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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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Frankfort Local News

Kentucky’s Special Session Begins

Kentucky lawmakers have returned to the capitol for a special session, and it’s not clear how long they’ll remain in Frankfort to finish their work.

The House gaveled in at noon today and quickly filed two bills. One measure cracks down on prescription pill abuse and another funds the state road plan.

Neither measure cleared the General Assembly during the regular session this year. And House Speaker Greg Stumbo says his chamber will work quickly to pass the bills.

“We’ll be through by Wednesday, I don’t, obviously we don’t know what the Senate is going to do, we’ll just have to wait and see what they do,” Stumbo says

Senate President David Williams says his chamber will not vote on either bill until the governor signs the unfunded road plan template both chambers passed last week.

Beshear has ten days to act on the measure. So if the Senate holds firm, lawmakers will stay in session until the middle of next week at a cost of $60,000 a day.

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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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Frankfort Local News

Williams Says Beshear Needs to ‘Tone Down’ Rhetoric

Republican Senate President David Williams says Democratic Governor Steve Beshear needs to tone down his rhetoric over the upcoming special session.

The two men butted heads yesterday when the Senate didn’t pass two of the session’s critical bills. The Senate adjourned, effectively killing a bill that funded the state’s road plan and one that would place further limitations on prescription drugs.

In his call for the special session, Beshear personally blamed Williams for blocking the bills, and at other times called him greedy and selfish.

Williams responded today by saying the governor is out of line.

“The governor has to calm down a little bit. These sort of personal and vitriolic statements that he continues to make out to me, my wife is here today, we have two small children, and he’s actually putting us at risk if he continues to make these hateful and vitriolic statements he’s making,” Williams says.

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Frankfort Local News

Coal Scholarship, Dropout Bills Won’t Be Added to Special Session Agenda

An education proposal favored by Kentucky House leadership will not be included in next week’s special session, effectively killing its chances this year.

A bill that began as a measure to bring the University of Pikeville into the state system morphed into one that would have created scholarships for college students from coal counties.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo was a major supporter of the legislation. He says even though the proposal had been changed multiple times, both chambers had reached a compromise. Despite that deal, the Senate did not pass the bill before adjourning the regular session for the year.

Governor Steve Beshear says he won’t add that bill to the special session’s agenda, to avoid prolonging the session.

“You know, we will take a look at whether we should add anything else to this call. But, these special sessions cost taxpayer’s $60,000 a day. We have agreement on these two bills. And I want them in here and out of here in five days and I think every Kentuckian wants the same. And so I don’t want to put anything on the call that might lengthen the special session,” he says.

Another bill that won’t be reconsidered is Beshear’s proposal to raise Kentucky’s drop out age to 18 years old. The special session’s agenda will include legislation to curb prescription drug abuse and a bill to fund the state’s road plan.

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Frankfort Local News

Beshear Continues to Blame Williams Over Deadlock

A blame game over important legislation leftover in the 2012 General Assembly is turning into a repeat of last year’s gubernatorial election.

Democratic Governor Steve Beshear and Republican Senate President David Williams are arguing over who is to blame for state lawmakers adjourning their regular session without passing key bills. A bill to crack down on Kentucky’s prescription drug abuse died in the final minutes of the session, and even though lawmakers passed a road plan, they neglected to pass the bill that funds the projects.

In announcing his call for a special session to deal with those two issues, Beshear had a litany of names for Williams. He called the Senate President selfish and greedy for not allowing the Senate to finish its work.

“He still thinks that it’s acceptable to push the state’s business to the 11thhour. To hold bills according to his personal whim and then when reasonable people don’t acquiesce to his wishes, to throw a temper tantrum and go home,” Beshear says.

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Local News Politics

Stumbo Prefers Special Session for Redistricting

The speaker of the Kentucky state House says a special legislative session on redistricting could be in order this year.

Speaker Greg Stumbo says he would prefer to redraw the legislative boundaries before next year’s regular session

Special sessions cost more than $60,000 per day. And Governor Steve Beshear has previously said he would support one if lawmakers had a plan to ensure a speedy passage of new district maps. But Stumbo says he has not met with Senate President David Williams to discuss redistricting.

One of Stumbo’s suggested changes would move Owensboro out of the 2nd Congressional District and to the 1st. Second District Congressman Brett Guthrie opposes that plan.

Additional information from the Associated Press

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Local News Politics

Senate Adjourns Special Session

Kentucky’s special session on Medicaid officially ended Wednesday evening. Adjournment came after Senate Republicans approved resolutions symbolically overriding Governor Beshear’s line-item vetoes of the Medicaid bill. Eleven Democrats in the chamber, including Representative Robin Webb of Grayson, refused to support the resolutions.

“My outrage is we had to come back for a special session. It was unnecessary. It’s been costly. And we’re here today and we have no purpose today. Purpose here today is sheer politics. We’ve heard bashing the governor. We’ve heard all that. That’s the purpose here today,” he said.

Constitutionally, lawmakers must be paid for the entire 24-day session, but Senate President David Williams promises no Senate member will be paid for any day past March 24th.

“Either they can make refunds voluntarily, or I will withhold the days over the next several months,” he said.

That’s the day the House adjourned, went home and refused to come back. The cost to taxpayers for the special session was nearly 64-thousand dollars a day.

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Local News Politics

State Senate Reconvenes

As expected, the Kentucky Senate reconvened the special session on Medicaid. But not much has happened yet.

Senate President David Williams gaveled the session to order, and 27 members recorded their presence. A couple of resolutions were read, and then Senate Republicans went behind closed doors to caucus, where they remain.

Democratic Senatir Walter Blevins is still trying to figure out why the Senate’s even meeting.

“It’s a waste of time. I’d rather be home working, trying to make a living and trying to work on the problems of the people I represent. Today, we’re not going to be doing anything. It’s just all political theater,” he says. “It’s just all politics.”

The House officially went home March 24th and did not return for what the Senate is calling a veto override day. But no vetoes can be overridden, because overrides require majority votes in both chambers.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Kentucky Senate To Reconvene; House Remains Adjourned

The Kentucky Senate is returning to Frankfort today to resume the special session on Medicaid. But the House, which adjourned March 24th, won’t be there.

That means there will be no overrides of line-item vetoes of the Medicaid bill issued by Gov. Steve Beshear. Until the Senate officially adjourns, lawmakers are being paid, but Legislative Research Commission Director Bobby Sherman says money that has accrued since March 24 is being held in escrow until legal questions about it are cleared up.

“I don’t want to be issuing pay that the agency then might have to try to retrieve. That would be an administrative nightmare. And secondly, it could adversely affect unintentionally the tax implications for members.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo suggests seeking an attorney general’s opinion on the pay issue. For now, Senate Republicans are refusing to accept pay for any days past March 24.