The Republican Party of Kentucky has a wish-list of legislative priorities ready to go if the State House were to flip and come under Republican control following this fall's elections.
The party unveiled its plan, dubbed "Handshake with Kentucky," on Tuesday. It consists of legislative priorities for the state GOP, pending potential victories come Election Day. Currently, Democrats maintain a narrow eight-seat margin in the state's lower chamber.
In a statement, House GOP Floor Leader lambasted House Democrats over poor leadership.
“For far too long, the majority leadership of the House of Representatives has made empty promises,” Hoover said in a statement. “Democrats in Frankfort have failed to achieve meaningful results on behalf of families and local businesses, and the current leadership in the House of Representatives has squandered real opportunities while surrounding states prosper."
A new law that went into effect this week in Kentucky is changing the way the state views faith-based mental health counselors. Kentucky is now licensing such counselors, which means their services will be covered by insurance policies.
One of the faith-based counselors impacted by the new law is Joe Bob Pierce, who works with Cornerstone Counseling in Owensboro. He says the change in state law could encourage potential clients who might have been put off by having to foot the entire bill.
“Clients that otherwise might have to pay out-of-pocket to see a pastoral counselor now will be provided a bit of subsidy, or help, or in some cases their entire fee for counseling will be handled by the insurance company.”
Pierce’s counseling service is located inside Third Baptist Church in Owensboro. He says while many of his clients are deeply rooted in traditional Baptist beliefs, he has also counseled individuals who don’t claim any religious affiliation.
He says his clients are interested in receiving help from someone who will take into account the spiritual aspects of their lives,
“It may not necessarily be a dimension that is religious in terms of being attached to a particular faith. But I think it’s very much a part of our make-up as people.”
To be licensed by the state, pastoral counselors must have a master’s degree in the field and meet the same qualifications as other licensed counselors.
A bevy of new state laws passed this year by the Kentucky General Assembly is going into effect this week. The legislation ranges from dealing with invasive plant species to tougher ethics laws governing the relationship between lawmakers and lobbyists.
The state constitution stipulates that laws without an “emergency” clause go into effect 90 days after the adjournment of a legislative session. Since the last day was April 15, many new laws are going into effect this week.
Senate Bill 170 grants the state expanded powers to combat invasive plant species like kudzu, which can quickly overtake other plants by drowning them in shade.
Similarly, House Bill 28 will make it tougher for lobbyists to invade the decision-making process in Frankfort by restrict their ability to pay for a legislator’s expenses.
Other laws taking effect this week include a streamlined concealed carry permitting process for victims of domestic violence; expanded prescription-writing authority for registered nurses; leniency on lesser crimes for victims of human trafficking; and permitting by-the-drink alcohol sales at state parks, if nearby residents approve it.
It appears Kentucky lawmakers will not return to the state capital before January. State legislators had barely made it home in April when there was talk of a possible special session on heroin-related legislation. The question of state funding for Rupp Arena was also mentioned as a special session topic.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear said Wednesday he doesn't anticipate calling general assembly members back over the next six months.
"I think that most legislators have concluded that they really are ready to wait until January in order to address any unfinished business," said Beshear. "There's always unfinished business when you come out of a session and I just don't find any sentiment for a special session from a vast majority of the house or senate members."
Meantime, reflecting on the just-completed primary election, the Democratic governor says he remains confident the Kentucky House will keep its Democratic majority in the fall. That advantage currently stands at 54 to
"We have some great candidates that are not gonna get ready for the fall. I feel good about the probability that we'll be able to maintain control of the House and perhaps even add a couple of seats to that majority, so I'm looking forward to November," said Beshear.
Democratic Governor Steve Beshear said Wednesday he likely would not call the legislature back for a special session to pass bills combating heroin use and overhauling state ethics laws.
Beshear told reporters he would only call the legislature back in session if Republican and Democratic leaders agreed to pass certain legislation. The governor said he did not sense an overwhelming desire for a special session after speaking with leaders from both parties.
Republican Senate President Robert Stivers has asked Beshear for a special session to pass the heroin bill.
Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo has asked the governor for a special session to pass ethics reform following the Legislative Ethics Commission's decision to not punish a state lawmaker accused of sexual harassment.
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has signed into law a $4.1 billion road construction plan that does not include a gas tax increase.
Beshear had proposed raising the gas tax 1.5 cents per gallon. The increase would have brought in an extra $107 million to pay for road projects across the state. House Democrats approved the increase, but Senate Republicans blocked it.
Highlights of the road plan include $35 million for a new interchange on I-75 next to a Toyota factory, $28.7 million to continue planning the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge in Covington and $123 million over two years to continue widening the Mountain Parkway in eastern Kentucky.
By law, the only piece of legislation that the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly had to pass was a two-year state budget.
All else, as Will Rogers put it, is applesauce.
And with a session that began with a bang and ended with a whimper, it's what happened in between that House Speaker Greg Stumbo says lawmakers should be "proud" of.
Specifically, that they passed a compromised version of Gov. Steve Beshear's $20.3 billion state budget. House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, however, took to the editorial page of The Courier-Journal to vent about what he dubbed a "lackluster" session.
But the truth probably lies somewhere between the extremes of "proud" and "lackluster."
Many political observers noted a reluctance among lawmakers to tackle controversial measures—chief among them tax reform—because of the impending November elections that will prove as a test for House Democrats to retain their slim eight-seat majority.
Here's a look at the winners, losers and downright lost causes of the 2014 General Assembly.
The coal industry—A slate of coal-friendly bills easily cleared the legislature, including one that allows coal-fired power plants in the state to regulate their own carbon emission standards at lower-than-federal-levels. Lawmakers also approved a bill that provides a new round of tax incentives for coal and coal-related industries to subsidize their purchase of new equipment.
This year's Kentucky legislative session is now over. Though many bills failed due to lack of compromise or attention, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says lawmakers did what was expected of them from taxpayers by passing a two-year state budget.
But that chamber’s highest ranking Republican, Jeff Hoover, decried tactics by Democrats to amend bills at the last minute without giving Republicans enough time to study them. Lawmakers debated new amendments and legislative procedure right until the stroke of midnight.
Among the failed bills was a measure that would raise penalties for heroin traffickers and legislation that would restore voting rights for felons.
House and Senate lawmakers have agreed to a $4.1 billion road spending plan on the Legislature's final day that, if approved, would avoid an expensive special session.
The plan includes $5.2 billion worth of projects throughout the state. But as much as 25 percent of that money will not be spent. Lawmakers said they like to include a cushion in case some projects are delayed because of environmental concerns or problems acquiring land.
The state Senate is scheduled to vote on the road plan first before sending it to the House of Representatives. Lawmakers have until midnight to pass the bill.
State lawmakers say they are close to an agreement on how to spend $1.2 billion in state tax dollars on road construction.
A national conservative group says the effort to get rid of the death penalty in Kentucky is picking up substantial bipartisan support. But legislation to repeal capital punishment failed to gain much traction in this year’s legislative session.
In the House, a bill to ban the death penalty was introduced by Republican David Floyd of Bardstown; in the Senate, Democrat Gerald Neal did the same. But neither piece of legislation received a hearing.
Marc Hyden with the group “Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty”, says while progress may be slow, he says within five years, the death penalty could be gone in Kentucky. He says it’s a rare issue on which Republicans and Democrats can work together.
Hayden rejects the notion that the death penalty is a deterrent.