UPDATED: General Assembly overrides all of Gov. Bevin's vetoes

03/29/2017 10:00 PM

UPDATED FRANKFORT — The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to reverse Gov. Matt Bevin’s vetoes Wednesday, drawing cheers from mental health advocates in the galleries of the Senate and House of Representatives.

They had urged lawmakers earlier in the day to override Bevin’s veto of Senate Bill 91, known as “Tim’s Law.” That legislation establishes a procedure for court-ordered outpatient treatment for those suffering from serious mental illnesses who have also been involuntarily committed at least twice within a year.

The Senate voted 35-1 to override SB 91 while the House voted 91-0, clearing both chambers with little debate. Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, was the lone dissenter, saying he believed the state lacks adequate resources to fund the new court proceeding.

Bevin said the legislation would “set a dangerous precedent that would threaten the liberty of Kentucky’s citizens” in his veto message Monday, but supporters say that won’t be the case.

“This is not an infringement of people’s rights,” Schuster told Pure Politics earlier Wednesday as protestors lined the steps to the Senate chamber. “This is a step forward in getting mental health treatment to a very narrowly defined population of people who absolutely need it.”

The legislature also voted to override Bevin’s vetoes on House Bill 540, which would allow airports to develop maps restricting the use of drones in certain airspace; Senate Joint Resolution 57 directing the Transportation Cabinet to name various roads and bridges and place honorary signage in different parts of the state; and a piece of House Bill 471 regarding the use of Volkswagen settlement funds.

The floor votes sailed through with little debate and opposition, and House Speaker Jeff Hoover said the action demonstrates the independence of the Republican-led legislature in its first session since the GOP took control of the House in last year’s election cycle.

Wednesday might have been the first time that a Republican General Assembly has voted to override the vetoes of a Republican governor, he said.

“I have said from day one that I fully intended for the Kentucky House to be independent at every opportunity and that when necessary to assert our legislative independence,” Hoover, R-Jamestown, told reporters in his Capitol office suite after the House voted to overturn Bevin’s vetoes of HB 471 and HB 540. “We have done that throughout this session.”

“We dictate policy and we pass laws, and the governor has the authority to veto,” he continued. “But likewise, we have the authority to override a veto if we feel strongly about the issue.”

Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said the governor’s opinions on the legislation he vetoed had not changed, spelling out his concerns in his veto messages.

“At the same time, however, he also respects and appreciates the legislative process and the separation of powers under Kentucky’s Constitution,” Stamper said in a statement. “This legislative discourse is the purest form of government in history and he is grateful to be a part of it. This has been the most positive legislative session in Kentucky’s history.”

In other legislative action, the Senate voted unanimously to concur with changes made by the House on Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, which would gradually alter the state’s education standards, giving the state Department of Education authority to review those standards every six years. It would also allow local school districts to develop teacher evaluation methods and criteria.

The upper chamber also unanimously concurred with the House on Senate Bill 120, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, that would lift certain restrictions for low-level felons seeking occupational licenses, namely automatic denials based on felony convictions, and help ease the re-entry process after they serve their sentences.

Both are heading to Bevin’s desk. The governor is among numerous supporters of SB 120.

In the House, representatives amended Senate Bill 235 to include language from House Bill 330, which would extend the life of the tax increment financing project for Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center by up to 25 years.

That bill returned to the Senate on a 90-0 vote.

Lawmakers return to the Capitol Thursday for the final day of this year’s 30-day session, with the Senate set to gavel in at 10 a.m. and the House at 12 p.m.

Spectrum News reporter Don Weber contributed to this report.


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