Can lawmakers find agreement on anything amid politically-charged session?

01/03/2011 07:27 PM

State legislators could find common ground on a package of corrections reforms and some changes to the state’s Medicaid program — at least to balance that program’s budget, two political aides said.

Les Fugate, a Republican and deputy assistant secretary of state, and Colmon Elridge — who is executive assistant to Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and executive vice president of the Young Democrats of America — offered their preview of the 2011 General Assembly on Pure Politics Monday night.

State lawmakers return to Frankfort Tuesday at noon to kick off the short 30-day session. And they’ll convene in the shadow of this year’s governor’s race. The campaign features Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear seeking a second term and the leader of the state Senate, David Williams of Burkesville, as a Republican candidate vying for the nomination to take on Beshear. Williams and Louisville businessman Phil Moffett first will meet in the May 17 GOP primary.

“Both President Williams and the governor need a successful session. It’s in their best interest,” Fugate said. “I think with President Williams, he’s got the reputation of being the guy who stops legislation. And then for Governor Beshear, I think he needs more accomplishments to sell on the campaign trail.”

Both Fugate and Elridge said corrections reform and addressing Medicaid have the best chances to pass.

For the last eight months, a panel of seven key officials has been examining ways to change the penal code and corrections system to make it more efficient and fair and will propose a package of reforms later this month.

And Medicaid has remained a major concern of lawmakers as the $6 billion program has run a more than $100 million deficit and questions emerged about oversight of the Passport Health Plan that administers Medicaid to poor and disabled patients in Louisville and 15 surrounding counties.

Elridge also said at least a couple items in the state Senate Republicans’ agenda could win bipartisan support, including reforms to the campaign finance laws. Williams’ bill calls for banning statewide candidates from taking contributions from lobbyists. Currently lawmaker are prohibited from accepting checks from lobbyists even when lawmakers, such as Williams, are running for a non-legislative position such as governor.

Beshear couldn’t accept checks from lobbyists when he ran in 2007 with running mate Daniel Mongiardo because Mongiardo was a state senator at the time.

- Ryan Alessi

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