Tomorrow marks the start of the Southern Legislative Conference’s annual meeting in Little Rock, Ark. and Kentucky will be front and center.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers is expected to be nominated chair-elect, setting the stage for the Manchester Republican to be nominated as chairman of the SLC in July 2015.
The following summer, in July 2016, representatives from the Southern Legislative Conference’s 15 states will meet in Lexington. That event is expected to bring 1,200 guests and generate $2 million in economic impact.
This year's conference continues through Wednesday in Little Rock.
Kentucky’s two top-ranking lawmakers have some choice words about new coal emissions regulations announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Republican Senate President Robert Stivers and Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo are slamming the proposed rules, which will cut carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by the year 2030. .
“You can’t formulate energy policy for a growing country like ours, if you’re not going to consider, as part of that solution, your most abundant resource," Stumbo said. "It doesn’t make any sense at all, it’s a dumbass thing to do, and you can quote me on that.”
Stumbo added that he didn’t think that the rules will affect the outcome of the November House elections, where Democrats hope to retain a narrow majority over Republicans.
The regulations are subject to public input and will be officially enacted a year from now.
Campbellsville urologist Dr. James Angel is suing Senate President Robert Stivers, accusing him of blocking his re-appointment to the nine-member Fish and Wildlife Commission. A 2010 rule limits commission members to two terms, but Angel is grandfathered in.
Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Angel to a fourth term, but his appointment was never brought up for a confirmation hearing before the legislative session came to an end this week.
Angel says Stivers was behind the decision. In comments made to the Courier-Journal, Stivers called the legal action a “lawsuit of desperation”.
The Kentucky Senate’s $20 billion budget proposal aims to defund the Affordable Care Act in the commonwealth, but its provisions won’t affect the program.
The Senate’s executive budget that was passed Monday disallows state general funds from being used to fund the ACA, the commonwealth’s Medicaid expansion and the state health insurance exchange, Kynect, all of which are federally funded until the year 2017.
But the state budget only affects fiscal years 2014-2016, making the measure largely a political one in advance of November’s elections.
When asked what his chamber would do if the 321,000 Kentuckians enrolled via Kynect lost their coverage due to the ACA being defunded, Sen. President Robert Stivers said he would support “supplemental programs,” like health savings accounts, to help insure them.
A proposal to limit the number of days lawmakers spend in session in Frankfort has passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee. The bill sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers would reduce the length of the session from 60 days to 45 days in even-numbered years, like this one.
Odd-numbered year sessions would go from 30 days to just five days, with an option to add 10 more days. Stivers says the bill would save the commonwealth seven million dollars. If the legislation clears the full Senate and house, voters must approve it in a November referendum.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers has proposed reducing the number of days lawmakers meet each year.
The Manchester Republican said Wednesday his proposal would save the state about $7 million each year and encourage more people to run for the General Assembly. He says the current schedule discourages many people from serving because they can't take that much time away from work.
His proposal is a constitutional amendment that would go on the November ballot if it clears the General Assembly.
He wants to limit sessions in even-numbered years to 45 days. Those sessions -- when lawmakers pass the state budget -- now last 60 days.
In odd-numbered years, lawmakers could meet up to 15 days. Those sessions now last 30 days.
Kentucky's highest-ranking Republican lawmaker says he will oppose any expanded gambling measure that uses political patronage to garner support.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers says while he is not opposed to gaming if it has unified support, he doesn’t want the issue to be advanced by a trade of votes for pet projects.
“I’m not talking about anything that’s illegal. It’s part of the process that somebody gets a road, or if you do this, we think we can do this, you know, the promising of these things in exchange for a vote. That puts us in a worse fiscal position, has the potential to put us in a worse fiscal position than we’re in now. And if that happens I’ll do everything from a policy standpoint to try to stop it.”
Two sets of expanded gaming bills have already been pre-filed in the legislature. Supports say gambling could raise hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax revenue for the state.
Kentucky lawmakers will go into special session later this year to craft new maps of political districts based on the most recent U.S. Census data. Legislative leaders want a tentative agreement in place before returning to Frankfort, but one of the hang-ups is whether to include federal prisoners being held in the commonwealth.
Kentucky law says a prison cell is not a residence, and the inmate population can, but doesn't have to be taken into account when drawing political maps. State lawmakers counted federal prisoners when they approved a new Congressional map last year. That map was upheld by a judge while the legislative and judicial maps were ruled unconstitutional.
Lawmakers will use this year's special session to redraw legislative and judicial maps. Legislative leaders agree on the need for consistency, and contend they can't use one set of data for one map and different data for another. House Speaker Greg Stumbo wants the congressional map amended and argues it would have a minimal impact on districts.
"There's only about 8,500 federal prisoners and the average congressional district is 770,000," explains Stumbo.
Senate President Robert Stivers argues consulting again with each congressman would prolong a costly special session.
"So now we get into a situation where we're engaging the federal delegation in a special session issue," remarks Stivers.
Gov. Steve Beshear was meeting Monday afternoon with House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President Robert Stivers to try to work on a plan to resolve legislative redistricting.
The governor has said he is confident that the issue will be resolved in a special session sometime this year.
Each decade, lawmakers are required to draw new legislative district boundaries to account for population changes recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau. Kentucky had major population shifts between 2000 and 2010, requiring changes in boundary lines to comply with the federal and state "one person, one vote" mandate.
Two federal lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks to speed up the process in Kentucky. One asks that a three-judge panel redraw boundaries.
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.