As the 2013 legislative session winds down, the top priorities for each chamber are still stuck in the process and not yet law.
House Bill 1 would reform special districts in Kentucky and centralize financing reporting aspects for the districts. The legislation is supported by Auditor Adam Edelen, a Democrat. But the legislation is likely to undergo changes that Edelen has yet to support, including giving more oversight of the districts to local governments.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, the bill sponsor, said his chamber also won't support such changes.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1 would allow more flexibility in electronic voting for military deployed overseas. But Stumbo said his chamber is likely to include a provision to send ballots back electronically—a part the Senate removed from the bill before passing it.
The Kentucky House has passed a bill that would give stronger protections to people who claim the government has infringed upon their religious freedom.
The measure overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 82-7 Friday--but not without more than 30 minutes of discussion about the bill's potential impact.
A handful of dissenting lawmakers claimed the bill could protect Catholic parishes during abuse investigations or allow Kentuckians to dodge provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act.
Proponents said those lawmakers miss the point. They said the bill responds to the Kentucky Supreme Court's 2012 decision to uphold a former law that required Amish buggies to display safety triangles, which the Amish opposed on religious grounds. The bill would give such claims stronger standing in the courts.
A Kentucky House bill aiming to help generate revenues for the underfunded pension system is in legal limbo as the Senate refused to accept the bill.
House Bill 416 takes revenues from expansion of Instant Racing and online lottery sales and the start of a Keno game to generate close to $100 million a year to pay into state's currently underfunded pensions for state employees.
Revenue bills in odd-year sessions must have 60 House votes in final passage to be considered within the rules; House Bill 416 only received 52 on the floor. Because of that, the Senate clerk refused to accept the bill.
But House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the Senate should amend the bill and send it back to the House for final passage if it wants to avoid a special session.
FRANKFORT — More than 100 senior citizens and advocates rallied Thursday at the Capitol Rotunda in support of several bills before the Kentucky General Assembly—and against one bill in particular.
They urged Kentucky lawmakers to oppose legislation that creates a panel to review lawsuits against nursing homes and requires those filing suits to pay fees to submit their case to the panel, said Cathy Murphy, associate state director for the AARP.
The demonstrators said that, if passed, Senate Bill 9 would make it harder for seniors to sue nursing homes that abuse or neglect residents.
"We rank one of the worst in the nation in quality," Murphy said. "We rank the highest in fines. And the talk about the frivolous lawsuits. I've not seen any evidence whatsoever, and the families that I know that have had a lawsuit would not call it frivolous."
Industrial hemp supporters are ratcheting up the pressure to force a vote on a stalled bill that would allow farmers in Kentucky to grow the crop if federal ban is lifted.
A group led by state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer on Thursday urged House Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom McKee to allow a vote on the bill.
The group included Brian Furnish, a prominent northern Kentucky tobacco farmer who lives in McKee's district.
Furnish, a Republican, warned that the Cynthiana Democrat will face a strong challenge in the next election if McKee stifles the hemp bill. Furnish is no stranger to Frankfort as a member of the state's hemp commission who was also once an agriculture adviser to former Gov. Ernie Fletcher.
In the wake of the high-profile Savannah Dietrich court case, a bill in the Kentucky House would prevent judges from issuing gag orders against sexual assault victims undergoing trial in juvenile court.
If approved, House Bill 115 would allow juvenile crime victims to speak freely about their cases, said state Rep. Keith Bratcher, a Louisville Republican.
Dietrich's name was not spoken at any point during the bill's hearing. But Bratcher said he filed the bill after her case drew national attention—and criticism— last year. A judge threatened Dietrich with contempt after tweeting the names of two boys who'd pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her, and information about their plea deal.
The plea deal stipulated that Dietrich couldn't speak publicly about the case.
The Kentucky House has narrowly passed two bills dealing with the state's underfunded pension system, but not without controversy.
The House passed an amended version of Senate Bill 2, which keeps the pension systems as a defined benefit and creates a new oversight panel for Kentucky's many pension plans. It passed on party lines 55-45, with Democrats favoring.
It also passed House Bill 416, which takes revenues from the potential expansion and legalization of Instant Racing, from online lottery sales and a new Keno game.
That bill passed with 52 votes, but many Republican members argued that the action was illegal, since revenue bills take a House supermajority of 60 votes to pass in odd-year session.
The state Senate has passed a bill that allows Kentucky military personnel to register to vote and receive ballots electronically—but they'll have to use snail mail to send the ballots back.
Senate President Robert Stivers would allow deployed citizens to register to vote and receive their ballots electronically.
Initially, a floor amendment to the bill would have allowed the military members to return the ballots electronically, but the amendment was withdrawn by sponsor Sen. Kathy Stein, a Lexington Democrat.
Stein said she thinks the state House will reinsert that provision into the bill.