Frankfort Week in Review: Big political names speak out for policy goals

02/04/2011 04:01 PM

(WITH VIDEO) FRANKFORT — State lawmakers recruited some political star power this week to advocate on behalf of some high-profile bills in this year’s legislation session, chiefly legislation to raise the dropout age and to require prescriptions for pseudoephedrine.

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of the 5th Congressional District and Pat Davis, wife of Republican Congressman Geoff Davis, spoke on opposite sides of the pseudoephedrine bill, which is aimed at curbing meth maker’s ability to get a key ingredient for that addictive drug. They appeared Thursday at the Senate’s Judiciary Committee meeting.

And Kentucky first lady Jane Beshear spoke the day before at the House Education Committee on behalf of the bill to raise the school dropout age from 16 to 18 by 2016.

While most of the action was in committees, only one bill passed on the floor of either chamber — a stark contrast from the first week of the session in which the Senate passed 12 bills of a 13 bill Republican Senate agenda.

Rep. John Tilley’s bill banning the synthetic “bath salts,” passed the House on Friday, Beth Musgrave of the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

Not that the Senate didn’t try to pass a bill.

Senate leaders had hoped to pass their version of the pseudoephedrine bill, Senate Bill 45, on Thursday.

With Rogers testifying on the bill and later being honored on the state Senate floor, the Senate Judiciary Committee quickly organized a meeting to vote on the bill during a quick recess. Rogers sat in the front row to watch the bill narrowly pass, 6-4.

In a rally short thereafter, Rogers told an overflow crowd in the Capitol Rotunda why he supports the pseudoephedrine bills and dismissed criticisms that such bills would make treating allergies and colds difficult for people.

When the Senate recessed again to move the bill out of committee and onto the floor they couldn’t drum up enough votes to pass it on Thursday.

The Senate passed over voting on SB45 on Friday, mainly because it was unsure if the bill had enough votes to pass, Williams told reporters afterward.

On Wednesday, Jane Beshear attended a House Education Committee for the second session in a row to lobby for a bill that would raise the dropout age gradually from 16-years-old to 18-years-old.

The dropout bill is one of the few things on Gov. Steve Beshear’s legislative agenda in 2011.

Having already passed a similar bill, the committee had no trouble passing it again with only two “no” votes on the bill, which received bipartisan support.

Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington, a Republican from Fort Wright, spoke in favor of the bill in committee, saying potential dropouts are often stereotyped incorrectly and would benefit from additional help in school. Webb-Edgington played a key role in advocating for the inclusion of a provision to provide greater oversight and expansion of alternative programs for students at risk of dropping out.

Additionally, separate House committees took up two different approaches to illegal immigration.

The House Labor and Industry committee quickly passed Rep. Bob Damron’s, a Democrat from Nicholasville, E-verify bill. The E-verify system is preferred by the House, which has passed the measure previously.

In the House Local Government Committee, Sen. John Schickel, sponsor of the Senate’s immigration bill which is considered to be “Arizona-style immigration reform,”  responded to questions about the potential costs and scope of Senate Bill 6.

At one point in the committee meeting, Schickel pushed back against criticism from local officials concerned that costs of the “new law” might hamstring them. Schickel said SB6 isn’t new law at all. Instead of forcing a mandate, Schickel said the bill allows local law enforcement another tool to enforce federal law.

Other bills that passed out of various committees this week included tackling elder abuse, school calendar changes, bible literacy classes in public schools.

-Reporting and videos by Kenny Colston

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