The Kentucky general assembly is about a third of the way through the 2014 session. As is the case in most Kentucky legislative sessions, a great deal of the voting comes in the later weeks and days. For instance, no votes occurred in either house Friday and both the House and Senate were in session for less than an hour. Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer says his chamber tends to move at a slower pace.
“If you go back and look at the formation of our country, I believe it was Ben Franklin who said that the House is like legislation that comes out as hot as coffee and the Senate is the saucer on which it cools. So, we are contemplative and more deliberative in our approach than the House of Representatives,” said Thayer.
The pace of the legislative session is pretty typical for the first third of the session. Franklin County Senator Julian Carrol says the majority party sets the agenda when it comes to bill consideration.
“In terms of their leadership, they want to make certain they don’t want to put them into a spot of having to vote on a bill that be of some harm to then in their effort for re-election, but we’ve moved too slow. We’ve got an enormous amount of work to do and certainly the pace should have been much better,” said Carrol.
Kentucky received straight Fs on the 2014 “State of Tobacco Control” report published Wednesday by the American Lung Association. The study looked at four areas including creating a smoke free environment, cigarette taxes, insurance coverage for cessation programs and tobacco prevention.
Ellen Kershaw with the American Lung Association – Kentucky says tobacco education programs that have had success across the country have been underfunded by state lawmakers in Frankfort.
“Media campaigns, in-school programs, county health education and outreach. Across the board, there’s so much more that Kentucky can do,” said Kershaw.
The study found that 28 percent of Kentuckians smoke and nearly a quarter of the state’s high school students are tobacco users. Kershaw says the American Lung Association also supports a higher cigarette tax in Kentucky.
“That’s another effective tool, that unfortunately, hasn’t been implemented yet here in Kentucky,” said Kershaw. “We would definitely advocate for at least a dollar increase in the cigarette tax as a way to encourage kids not to pick up the habit and also for people to quit smoking.”
A Union County lawmaker who resigned last week still faces the possibility of censure from his colleagues if allegations that he sexually harassed legislative staffers are proven.
An investigative committee pressed ahead Tuesday with an investigation into the conduct of former Democratic state Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis who announced his resignation in a letter to Gov. Steve Beshear last week.
Legislative workers Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper alleged that Arnold had touched them inappropriately and had made vulgar comments. In the letter of resignation, Arnold said he doesn't believe he is guilty of sexual harassment.
An embattled lawmaker who had been accused of sexual harassment by legislative staffers has resigned.
Democratic state Rep. John Arnold of Sturgis submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday.
The resignation came just days ahead of the first meeting of a special legislative committee that's investigating the charges against Arnold. The panel was scheduled to meet on Tuesday, and could have ultimately recommended Arnold's censure or expulsion from the Legislature.
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo will appoint a special committee to investigate sexual harassment complaints against a state lawmaker from Sturgis.
Stumbo filed a petition with the House clerk on Thursday a procedural move that allows the formation of the eight-member investigative committee that could recommend censure or expulsion of Democratic state Rep. John Arnold.
Arnold represents Union County as well as parts of Daviess and Henderson counties.
The move came on the heels of allegations filed this month by three legislative workers who claim that they were sexually harassed by Arnold. Arnold didn’t immediately return a phone call to his legislative office on Thursday.
Stumbo said the allegations against Arnold have become a distraction and that he knows of no other way to deal with the issue.
A legislative redistricting bill has cleared a House committee and is scheduled for a vote on the House floor on Wednesday.
The House State Government Committee voted 25-4 on Tuesday in Frankfort to keep redistricting on the fast track. Legislative leaders are pushing to wrap up redistricting work by Friday. In Kentucky’s legislative process, it takes a minimum of five days to pass a bill.
Lawmakers are working hurriedly to get done quickly because of pending lawsuits. A three-judge panel is closely watching the Legislature’s efforts and is poised to step in if lawmakers fail to resolve the matter in the special session.
Redistricting is undertaken every 10 years to account for population changes recorded by the Census Bureau.
Legislative leaders have approved the calendar for the 2013 session of the Kentucky General Assembly. The constitutionally set start date is Jan. 8, which always is the first Tuesday after the first Monday of the new year.