their own redistricting proposal, which so far hasn't officially been proposed.

A bill that would open the door to industrial hemp farming in Kentucky has cleared the Senate and a House committee. But House Speaker Greg Stumbo has said he doubts the bill will make it to the floor for a vote because he said it has a lot of problems.

Senate President Robert Stivers told reporters late Thursday night: "We want to try to figure out what we can deal with in the few days we have left and then go forward and try to resolve those issues."