House Democrats conclude
successful legislative session
Frankfort – The Kentucky House of Representatives ended today what has widely been called one of the most successful legislative sessions in recent memory.
“This has been a highly productive time for all of Kentucky, from resolving the current budget crisis to enacting a multi-billion dollar road plan and greatly improving school testing,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) said. “We have done our work efficiently, and transparently.”
The House voted today in accordance with its rules to consider only vetoes issued by Governor Steve Beshear and potentially enroll any bills that the Senate may send. Since only one veto was issued and not overturned, and just a handful of bills were enrolled, the House ended the session a day early.
House Majority Caucus Chair Bob Damron (D-Nicholasville) addressed questions about why the House chose not to take last-minute votes on bills that were still outstanding. “Our caucus wanted to avoid the last-minute confusion that has taken place in recent sessions,” said Damron. “After noting how much had been accomplished, we decided that keeping veto days just for vetoes was the right course of action and it follows precedent set generations ago.”
“Our rules are designed to ensure thoughtful, deliberate decision-making in the public eye,” Stumbo added. “Last-minute decisions prohibit full debate and public comment. By drawing the line here, we can be sure that both houses will always conduct the people’s business in an open, timely and responsible manner.”
Speaker Stumbo pointed to several House bills that the Senate could consider. Among those are:
House Bill 229 (Governor Beshear’s incentives; House voted March 10th; Senate, March 13th)
The Senate’s version includes a brand new provision that would bail out homebuilders and chiefly benefit only those making more than $100,000. “This could cost us up to $25 million at a time when our schools and health and human services are in desperate need of money,” Speaker Stumbo said. “We believe the original package we passed helps working families and protects taxpayers.”
House Bill 521 (NASCAR incentives; House voted March 5th; two readings in Senate; Senate included this in their version of HB 229)
The Senate’s version is the same as the House’s except for one key change: It does not tie incentives to hiring Kentucky workers. “We in the House want assurances that tax-payer dollars are going to help Kentucky workers,” Speaker Stumbo said. “We all want NASCAR to come to Kentucky and strongly believe that Kentucky workers should build the track.”
House Bill 102 (Mega projects; House voted March 9th; Senate, March 13th)
Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark (D-Louisville) emphasized that the just-completed road plan includes every dollar needed to move the Louisville bridges project forward during this fiscal year and next. “Because of the funding, the timeline is unaffected by what we do during the veto days,” Clark said. “I would like to see this resolved soon, though, because we need to decide what agency will oversee projects like these. The House believes Kentucky would be better served by creating a new agency that can focus entirely on the mega projects.”
House Bill 433 (Budget modifications; House voted March 10th; Senate, March 13th)
This legislation from the House would give public defenders and prosecutors alike money to complete the fiscal year without adversely affecting their offices. It also would call on the Department of Education to begin replacing five schools in desperate need of new facilities. “These are appropriations that need attention now, and we hope the Senate will act promptly,” House Majority Whip John Will Stacy (D-West Liberty) said, noting that funding public defenders is a Necessary Government Expense that the governor has the authority to fund if the bill does not pass.
House Bill 537 (Governor Beshear’s energy plan; House voted March 2nd; Senate, March 13th)
The Senate has added legislation that would make it possible to bring nuclear plants to Kentucky and that would allow oil and natural gas exploration on state grounds. House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook) said, “Making it easier for nuclear plants to build in Kentucky needs far more discussion. Our chamber has not discussed this at all, and we believe more public input is needed.”
“There is a time and place for each of these proposals, all of which in their original form had strong support in the House when they were sent to the Senate,” Speaker Stumbo said. “I trust they will be addressed again in a timely manner when the legislature returns in session.”