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Friday, April 13, 2012

Here We Go -- AGAIN: Steve Beshear Will Call Another Kentucky "Special" Legislative Session, Blames David Williams -- But We Blame Them ALL!

Beshear to call special legislative session for Monday
By Beth Musgrave, Jack Brammer and John Cheves

Gov. Steve Beshear and other state and federal officials spoke about Kentucky's drug problems at the Kentucky Prescription Drug Abuse Summit in Lexington. HERALD-LEADER

FRANKFORT – Gov. Steve Beshear said he will call a special legislative session for Monday after lawmakers ended the 2012 General Assembly at 11:59 p.m. Thursday without approving funding for a $4.5 billion road-building plan and a measure to curb prescription drug abuse.

Beshear, after meeting with House Democratic leaders in his Capitol office, said at about 12:45 a.m. Friday that Senate President David Williams was responsible for the Senate’s failure to approve a road plan budget bill on the final day of the 60-day regular session.

“Without the transportation budget bill, you can’t fund any of the projects in the transportation plan that has been passed,” said the Democratic governor who won re-election last November in a contentious campaign against Williams, R-Burkesville.

Beshear also charged that Williams was responsible for the Senate’s inaction Thursday on a bill that would more closely regulate pain management clinics and put the state’s electronic prescription reporting system in the attorney general’s office instead of in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

“We need that bill. We need the transportation budget bill. So I’ll be issuing a call for a special session of the General Assembly,” Beshear said. “They should have and could have been passed by the Senate today.”

The governor also had harsh words for Williams, whom he blamed earlier in this year’s regular session for killing his proposal to expand gambling in the state.

For 12 years since Williams has been president of the Senate, Kentuckians have suffered under Williams’ leadership, Beshear said.

“His rank partisanship, his obstructionist attitude, have caused numerous special sessions and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars of unnecessary expenses in having to conduct those special sessions," Beshear said.

Beshear said Kentuckians last November rejected Williams “and I whooped him by 21 points. I think everybody in this state got the message except for David Williams.”

Williams called Beshear “a small, petty and vindictive individual.”

Williams said the Senate was ready to approve a road funding bill after Beshear signed into law the road plan that had strong support in the House and Senate.

The Senate wanted to be sure the road plan was signed into law with no chances of any gubernatorial vetoes before approving a funding bill, Williams said.

In the special session, Williams said, the Senate will not pass a road funding bill until the governor signs into law a road plan.

Beshear said he did not want to sign the road plan into law until he had time to review it. A governor has 10 days to review legislation, and may sign it into law, let it become law without his signature or veto it.

That means Beshear would have until April 24 to act on the road plan the legislature approved Thursday. He said he had no idea how long it will take for him to review it.

Beshear also acknowledged that he tried to link his signing of the road plan into law with legislative approval of his efforts to raise the school dropout age in Kentucky.

Asked if he would have signed the road plan into law had the legislature raised the dropout age, he said, "It never got to that point."

The upcoming special session could complete its work in five days, Beshear said. But Williams declined to put a deadline on it.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, blamed the Senate for not acting on the road funding bill despite a compromise the two chambers had negotiated on the road plan.

Williams did not communicate with him once throughout the evening, Stumbo added.

The House opted Thursday not to try to override any of Beshear's 45 line-item vetoes in a more than $19 billion, two-year budget.

Some House Democrats were concerned with the Beshear veto that removed from Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ office a “one-stop business portal” to help businesses with state records.

But Beshear, who has a longstanding political feud with Grimes' father, Lexington businessman Jerry Lundergan, later pledged to keep the system in Grimes’ office.

Williams said Thursday night that House Democratic leaders had pledged in budget negotiations last month that the House would override any gubernatorial vetoes.

Stumbo said that was not the case.

Legislative leaders were relieved in late March when they passed the two-year state budget on time. It was the first time since 2006 that the legislature had passed a two-year budget without having to be called into a special legislative session.

Legislators thought that there may not be any special legislative sessions in 2012 but the 11th-hour stand-off between Beshear and the Republican Senate dashed those hopes.

The state road plan includes plans to widen Leestown Road and advance the Newtown Pike extension in Lexington.

The measure passed the Senate unanimously earlier on Thursday. But the bill -- always contentious -- met with more resistance in the 100-member House.

Some House Republicans objected to the plan because they said several road projects were tucked into the bill at the last minute by legislative leaders.

The conference committee that was supposed to iron out differences between the original House and Senate plans never actually met, and under legislative rules, no projects were supposed to be added at this stage, said House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown.

"The way we conduct public policy is important," Hoover said in a floor speech. "The bottom line is, about three people have controlled what you see in this road plan."

Stumbo later said the road plan was negotiated under a general suspension of legislative rules, which means that they were allowed to add more projects. Those projects were supposed to be in the plan from the start but inadvertently were omitted, Stumbo said.

The plan authorizes two new bridges over the Ohio River in Louisville.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, protested the plan because he said the bill's language endorses tolls eventually being placed on three of the city's four bridges to pay for the projects.

Tolls are a "regressive tax" on poor and working-class people who must commute over the bridges daily, Wayne said. He suggested instead a higher gas tax or a reallocation of the road fund to favor urban areas. Both proposals drew scattered boos from the House chamber.

Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, who helped draft the road plan, responded to Wayne by saying the legislature does not have the responsibility for establishing a financing method for the bridges. It assigned that job to the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority, Overly said.

Later, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet issued a statement saying it has not been decided whether the existing Sherman Minton Bridge in Louisville would be tolled to pay for new construction. "That is a decision that will be made by a future generation of policy makers," the cabinet said. The two new bridges would be tolled, the cabinet said.

The House passed the road plan by a 77-to-16 vote. The Senate approved it 37-0.

Beshear vetoed many sections of the two-year budget bill that would restrict how he can balance the state's books, including provisions that would require any surplus funds to be deposited in the state's "rainy day" fund.

Beshear also vetoed key projects placed in the budget by legislators -- such as $1 million for the Allen County Industrial Authority, $150,000 for the International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro and $100,000 for Actors Theatre in Louisville.

Beshear said he vetoed the projects because the legislature did not provide funding for the earmarks.

Beshear explained his vetoes to the House Democratic caucus in a closed-door meeting Thursday afternoon. After Beshear left, the caucus met for more than an hour behind closed doors. But Stumbo said there was ultimately not enough support to override any of Beshear's vetoes.

It takes both chambers to override gubernatorial vetoes. Once House Democrats decided not to override the vetoes, it was pointless for the Republican Senate to try to override the vetoes.

Leaders in both chambers said earlier Thursday that they felt that had an agreement on House Bill 4, which would help crack down on the over-prescription of pain medications. But the Senate failed to vote on the compromise bill.

The bill would move the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system, or KASPER, to Attorney General Jack Conway's office.

The compromise bill would delete a provision that would require all physicians to pay a $50 fee to use the KASPER system. That provision was taken out after the Kentucky Medical Association objected to it. House Bill 4 would also limit the ownership of pain clinics to physicians.

Stumbo predicted that if HB 4 was signed into law ,the number of rogue doctors over-prescribing pain medications and the number of "pill mills," or doctor's offices set up solely to prescribe pills, would plummet.

"Once it's adopted, we're going to see this problem immediately start to resolve itself," Stumbo said. "These people who are engaged in this particular type of endeavor will leave. My only regret is that we didn't put their sorry butts in jail before they left the state."

Read more here:

Editor's comment: Kentuckians elect people in office who are just like them, and that's NOT always a WISE choice to make, as we ALL suffer the DIRE consequences of the errors in judgment!

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