House Democrats, Republicans squabble over rules and handling of agricultural trucking bill

02/10/2017 05:01 PM

FRANKFORT – Before passing a bill on weight variances for trucks hauling poultry, livestock and other agricultural products by a wide margin on Friday, House Democratic leaders took to the floor to express their misgivings about rule changes that they say has rushed bills through the legislative process.

Republicans dismissed those concerns. House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said the decision to reduce the time to post bills in committee from three days to one came from a bipartisan transition team he appointed after last year’s elections propelled the GOP into a 64-member supermajority.

The tit for tat capped a slow first week back for lawmakers after they steamrolled seven Republican priority bills through the General Assembly in the 30-day session’s opening week last month.

House Bill 174, which would give trucks carrying poultry, livestock, produce, feed and other agricultural products a 10 percent weight tolerance on all Kentucky roads except interstates, passed on an 81-13 vote, but not before House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins and Rep. Sannie Overly raised their concerns with the legislative process.

Overly, chairwoman of the Kentucky Democratic Party and a member of the House Agriculture Committee that sent HB 174 to the floor, said she believed the bill had a technical error and would have liked to find some resolution with Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield. However, she said HB 174 was posted for a committee hearing less than a day before the agriculture panel met.

“I received this bill at 6:04 p.m. the day before it was heard in committee at 8:30 the following morning,” she said.

“There are a lot of concerns for that because, candidly, folks around the commonwealth, and I believe in this instance poultry farmers around the commonwealth, who want relief from this piece of legislation are going to be denied because we really weren’t given ample time to do the work in committee that needed to be done, in my judgment, to get it right.”

But House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, said Overly’s concerns with HB 174 came from an oversight on her part.

When asked by House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins why a bill focusing on vehicle weights went to the House Agriculture Committee rather than the House Transportation Committee, Shell said Republicans wanted to highlight its agricultural impact.

“I know that’s tough to get used to, but that’s the way that we did it,” said Shell, who withdrew that remark minutes later.

Hoover, during a floor speech after the vote, said if Adkins had any concerns about placing HB 174 in the agriculture committee, he didn’t express those during the Committee on Committees meeting when the action was taken.

“We went down the list of bills to be referred,” he said. “The gentleman from Garrard (Shell) recommended that House Bill 174 go to the ag committee, and you know what mister speaker? Not one person objected, but we get on the House floor, somebody wants to cry foul.”

Hoover also took a shot at the House under Democratic control, saying Republicans were afforded six staffers for 46 minority members last year while Democrats were given seven slots to fill. Hoover said the majority leadership staff as a whole costs about $700,000 less annually than Democrats’ team when they held the speaker’s gavel, as reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

In response, Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, defended practices by the previous Democratic majority. At times, the former majority floor leader said he ruffled the feathers of committee chairs after declining to waive committee postings so legislation could move to the floor quicker.

“I’ve had chairs come to me and they’ve turned around and they’ve been so mad at me that they couldn’t see because I would not waive that posting, and the reason I would not waive that posting is because I didn’t want to perceived as fast-tracking that process,” he said in a floor speech.

“Are there times when things happen that you need to or have to? Yes. Are there times when you get toward the end of the session and you have to make certain motions? Yes. I stood there for 14 years, and the more I stood there and the longer I stood there through the years, I guess the more hardline I’d become on trying to uphold the institution.”

The House also passed on Friday House Bill 38, which would require sex offenders to obtain written permission before going to public playgrounds, and House Bill 67, which would limit the distribution of autopsy photos and recordings, on 91-3 and 94-0 votes, respectively.


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