2013 General Assembly

Agriculture
8:02 am
Wed March 13, 2013

Adkins Proposes Amendment Designed to Save Industrial Hemp Bill

House Floor Leader Rocky Adkins has proposed an amendment that he believes could revive legislation intended to allow Kentucky to quickly license hemp growers if the federal government ever lifts a ban on the plant.

Adkins' proposal would involve the University of Kentucky in hemp research and would revamp the Kentucky Hemp Commission to include the Kentucky State Police commissioner and the UK agriculture dean as co-chairs along with the state agriculture commissioner.

"I would hope that we could keep an open mind over these next few days," Adkins said. "I know there are parts of it that people won't like; there are parts of it they do."

The hemp legislation has been hotly debated this year in Frankfort. House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Adkins' proposal seems to be "a path forward" but that he will have to take a closer look before deciding whether to support it.

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Politics
6:44 am
Wed March 13, 2013

Kentucky Legislators to Keep Working on Military Voting, Pension Reform After Adjourning Tuesday

Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester)
Credit Kentucky LRC

Two priorities of Kentucky lawmakers will spill over to the so-called veto period of the 2013 legislative sessions after the issues could not be resolved by the end of Tuesday.

Legislators were unable to compromise on pension reform and the military electronic voting bill before both legislative chambers adjourned until March 25.

Legislative leaders said talks on pension reforms are still progressing and that a conference committee has been set up to find a compromise on the military voting bill. Earlier Tuesday, Gov. Steve Beshear said a special session appeared more likely because the General Assembly appeared to lack agreement on reforms to the state's underfunded pension system.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, said the talks on pension reform have been encouraging despite the lack of a deal before legislators adjourned Tuesday.

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Politics
5:37 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Beshear Being Pressured on Religious Freedom Bill

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear

Gov. Steve Beshear is being pressured from both sides of a controversial bill that would strengthen legal protections for religious freedom in Kentucky.

Civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, are urging Beshear to veto the measure. They say the law could allow someone claiming religious freedom to discriminate against gays and lesbians, undermining civil rights protections in cities such as Lexington.

Religious groups, including the Kentucky Baptist Convention, are asking the governor to sign the bill. They say it gives higher legal standing to someone who claims the government infringed on religion. The courts would still rule on the matter.

The General Assembly passed the bill on Friday. Beshear said Tuesday he hasn't looked at it yet.

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Politics
3:57 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Beshear: No Deal on Pension Reform In Sight, Special Session Becomes More Likely

With no deal and time running out, a special session is becoming more likely for Kentucky lawmakers to reform the underfunded pension programs for state employees, Gov. Steve Beshear said on Tuesday.

It's unlikely that the General Assembly will address pension reform before legislators leave Frankfort after Tuesday for a brief period called the veto break, Beshear said. Legislators have

Two pensions bills aimed at reforming Kentucky's underfunded pension system havebeen locked in a stalemate between both chambers of the state legislature,  with both refusing to accept a bill based on procedural technicalities.

While legislative leaders have met routinely since last week on the pension issue, Beshear said they are still far apart—meaning a special session is becoming more likely.

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Politics
3:37 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Compromise Reached, Special Taxing District Reform to Become Law in Kentucky

Kentucky lawmakers reached a deal Monday in a conference committee on legislation addressing issues with special taxing districts.

The committee adopted a new proposal that would require special districts to present their annual budgets or any new fee increases to their local fiscal court. But the compromise on House Bill 1 does not allow the fiscal court veto or approval powers of the special district's actions, as Senate Republicans had recently suggested.

Special taxing districts are usually sewer districts, library boards or other quasi-governmental public service entities. In November, the auditor's office released a report that said half of Kentucky's special taxing districts aren't following rules on filing budgets or submitting audits. But those districts, the report said, spend more money than Kentucky spends on Medicaid or infrastructure.

The compromise is supported by Republican state Sen. Damon Thayer and Auditor Adam Edelen, as well as many Democratic lawmakers. Edelen says the change will help transparency of the districts.

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Elections
6:46 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

Kentucky House Passes Military Voting Bill, With Electronic Return Included

Rep. Regina Bunch, R-Williamsburg (right), and Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg, follow the debate on a military voting bill in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Credit Kentucky LRC

A bill allowing electronic voting for military members overseas has cleared the state House after amendments were added to allow for the electronic return of a ballot.

Senate Bill 1 did not original include the electronic return, despite Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes preferring the provision.

Many GOP lawmakers said the electronic return would leave ballots open to fraud and abuse. And state representative Tim Moore, an Air Force reservist and a Hardin County Republican, says he believes it would compromise legal protections for a secret ballot.

"I absolutely believe that this violates the very Constitution these folks are sworn to uphold."

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Education
6:43 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

Kentucky House OKs Dropout Bill Compromise; Expected to Become Law

The House has approved a compromise to raise the dropout age in Kentucky gradually, after previous compromises have failed.

Senate Bill 97 would allow local school boards to choose whether to raise the dropout age to 18. After 55 percent of Kentucky’s school boards raise the age, it would become mandatory statewide in four years. The bill’s advocates say they believe the new dropout age will be in effect throughout the state by 2019.

State Representative Jeff Greer of Meade County has been shepherding the bill through the house. He called the compromise a victory.

"I view this as a tremendous victory for our state, we're sending a message to our young people."

The Senate also agreed to the compromise. This will send a dropout bill to Governor Steve Beshear's desk for the first time in the five years Beshear has pushed the issue.

Politics
10:12 am
Mon March 11, 2013

Kentucky House Speaker Declares Hemp Bill Dead for the Session

House Speaker Greg Stumbo announced Monday that hemp legislation won't be going any further this legislative session. 

The Courier-Journal reports the bill has been assigned to the Rules Committee. Stumbo told the newspaper "the calendar won't allow us to consider any bills that are in the Rules Committee."

Monday is the 26th day of the 30 day session. Monday and Tuesday are devoted to bills that have cleared both chambers, while the final two days of the session are reserved for overriding any gubernatorial vetoes.

Politics
5:30 am
Mon March 11, 2013

Kentucky House Leaders Still Hopeful Redistricting Maps Pass

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo
Credit Kentucky LRC

Kentucky's legislative leaders have hope they can finish redistricting before the current session ends later this month.

New legislative districts were drafted and passed last year to reflect the 2010 Census. A judge threw them out, however, saying lawmakers did not properly divide up the state.

The House has already passed a new map of its districts, but the Senate has shown no interest in it.

Speaker Greg Stumbo says he wants the map approved so House lawmakers can know their new districts and make decisions on whether to run for re-election.

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Politics
8:08 am
Sat March 9, 2013

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

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.

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