The 2013 Kentucky General Assembly reconvenes February 5 to take up some major pieces of legislation. Lisa Autry spoke with Governor Steve Beshear about his priorities for the session. The two discussed state pension reform, the prospects of legalizing industrial hemp, Beshear's stance on increasing gambling in the commonwealth, and other topics.
On the subject of casino gambling legislation, Gov. Beshear told WKU Public Radio he isn't optimistic such a bill will pass in this year's General Assembly. The session is only 30 days, leaving little time for the much-discussed issue.
Unlike in the past, however, the Governor says future casino discussions may not focus just on the horse industry. Past legislation called for placing casinos at the state's racetracks, but Beshear says there isn't enough support that idea in the legislature.
He says he's willing to look at having free-standing casinos in the Bluegrass State. Opponents of expanded gaming say the state shouldn't depend on gambling to raise revenue, and some question what they consider overly-optimistic projections of how much money more gaming would really bring to the Bluegrass State.
A Kentucky lawmaker has filed a bill that would block automatic utility rate increases for power plants that use natural gas.
The Courier-Journal reports Democratic Rep. Jim Gooch of Providence, the chairman of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, is sponsoring the measure that would prevent utilities from utilizing a provision in state law called the "fuel adjustment clause", which allows utilities to adjust what it charges customers based on changes in cost of fuel or purchased power.
In an interview with the newspaper, Gooch called the measure a "consumer protection bill."
Gooch represents a House seat that covers Daviess, Hopkins, McLean, and Webster counties.
Work on reforming some of Kentucky’s liquor laws may wait until a federal appeals court rules on a current challenge.
A federal circuit judge threw out state laws dealing with where wine and distilled spirits can be sold, calling them unfair. Currently only select stores — such as liquor stores and pharmacies — can sell those beverages, while others — such as groceries — can only sell beer.
The judge’s ruling challenging that disparity is being appealed to the 6th Circuit and Senate President Robert Stivers wants to wait until that is resolved before his chamber gets involved.
“We have had some discussion of the issue, but we feel it appropriate and it’s my opinion and I feel it appropriate that until it is litigated and gone through the legal system, we don’t know if Judge Heyburn’s decision will be affirmed, or remanded or reversed,” he says.
So far, no proposals on how to change the law that would withstand the judge’s ruling has been put forth, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says.
A new honors college and international center at WKU and renovations to the University of Kentucky's football stadium and the University of Louisville are among the projects that will benefit from a bipartisan General Assembly agreement is allowing state universities to use their own ability to issue bonds for capital projects.
The soon-to-be approved projects were rejected during 2012 budget negotiations, but will be revived once lawmakers pass an authorization bill, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says.
The plan allows for $363-million in renovation and construction projects at six of Kentucky's eight state universities.
Stumbo says the projects were rejected because of election-year politics — because House lawmakers are elected in even-numbered years — and secondly because universities made unreasonable bonding requests.
And while many projects were rejected last year, the newly agreed upon ones are ready to start immediately.
“We had asked at the end of the last session to bring us a realistic list, what can you accomplish, what is shovel ready, what do you have the funding sources identified for, what can you accomplish in this next year,” Stumbo says.
Democratic state Representative Brent Yonts of Greenville could be in line to become the next chairman of the House State Government Committee, a key post with the legislature working to find a way to restore solvency to the pension program for government retirees in Kentucky.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he intends to nominate Yonts for the position and that he considers Yonts a front runner.
Lawmakers have been trying to find a way to erase a $33 billion unfunded liability in the pension system. A legislative task force that spent months studying the issue recommended pumping in more money without saying where that money would come from.
Gov. Steve Beshear is urging legislative leaders to delay General Assembly redistricting.
In a letter to House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President Robert Stivers, the governor says he’d like them to hold off redistricting in the 2013 legislative session and instead take up other important issues, such as pension and tax reforms.
Beshear is opening the door to handling redistricting in a special session instead, because the issue tends to cause hard feelings after lawmakers see their districts changing.
“If we drop redistricting on top of all of that, it might well create such turmoil that we couldn’t get anything done,” Beshear says.
Lawmakers must still re-draw their own districts — after the Kentucky Supreme Court threw out maps drawn in 2012 — calling them unconstitutional. Redistricting of Congressional districts is already finished.
The chairman of a Kentucky Senate committee is promising to file legislation aimed at preventing Gov. Beshear from setting up two major pieces of the federal health care law without legislative approval.
The Courier-Journal reports Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chair and Louisville Republican Julie Denton says she doesn’t want the Governor to be able to unilaterally establish a new statewide health care exchange or expand Medicaid services to more Kentuckians. Denton and other Obamacare opponents say the state can’t afford the exchange or expanded Medicaid offerings.