Four takeaways from the legislative leaders' appearance on KET's 'Kentucky Tonight'

01/06/2014 08:37 PM

If you missed KET’s Bill Goodman holding court on “Kentucky Tonight” with the four caucus leaders on the eve of the 2014 General Assembly, here’s what you need to know:

*1. Neither of the top priorities of the majority caucuses appear likely to pass the other chamber at this point. *

Senate Republicans, led by Senate President Robert Stivers, want a constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature to strike down regulations implemented by the governor’s administration even when the General Assembly was out of session. Stivers said the move wasn’t in response to Gov. Steve Beshear’s implementation of the Kentucky Health Exchange and Medicaid expansion, which he did through executive orders and regulations. And he said he didn’t think the measure could be retroactively applied to undo last year’s regulations even if it passed. Still Senate Democratic Minority Leader R.J. Palmer and House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover both expressed concern that an eight-member administrative review panel would have the power to overturn those regulations.

Meanwhile, Stivers and Hoover spent considerable time in the first 15 minutes arguing against House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s top priority — House Bill 1 — of raising the minimum wage over a three-year period to $10.10 from $7.25. Hoover said the measure would force small business owners like restauranteurs to cut jobs. And he said it would do little to help breadwinners of low-income families and instead hurt teenagers and college students who are competing for most of the minimum wage jobs.

*2. Teachers shouldn’t hold their breathes in getting raises. *

The same goes for just about any other increase in spending. Stumbo did address a caller’s question about cuts to state childcare stipends that help low-income families cover daycare costs. Beshear approved cuts to that program last spring because of a budget shortfall in the health cabinet. Stumbo said he wants to find a way to restore that funding.

*3. Any casino gambling measure with a prayer of passing the General Assembly will have to be in the format of constitutional amendment. *

Stumbo and Stivers — both lawyers — said they don’t believe the state’s constitution needs to be amended to allow casino gambling. They said Monday night, as they both stated in November at the Kentucky Hospital Association’s forum, that allow casinos could be done through a change in statute. But the consensus among the leaders was that legislators would be more likely to vote for a constitutional amendment, which would require ratification of the voters. “The political will” favors the constitutional change, as Hoover put it.

*4. The legislature will pass legislation to increase penalties for heroin dealers and provide more treatment for addicts. *

This has become increasingly evident in recent weeks. Before Christmas, Republican President Pro Tem Katie Stine and Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway announced in a joint press conference a measure to tighten penalties for those caught with more than four grams on them, requiring them to serve at least 50 percent of their sentences. On Thursday at the Northern Kentucky Forum, Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer pledged that the Senate would make it priority to both tighten penalties for dealers and provide more treatment resources.

And on Monday night, Stivers — adding that he has rarely made predictions heading into a legislative session — said he fully expects the Senate to deal with the issue.


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