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Local News Politics

Lawmakers End Special Session

by Josh James, Kentucky Public Radio

The seventh straight special session in Frankfort has ended with agreements on a transportation budget and House Bill 1, dubbed the “pill mill bill.”

The former survived after eleventh hour negotiations between the House and Senate produced a watered down compromise. The revised bull keeps KASPER, the state’s drug tracking database, under the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and does not move it to the Attorney General’s office, as was originally planned. But the bill guarantees funding for KASPER’s expansion.

“You know I would’ve preferred a stronger version, but obviously after conferring with the Attorney General’s office, prosecutors, and most importantly the governor,” says House Speaker Greg Stumbo. “They recommended we pass it, take another step forward.”

The transportation budget bill passed without changes that would have restored $50 million dollars in projects vetoed by Governor Beshear. The amendments died after the House failed to recognize them as “germane” to the governor’s special session proclamation.

In an animated speech before his chamber, Senate President David Williams, whose district was most affected by the vetoes, pointed his finger at the governor for dragging out the process.

“It was just an act of vindictiveness and defiance,” he said. “Maybe he’s gotten that out of his bloodstream. I hope so.”

But the House majority continued the blame game, putting the responsibility for the special session and legislative delays on Williams.

“Everybody knows whose fault it is. It’s the people’s in charge of the Senate,” said Stumbo.

All told, the session will cost taxpayers more than $300,000 dollars.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Local Media Criticizing Special Session

In the wake of another special session after the 2012 General Assembly, the Louisville Courier-Journal is encouraging readers to add a “Kentucky Held Hostage” button to their Twitter of Facebook profile in protest.

The newspaper asks residents if they are frustrated that state lawmakers have returned to Frankfort and gives them the option to post a daily button to their social networking sites counting each day. Other media outlets have also pounced on the easy target and lampooned the dysfunction, which is costing taxpayers $60,000 per day.

Insight’s Pure Politics took a more lighthearted approach and made a horror film trailer called “Return to Frankfort” featuring Governor Steve Beshear, Senate President David Williams and House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

Check it out:

Don’t go in the basement.

 

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Frankfort Local News

Beshear Signs Road Plan, Vetoes Projects in Williams’s District

Governor Steve Beshear signed Kentucky’s six-year road plan this afternoon and vetoed several projects in the state’s two-year road plan.

According to a release from Beshear’s office, the line item vetoes in the two-year plan are only in Senate President David Williams’s district. This comes on the heels of a public feud between the two politicians, with both accusing the other of political posturing.

The governor’s office further says the vetoes were necessary because Williams moved his projects to the front of the line.  Beshear says the vetoes weren’t politically motivated and do not remove any projects from the plan, but rather make some of the projects in Williams’s district a lower priority, in the interest of fairness to other districts. 

“Senator Williams has essentially moved all his district’s road projects to the front of the line, forcing other projects that the Transportation Cabinet and other legislators considered high-priority to wait until additional funding becomes available. It’s unfair to the citizens, and it’s unfair to the rest of the lawmakers whose districts will suffer,” he says.

Lawmakers are in special session to consider a funding mechanism for the road plans and a bill cracking down on prescription drug abuse. Williams has pledged to withhold action on the two bills until Beshear acted on the unfunded road plans. Now, with the plan approved, Beshear says the General Assembly should be able to finish the special session by Friday.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Grayson: Beshear and Williams Are Embarrassing Kentucky

Former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson criticized both Governor Steve Beshear and state Senate President David Williams, saying their ongoing rivalry is embarrassing the commonwealth.

“It’s a continuation of the last several years of the governor not being able to develop strong positive relationships with not just the Republican-controlled Senate, but also the Democratic-controlled House,” says Grayson. “And there’s a huge trust deficit and the temper tantrums that were thrown that night only make things worse.”

Check it out. From CN2 Pure Politics:

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Frankfort Local News

Lawmakers Return for Special Session

Kentucky lawmakers are returning to Frankfort today to begin a special session called by Governor Steve Beshear.

Beshear has ordered lawmakers to take up a funding bill for the state’s road plan and one addressing prescription pill abuse. Those were the two major bills that died in the final hours of the 2012 regular session last week.

Beshear says passing those bills should only take lawmakers five days.

“And I’m going to be asking House leaders to introduce those identical bills on Monday right after they get in here and there’s no reason why they can’t get out of here by Friday because that’s the minimum numbers of days it takes to pass legislation,” he says

But the special session may go longer because Senate President David Williams has said his body won’t pass the road funding bill until Beshear signs the road plan template.

