FRANKFORT—After a marathon negotiation session this weekend, the Kentucky General Assembly gave speedy passage to a slew of budget bills that gave raises to judicial employees and restored funding for K-12 education while also reducing safety inspections for mines and possibly prohibiting the commonwealth from funding local implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo praised the Senate for its willingness to compromise with his chamber, and called the process — including the 14-hour closed-door session of budget talks this weekend — “democracy in its purest form.”
“You saw people of different convictions, different ways to view things," Stumbo said. "It was democracy in its purest form. But it worked. And that’s what made, to me, all these years here worth spending.”
Provisions to block state money from being used on Kentucky's implementation of the Affordable Care Act will remain in the budget agreement reached over the weekend by state lawmakers. Sparring between House Democrats and Senate Republicans over the ACA dominated negotiations.
The ACA covers the costs of implementation through 2017, after which the tab will be split with the state.
Now, Senate President Robert Stivers says lawmakers will send the governor a budget that blocks general funds from going toward the state's health insurance exchange, Kynect, and the expansion of Medicaid. Stivers acknowledges that much of the heated debate over the ACA was "political theater."
A bill that would permit private corporations to partner with government to finance infrastructure projects is one step closer to becoming law.
House Bill 407 filed by Rep. Leslie Combs passed the chamber by a 27-9 vote, and includes an amendment that would prohibit tolls from being used to fund the controversial Brent Spence bridge in Northern Kentucky.
Democratic Sen. Perry Clark voted against the bill, citing a Brookings Institute study that says public private partnerships, or “P3’s,” aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
The Kentucky House has passed the much-debated juvenile justice reform bill. Proponents say it could lead to state savings of $25 million over a five year period by reducing incarceration for "low level offenders".
House Judiciary Committee Chair John Tilley championed the bill on the floor Thursday.
"This bill will, contrary to what some have said, put greater emphasis on family involvement and involving families at the k-stage and earlier stages of intervention and we think this will present better outcomes for Kentucky's youth and their families," said Tilley.
A bill to raise penalties on heroin traffickers and provide new treatment options for opiate addicts has narrowly cleared a Kentucky House committee.
The House Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 5 with 12 yes votes, and 8 members abstaining due to concerns over the measure’s constitutionality regarding charging drug traffickers with homicides for overdose deaths and the bill’s emphasis on prosecution.
A bill permitting the research and medicinal use of cannabis oil to treat neurological disorders has cleared the Kentucky House. Families with ailing children gathered into the House chambers to witness the vote on the bill.
“I feel like we’ve won the lottery. I never thought it would happen. I honestly didn’t.”
That’s Rita Wooton, overjoyed at the passage of Senate Bill 124, which will allow her son, Eli, to receive cannabidiol treatment at the University of Kentucky for his chronic seizures.
A bill that would open the door to charter schools in Kentucky has passed the state Senate, although similar legislation has previously failed to gain traction in the Democratic-led House.
The measure passed by a 22-14 party line vote—not unlike the vote last year.
The bill would allow certified teaching staff and parents to petition the principal of a low-achieving school for a vote on whether a privately run charter organization should be in charge of the school.