Legislative notes: Beshear forsees compromise on drop out bill; Uncertain if he will veto religious freedom bill

03/08/2013 04:01 PM

House and Senate leaders met with Governor Steve Beshear to start the process of mediating the gulf that separates the two chambers on some of the states biggest issues, and to find common ground on others.

Meetings between the branches and the governor started on Thursday night when House and Senate leadership agreed to adjust the legislative calendar to allow time to finish up several key bills.

The General Assembly did not meet on Friday, and moved the 27th day in the 30-day short session to Tuesday – Days 29 and 30 are still scheduled for March 25th and 26th.

Beshear said the additional time was needed for House and Senate leaders to meet during the interim veto period along with the governor to reach consensus on pension reform . Both chambers passed reform bills, but are far apart in their approaches.

Drop Out Bill

In a press conference Friday Beshear told reporters he has been working with House and Senate education chairmen to find a compromise on a top priority of his – increasing the drop out age.

“The House is proposing basically a compromise that the House education chair, the Senate education chair, and I have worked on. I believe everybody is in agreement on it now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” Beshear said. “It is a bill that will put a trigger mechanism into the law that when 55 percent of the school districts or school boards approve or adopt raising the drop out age policy then it would become mandatory for every district in the state over the course of the next four years after that.”

Beshear said he hopes the full Senate will concur with the compromise and they can avoid a conference committee.

A student currently can’t drop out on his or her own until 18 but could drop out at 16 with parental permission.

Religious Freedom Bill

One bill that made it out of both chambers this week with some controversy is legislation that has been promoted as the religious freedoms measure.

House Bill 279 says that someone who acts because of a sincere religious belief can’t be infringed upon unless the government can show “clear and convincing evidence” that it violates other laws.

The Senate passed the bill late Thursday night with a 29 to 6 vote in favor, and the House approved it last Friday 82 to 7.

During the House debate, several Democratic representatives said they suspected the motivation behind the bill is to protect the Catholic Church by allowing them to cover up payouts in cases of sexual abuse by priests.

Here is a compilation of video from the House debate:

With both chambers passing the measure it now lays on the governor’s desk for his approval or veto. Reporters asked Beshear Friday morning if he would sign the bill into law.

“I haven’t really had a chance to review it in detail yet. Once we get it, we’ll review and make some determination,” Beshear said.

The Kentucky Equality Federation requested that Beshear veto the bill in a letter sent on Wednesday.

“Essentially, an individual can continue to discriminate against a gay individual in
violation of the ordinance and be protected under this new law by showing that it is
in conflict with their closely held religious beliefs. While the language adding “substantial” to the burden (via an amendment to the bill) does add some
protections, the law still is a major step backward for the equality movement,” the group wrote.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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