Kentucky Public Radio's Jonathan Meador reports on the House budget process
After much debate, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed its budget to fund state government for the next two years this week. The $20.3 billion spending plan is nearly identical to one proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear, and it largely preserves funding for K through 12 education, which has been a stated priority of the governor.
The sparring over the plan on the House floor could be a sign of things to come in November, when many lawmakers are up for re-election.
In a sprawling five-hour debate, House members argued over how best to spend the money of Kentucky taxpayers.
“Mr. Speaker, this is an important budget. And I think anyone who votes yes on this budget today can feel good about that vote,” said Rick Rand, Democratic House budget chair.
Rand sponsored a last-minute substitute to the budget that counteracted a slew of Republican amendments, including one from GOP Rep. Joe Fischer that would repeal the state’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and defund Kentucky’s health insurance exchange, Kynect.
(From left) Rep. Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown; Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington; Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Danville; and Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, discuss legislation prior to the start of the day's legislative session in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
A House committee in Frankfort passed the chamber's redistricting plan Tuesday on a 25-4 vote with the support of many Republicans. The lone Democrat who voted against the bill was Representative Jimmie Lee of Elizabethtown.
The proposed map splits Hardin County among six districts, with only Lee's district--the 25th--remaining entirely within Hardin County.
"With the other counties involved, someone that would seek the seat living in Hardin County in these various districts will never have enough votes in Hardin County to ever win an election," explains Lee. "Basically, this map has precluded the northern end of Hardin County from ever having someone who lives there serve as their representative."
The bill is expected to easily win approval from the full House on Wednesday.
The House map pairs eight incumbents, four Republicans and four Democrats, against each other in elections next year. It varies quite a bit from a 2012 House proposal that pitted nine incumbents against each other, eight of them Republicans. That plan was thrown out by the Kentucky Supreme Court.