Monday, March 31, 2008

session cancelled today

Leaders have cancelled session today and moved it to Wednesday. This was done so that budget negotiations can continue throughout the day. The hope of the leaders is to have a budget by midnight so we can vote on it by midnight Wednesday. From what I can gather, the chances of a budget coming together in time is getting slim.

I have to say that having to vote on a budget I haven't seen is not an appetizing one to me.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

budget news

It is a little frustrating at this point. Apparently the negotiating is still going on. You can basically learn what I know at the Herald Leader or Courier Journal blogs.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gambling bill on life support

I am hearing no plans to call up the expanded gambling bill. It seems that it is dead for this session.

In Frankfort, I have learned that you never say never. However, the votes aren't there. The budget conference committee is working on the state budget, and it needs to finish its work this weekend. Obviously, you can't plan a budget without knowing how much revenue you have. The conference committee seems to be going forward without planning on any expanded gaming revenue.

If it does come up, it should be renamed "The Lazarus Bill".

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A suite fit for a President?

I slept on the same hotel floor as a former President last night.

Myself, Rep. Santoro of Boone Co. and Rep. Dossett of Christian Co. share a suite at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Frankfort this session. President Clinton is in Kentucky campaigning all day. His first stop was here in Frankfort, and he stayed on the same floor as our suite last night. Did not get to see him, but did meet a member of his staff and a secret service agent. Both very nice people.

Can't say I am a big fan of Pres. Clinton, but it was pretty neat to be on the same floor with him.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What happens if there is no budget?

I have had a request from a reader wanting to know what happens if there is no budget. First, I appreciate the question and request. What follows is an explanation of the process and then what happens if there is no budget.

First, the Governor submits his suggested budget. That budget is then introduced as a bill. This year that was HB 406. It is used as a starting point. Then House passes their version of the budget, which may or may not look anything like the Governor's budget. Then the budget goes to the Senate, who then passes their version. It may or may not look anything like the House or Governor's version. When the House passes a bill and the Senate passes it with changes made, it comes back to the House for either concurrence or non-concurrence. On budget bills, the House historically has always not concurred. Therefore, the bill goes to a conference committee. This is a committee made up of members of both bodies that try to work out the differences. For budget bills, it is always made up of the leaders of both parties in each chamber. They then will either successfully work out an agreement, it will be passed by both chambers and signed by the Governor, or we will go home without a budget.

So now we get to the question at hand, what happens if we leave without a budget? Well, the budget runs until June 30. So if we leave without a budget, a special session would need to be called between the end of this session and June 30th if we are to have a new one in time. Hopefully, negotiations would continue immediately so we do not get to June 30 without a new budget.

What happens if June 30th comes and goes and there is no new budget? As I understand a recent judicial ruling, the Governor could operate only "essential" government services. Everything else would have to be cut. Now the definition of essential may be in question. You have to imagine that the state prisons and state police are essential. We have to keep the court system going. You would imagine that the state parks, new roads, filling pot holes would not be essential. The question becomes from a purely legal perspective, is education essential? How about medicaid? I truly hope it does not come down to that, and I don't think it will.

Friday, March 21, 2008

budget issues

Today there was some heated back and forth between Senate President David Williams and House budget chairman Harry Moberly. Details can be found here. Why is this important? Because it probably increases the chances that there will be no budget. Hopefully that is not the case. Both these men are skilled legislators who can put issues like this aside and work toward a good budget.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Another good day

Thanks to Sen. Damon Thayer for hearing HB 309 in committee today. It passed out of the Senate State and Local Government Committee 10-0 today. It now goes on to the full Senate for final consideration. Hopefully it can have its day on the floor of the Senate.

I was also successful in attaching amendments to 2 pieces of legislation today, HB 603 and HB 683. Thanks to the sponsors of both those bills for working with me on their legislation.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Discharge petitions

A discharge petition is a maneuver that can be used to dislodge a bill from committee that won't be heard, and move it to the rules committee where it can be then put on the orders of the day.

The Republicans in the House have begun using discharge petitions to try to get some bills up for a vote this session. The first time was on Friday, attempting to dislodge SB 40 from the House Judiciary Committee. The motion to approve requires 51 votes. The vote was 40-16. Obviously, many people chose to not vote either way. So SB 40 remains in committee.

There was a discharge petition filed for HB 43, a bill to exempt military pay from income taxes. These petitions must come during a portion of the agenda called "Motions Petitions and Communications" and can only last 30 minutes. So yesterday we were educated for about 30 minutes about women's history. An interesting lesson, but obviously one designed by its length to thwart any opportunity for us to call up a discharge petition.

