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Frankfort Local News

Drug Group Sets Record for Legislative Lobbying Expenses

A lobbying group for various drug manufacturers has set a record for money spent during a Kentucky legislative session.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association spent nearly half a million dollars between January and March lobbying against a bill aimed at curbing meth production by limiting pseudoephedrine purchases.

According to the Legislative Branch Ethics Commission, that’s a new yearly record,  and there’s still one month of accounting left to do. Further, the group’s advertising expenses weren’t included, meaning the CHPA likely spent  millions fighting the bill, which ultimately passed.

State Senator Tom Buford opposed the measure and has no problem with the spending.

“I would not want to restrict anyone’s ability to voice their opinion because I think you move into a dictatorship when you do that,” he says. “It really sounds an exorbitant of money when you look at it, but if you go to Washington D.C. they’re spending hundreds of millions.”

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Frankfort Local News

Senate Committee Passes Prescription Pill Bill

A Kentucky Senate committee has approved a bill that aims to toughen laws against prescription pill abuse.

House Bill 4 is a collaborative effort between House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Attorney General Jack Conway and Governor Steve Beshear.

The bill puts the KASPER prescription tracking system under Conway’s command and requires clinics that distribute pain medications to be owned by medical professionals. The Senate Judiciary committee made minor changes to the bill before passing it out of committee. And the bill will likely be changed further before passing the full Senate.

“You know I think this process is a long way, if it passes out of committee, but I think it’s a long way from ending still,” says Judiciary Chairman Tom Jensen.

Stumbo agrees the proposal is bound for a conference committee. He says a final bill could see a vote in the last days of the legislative session.

The General Assembly is expected to adjourn Friday for a veto period and return April 12 to override any vetoes.

If the bill passes late in the session, lawmakers won’t be able to override a veto, should the governor reject the measure.

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Frankfort Local News

Stumbo Says Budget Compromise Should Be Easy

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says his chamber’s priorities for the next two-year budget are not that different from the senate’s.

Both chambers have passed their own budget bills for each branch of state government. The two sides must now work out a compromise. Stumbo says he doesn’t have many concerns with the Senate’s changes and he expects a conference committee to hatch a compromise quickly.

“We may have approached it a different manner but at least we’re addressing the issues and if that’s the case we ought to be able to come to some middle ground to formulate a budget,” he says.

Senate President David Williams wanted to start the conference committee today, but Stumbo expects the committee to meet Monday and get a compromise to the chambers by Thursday.

“Staff will be working with them through the weekend, staff will be working with the governor’s office, and staff will be communicating as they review the budget. We didn’t get the Senate document until late last night, we actually haven’t gotten it officially here yet,” Stumbo says.

 

Stumbo says a budget could pass by Friday. If that happens, it will be the first time in years that lawmakers have passed a budget on time. 


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Frankfort Local News

Leaders Hopeful of Congressional Redistricting Compromise

After two weeks of no movement, legislative leaders are hopeful they’ll reach a compromise on Congressional redistricting soon.

That hope is the reason they’re giving for extending the filing deadline until February 7th, as the General Assembly did last week.

State Senator Damon Thayer says so far, the problem has been wildly different approaches to drawing new maps.

“The House wants to change the lines drastically and the Senate does not,” Thayer said. “It’s the position of the Senate that we should keep the lines similar to what they’ve been the last 20 years.”

That’s because the Senate is controlled by Republicans, and the current lines give Republicans a 4-2 advantage in Congressional seats. The Democratic-controlled House wants to get the seats more even in representation by party. A 3-3 split would be considered fair, House Speaker Greg Stumbo has said.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

EKU Gaining Support to Host Presidential Debate

Several federal and state elected officials have joined together to support Eastern Kentucky University’s bid to host a debate during next year’s presidential campaign.

A package sent by university officials to the Commission on Presidential Debates includes strong letters of support from Democratic and Republican leaders, namely U.S. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, state Sen. President David Williams and state House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

EKU President Doug Whitlock says the bipartisan backing illustrates the broad support for the university, which is prepared to host the debate.

“Our campus has excellent spaces for the candidates and the campaign teams. So we think our facilities for a presidential debate are really second to none,” he says.

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Local News Politics

Beshear Applauds Passage of Medicaid Bill

Promising to use his line-item veto power, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear praised lawmakers in the House for agreeing with a Senate plan to fix the state’s Medicaid budget.

On Thursday, the House approved a compromise to cut $101 million from other parts of state government in order to fill a shortfall in the healthcare system.

From the governor’s office:

An overwhelming bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives has taken courageous action, bringing an end to this costly session These legislators and the Senate Democrats have repeatedly stood by me to protect education and many other groups such as state troopers, veterans, and social workers from unnecessary cuts; and to prevent devastating cuts to health care providers that would certainly result in job losses across the state, particularly in rural areas.

Once the bill has reached my desk, I will begin scrutinizing it and will take appropriate action to reflect the priorities I share with the vast majority of legislators.

In an earlier vote, the Senate slashed the current budget by .35 percent and 1.74 percent in the next fiscal year, including cuts to education. Immediately, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, called the Senate version “unacceptable” before negotiations began.

It appeared the special session was headed for another impasse, but Beshear assured Democrats that he would veto portions of the measure if it passed. Legislators cannot override a gubernatorial veto once the House adjourns the special session.

The bill won’t reach the governor’s desk, however, until Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, who is running for governor, signs the legislation. Political observers are unsure if Williams will do so given that Beshear has made his line-item veto intentions clear.

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Local News

Kentucky Senate Passes Budget Plan

From Stu Johnson, Kentucky Public Radio

The Kentucky Senate has passed its version of a $17.3 billion state budget. It includes deeper cuts than those proposed in the House version of the budget approved earlier this month.

The House plan called upon Kentucky’s businesses to pay more to the state by moving up the deadline for paying taxes and by suspending a tax deduction for net operating losses. That provision was removed in the Senate budget. Budget committee chair Bob Leeper says hundreds of millions of dollars in House-approved school and water projects were also cut.

“People expect us to come up here and make prudent decisions and we felt the prudent decision was to reduce our base by lowering our bonded indebtedness,” he said.

The Senate plan also makes cuts in secondary and elementary education. In exchange, Senate president David Williams says schools would have more flexibility in how their money is spent and it restores two instructional days cut by the House. Lexington Senator Kathy Stein says she’s concerned about the impact of the reductions.

“I believe that by allowing cuts in education we are harming our state over the biennium.”

The Senate budget doesn’t call for additional cuts in higher education. Differences in the two budgets will likely be worked out in a conference committee.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he’s disappointed with the Senate’s decision to remove some $600 million in bonded school, water and sewer projects from the House plan.

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Local News

Beshear Meets With Legislative Leaders

From Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

The current legislative session was the topic as Kentucky House and Senate leaders met privately with Governor Steve Beshear in Frankfort Thursday.

Beshear says the talks centered mostly on process, or how the session should proceed now that both chambers have elected new leaders.

The governor still wants lawmakers to act quickly to address the state’s $456 million budget deficit.

“Every week that goes by just means that much less time that the agencies, school districts, cities and counties, everybody who depends upon money from the state to deliver services, the less time they have to make whatever adjustments they’re going to have to make,” Beshear said.

It now looks like lawmakers will try to handle the budget situation within the confines of the 26 days remaining in the session, without moving days around or calling a special session.

During the three-week recess before the session resumes February 3rd, House and Senate budget committees will meet.