By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — The state Senate convened Wednesday and appears posed to pass a series of resolutions to override some of Gov. Steve Beshear’s vetos of a budget fix designed to shore up Medicaid.
Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, told the Senate Wednesday that it would recess so the Republicans and Democrats could caucus. When the Senate returns later Wednesday afternoon, it will consider resolutions that would override some language that Beshear vetoed in House Bill 1, which was passed by the House on March 24 and vetoed by Beshear on March 25.
Any action taken by the Senate Wednesday will be moot as the Democratic-controlled House adjourned sine die on March 24 and will not return. It takes both chambers to override a veto.
Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, tried to question Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, about whether the Senate could vote on a veto override. But Williams did not take Stein’s question from the floor and instead recessed for the caucus meetings.
Stein said because House Bill 1 is a budget bill, it would have to be sent to the House first for a potential veto override. The House choose not to come back, Stein said.
“I want to know if we even have possession of the bill,” Stein said during the recess. Even if the Republican-controlled Senate passes resolutions that would veto parts of House Bill 1, it won’t matter, she said.
“This is political theater,” Stein said. “It’s all for naught.”
The House passed the Senate’s version of House Bill 1 on March 24 knowing that Beshear was going to veto much of the $100 million in additional cuts that the Senate’s version contained. Beshear vetoed much of the Senate version so it closely mirrored his original budget proposal which includes moving $166 million in the Medicaid budget from next fiscal year to the current fiscal year. Beshear also vetoed a series of other reporting requirements that include capping the amount of debt he can restructure, restrictions on the use of furloughs of state employees and reporting requirements for savings in the Medicaid program.
Williams has said that Beshear vetoed all the accountability and fiscal safeguards that the Senate placed in the bill. Beshear has countered that the Senate’s restrictions would make it too difficult to manage the state’s finances.
There are still lingering questions about whether legislators will be paid from March 24 to Wednesday, the roughly 13 days that the House and Senate have been in recess. A special legislative session costs roughly $63,500 a day.
Williams has proposed that lawmakers agree to suspend their pay during that time. But House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has said there are legal questions surrounding legislative pay. The Constitution prohibits lawmakers from altering their pay during a legislative session. Stumbo has suggested that General Assembly seek an attorney general’s opinion. Williams has countered that the two chambers have agreed to forgo pay in the past and wants Stumbo to sign a directive to the Legislative Research Commission to suspend pay.
Stumbo, in a letter to Williams on Wednesday, said he still believes that an attorney general’s opinion is needed. When the House and Senate have agreed to suspend pay in the past, both chambers had agreed to sine die, a parliamentary move designed to signal the end of a session. This year, the House decided to sine die, but the Senate did not, Stumbo said.
Robert Sherman, the director of the Legislative Research Commission, said Tuesday that no lawmaker has been paid yet from March 24 to Wednesday.
Filed Under: David Williams • Elections • Featured • Federal Government • Greg Stumbo • KY General Assembly • Mitch McConnell • Rand Paul • State Budget • State Government • Steve Beshear • US Senate Race