But good things to come from these petitions. Today in the House Appropriations and Revenue committee HB 43 was heard and passed. It is very unlikely that it would have been heard otherwise. So we are making progress.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Budget and Taxes

Wednesday we spent 5 hours in session, mostly dealing with increased taxes and the budget.

HB 262 raised taxes on cigarettes, janitorial services, chartered flights (including hot air ballons), and other services. It passed 50-45. I voted no. There are plenty of things we can do first before we raise taxes, like repeal the prevailing wage.

Then we approved the House version of the budget. I got my copy in the morning Wednesday, and read it all morning. All 312 pages. There is a lot not to like in it. However, there is plenty to like also. Therefore I voted for it to keep the process going. The final vote will come later after the conference committee.

Big day Tuesday

First, I apologize for the delay in updating. Tuesday was a long day, description of which will follow. Plus I was under the weather Monday-Wednesday. But I am ready to update.

Tuesday we passed HB 560 out of the House Education Committee. The sophomore class from Lloyd High School came down to check it out. Two students, Dezmen Ritchie and Andy Bard testified and did a great job. They received a terrific lesson in the way the legislative Branch works. I would also like to thank Pat Crowley from the Enquirer and Tom McKee from WCPO channel 9 news for coming down very early to report on it and give the kids a lot of attention. You can watch the video from WCPO at the link below.

Next step is getting it called up on the floor.

In addition, we got HB 423 passed through the Elections Committee that morning also. It is the bill I ran for the sophmores last year.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Budget week

Sounds like the House budget will pass through committee on Tuesday, and a vote on the House floor on Wednesday. A few thoughts:

First, I generally like to read bills before they come up for a vote. Given that the Governor's proposed budget is 120 pages, and I expect the committee substitute to be longer, it may be difficult to accomplish this. Therefore I may vote against it just based on the fact that I don't have time to read it. I assume we (by we I mean House Republicans) will get briefed on it before we have to vote on it.

Next, this is just the end of the second quarter, if you will. The Governor's proposal was the first quarter, the House budget is the second. The Senate will then produce their version, which is the third. Then a conference committee will work out the differences, the final quarter.

Lastly, Wednesday will be day 44 of a 60 day session. This means that the Senate will have 14 legislative days to put together their budget, and then have a conference committee, come to an agreement, and get it passed by both houses. Translation - don't be surprised if we get to the end of the session with no budget. Hopefully that does not happen. But given the time situation, I would not be surprised. Usually, the Senate would have had the budget by last week, from what I am told.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Big News

On Friday, I passed my first bill through the House of Representatives, HB 309. It was very exciting and surprisingly emotional.

Now all I have to do is get it through committee and the Senate, in the next 18 legislative days. Anyone who thinks it is a good idea, please let your State Senator know.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A tale of two committees

Today in the House Economic Development Committee (which I am on), we heard two different bills that were designed to improve economic development. I forget the number of one, the other was HB 718. Now, HB 718 would not be an improvement in my view, but that is a topic for another time. There was much discussion during both about increasing job growth in the rural areas of Kentucky, especially Eastern Kentucky.

Then later in the day there was expected to be a vote in Appropriations and Revenue Committee on the "Stream Saver" bill. It would basically eliminate a certain type of coal mining called mountain top removal. Now, some people would view passage of this bill as a good thing. But there is no argument that it would cost hundreds if not thousands of jobs in.............yep, Eastern Kentucky. Right where we need all the jobs.

Only in Frankfort.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

no quorum

We could not pass HB 423 this morning, as the committee could not get a quorum. It was disappointing, especially considering about 10 students and 6 adults came down to watch and testify. But the testimony by student Cory Howell was very good and well received.

Also, we passed a good bill out of the House, HB 534, of which I was a primary co-sponsor. It will protect general contractors and employees from unscrupulous subcontractors who drop their workers comp coverage while working on a job. Hopefully it finds favor in the Senate.

Finally, my bill that passed out of committee, HB 309, has made the orders of the day. This means that it can be called up on the floor at any time at the discretion of the Majority Leader of the House.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Another bill in committee

HB 423, a bill that I submitted both this and last year, is scheduled to be heard in the Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs committee tomorrow morning.

This is a bill that I submitted last year for the then sophomores at Lloyd HS. The chairman, Daryl Owens, was nice enough to give us a hearing last year with no vote. apparently they liked it enough to give us a hearing this year.