And if Beshear takes all 10 of his allotted veto days for the bill, the special session could last two weeks, at a cost of $60,000 a day.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Conway Disappointed Over Prescription Drug Bill Failure

In a statement, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway expressed disappointment with state lawmakers for failing to pass legislation to combat prescription drug abuse.

The initial proposal required doctors to use KASPER, which is the state’s prescription monitoring system set up to crack down on “pill mill” operators. It also required that pain management clinics be owned by physicians licensed in Kentucky.

But Conway says the law that came out a House-Senate conference report has been “watered down” by lobbyists for the medical community and the original bill pushed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, should be passed.

“For the many families devastated by this scourge, I hope that the General Assembly, and the Senate in particular, will act in good faith to represent the larger public interest and not let special interests write the prescription drug legislation,” he says. “In the Office of the Attorney General, we pledge to act in good faith to ensure that legislation passed by the General Assembly works fairly and effectively.”

Beshear has called for a special session to begin next Monday.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Beshear Denounces Planned Neo-Nazi Demonstration

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear responded to a planned rally by a Michigan-based neo-Nazi group, which claims it will march on the state Capitol in Frankfort on April 21.

The National Socialist Movement announced the demonstration will focus on “illegal immigration, rampant crime, the recession and white civil rights.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Socialist Movement is the largest neo-Nazi organization in the country with 61 chapters in 35 states. The group promotes the separation of the races and opposes citizenship for non-whites, Jews and gay residents.

Beshear says the hate group has the right to protest, but denounced their philosophy and adds that Kentuckians will do so as well.

“The Constitution affords the right to free speech and free assembly to all, and we will respect those rights, even for this Michigan-based, hate-filled group. This group should know that their ideology is reprehensible to Kentuckians, and that Kentucky is a tolerant, progressive, and welcoming state for all people,” he says.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Stein Calls Out Williams for SEC Tournament Trip

Adding more fuel to their burning rivalry, state Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, continued her criticism of state Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, over his recent trip to New Orleans for the NCAA’s Southeastern Conference basketball tournament during the legislative session.

The Senate changed its schedule and did not take up any legislation last Thursday or Friday in order for Williams to attend the University of Kentucky men’s basketball games.

When asked about that decision, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate lashed out at reporters and defended his attendance record.

“Go ahead, write a bad story about me; I don’t give a rat’s ass. I’m here more than anyone else,” Williams told The Courier-Journal.

Speaking to CN2’s Ryan Alessi, Stein continued to poke at the GOP leader by (4:05 mark) decrying Williams’s trip to the NCAA’s SEC basketball tournament last weekend and said it was a “mis-use” of his power.

Check it out:

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

House Committee Jousts Over Bill to Drug Test Welfare Recipients

A bill that would allow for drug testing of adult Kentuckians who receive public assistance will receive a hearing this week, but the legislation’s sponsor and committee chairman are jousting over the proposal.

The bill would set up random blood and urine testing for those who get welfare benefits, food stamps, Medicaid and other state assistance. Similar legislation has been introduced across the country with mixed results in different states.

In Wyoming, state lawmakers rejected a similar bill, but around two dozen other states are considering such measures to have stricter rules.

In Kentucky, state Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster, is the bill’s sponsor. He says here is too much fraud in the welfare system and his proposal would help get recipients off illegal drugs.

“People are abusing the system and using say for instance a lot of cases their food stamps and trading them for drugs. It’s just not fair for the taxpayers to have to keep up an illegal drug habit. And also, what I’m trying to do is help families and children that live in the homes where this is going on,” he says.

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Local News

ACLU-KY to Hold Death Penalty Discussion

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky will host a discussion on the collateral consequences of the death penalty later this month.

Death penalty opponents are also drawing attention to legislation in the Kentucky General Assembly that would prohibit the execution of severely mentally ill inmates and another bill that would abolish the practice altogether. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from legal experts who said that at least a temporary suspension of the death penalty is necessary.

ACLU of Kentucky spokeswoman Katherine Miller says the anti-death penalty movement is picking up steam and the commonwealth is close to ending the practice.

“Kentucky juries are not interested in death sentences. We’re seeing trends towards abolition everyone and they are really salient within in our state. We want to take advantage of that and help educate people on this issue that’s clearly, very important to Kentuckians,” she says.