2013 General Assembly: Six issues with uncertain futures in 2013

12/31/2012 11:03 AM

Whether it’s timing or a matter of priorities for legislators, six key issues could get put off until after the 30-day legislative session.

- Redistricting. There is a split among legislative leaders about whether to take it up in 2013 or wait until the 2014 session. In 2012, it took up most of the first half of the legislative session and ultimately the courts threw out the maps because at least one proposed Senate district and one proposed House district had too many constituents. There isn’t a partisan split over taking up the issue.

Both House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, want to try in 2013 to get it over with. But presumptive Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and Republican House Floor leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, have said redistricting could distract from other key issues that must be dealt with. They have said there’s no urgency to do it during a 30-day session when it could be done in January 2014 before the next election.

- Tax Reform. While the governor has possession of the recommendations from his tax commission, legislative leaders from both sides of the Capitol have said they don’t see the 2013 regular session as the time to take up that debate.

Passing a bill that makes revenue changes requires three-fifths majority votes in each chamber during an odd-year 30-day session. Stumbo said he doesn’t see a “groundswell of support” from his fellow lawmakers to tackle it yet. Plus, waiting for 2014 or even a special legislative session later in 2013 would allow Gov. Steve Beshear to make his case for certain reforms, Stumbo said.

- Informed Consent for Abortion. Stivers and Senate Republicans say they want to push again for requiring doctors to outline certain information to women seeking an abortion. Informed consent bills have failed in the House Health and Welfare Committee in previous years. The House Democrats’ majority has shrunk to its lowest point in 90 years (55 to 44 Republicans and one vacant seat in a heavily GOP district), so its unclear whether conservative Democrats will call for this issue to reach the House floor.

- Statewide Smoking Ban. A measure to ban smoking in restaurants and most public places across Kentucky has bipartisan support. For instance, Republican Rep. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville and Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington have both worked on the issue. Stumbo said Friday he supports the effort and also wants to see a law banning Kentuckians from smoking in vehicles carrying children.

The question is whether such a measure has enough support in the Senate.

- Education issues. Three education-related measures could get some attention in 2013. The governor and House Democrats will try again to pass a bill raising the school drop-out age to 18 while also adding some standards to alternative schools that are designed to help students most at risk of dropping out. But Senate Republicans so far have been resistant to raising the drop-out age unless the state can fund better alternative schools.

House Education Chairman Rep. Carl Rollins also has said he wants to outline new teacher evaluation methods and will create a task force to study public university and college budgeting and student financial aid.

- Juvenile Justice Reforms. Leaders from both parties seem to be coming around to the realization that placing teens in detention centers for non-violent “status offenses” is costly and can be counterproductive. Such status offenses are actions that are only illegal because of age — such as underage drinking, smoking or habitually skipping school.

However, a legislative task force that has been looking into juvenile justice reforms has decided to continue its work into 2013 making it unlikely that new legislation will be a priority in the ’13 session.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He has covered politics for more than 10 years, including 7 years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Follow Ryan on Twitter @cn2Alessi. Ryan can be reached at 502-792-1135 or ryan.alessi@twcnews.com.

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