By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Monday he would ask Gov. Steve Beshear to call an immediate special legislative session on redistricting if the Senate offered a valid plan.
Stumbo’s comments came in response to a federal lawsuit filed April 26 by several Northern Kentucky officials and residents who want the court to force lawmakers to draw new legislative districts or allow a federal court to draw the boundaries.
“No one wants to preserve legislative independence more than I do,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “That’s why the House passed a solid redistricting plan last session (this year) and urged the Senate to do the same.
“Sadly, continued inaction pushes us closer to the brink of federal intervention. I can’t imagine why anyone would want federal judges to do our job.”
Stumbo urged the Republican-led Senate to offer a “valid” redistricting plan.
“The House plan has been public for months, and it is time to wrap this up,” Stumbo said. “The Senate knows I stand ready to act.”
Stumbo included in his response a proposed redistricting map for the Senate.
By Jack Brammer and Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear indicated Tuesday that he is likely to call a special legislative session this year to redraw the boundaries of state legislative districts.
“I hope to deal with redistricting sometime before the next regular session in January so that it will not become a distraction when we’re preparing the budget for the commonwealth for the next two years,” Beshear said. “I will continue to discuss this possibility with legislative leaders.”
Beshear’s comments came after House Speaker Greg Stumbo told him in a letter Tuesday that the Democratic-controlled House “stands ready” to tackle redistricting if he should decide to call a special session.
Lawmakers are not scheduled to meet again in session until the 2014 General Assembly begins in January. Only the governor can call a special session and set its agenda.
“I believe this is an issue better resolved sooner than later,” Stumbo said in his letter to Beshear. “We need to avoid costly litigation that, no matter how it is decided, will end with the same result: new legislative districts for the House and Senate.”
By Linda B. Blackford
A measure to regulate hemp farming in Kentucky might not be dead yet.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Tuesday morning that people were working on modifications to Senate Bill 50, which has stalled in the House. A day earlier, Stumbo said the proposal would not get a vote in the House during this year’s legislative session.
Stumbo would not commit to bringing the measure to a vote by the House during the final three days of the 30-day legislative session. He said House Democrats discussed the proposal during a caucus meeting Monday.
“The bill was fairly flawed,” Stumbo said. “People are working on some clean-up language.”
SB 50, sponsored by Republican Sen. Paul Hornback of Shelbyville, would set up a licensing framework for Kentucky farmers to grow hemp if federal restrictions are lifted.
State Rep. Richard Henderson, D-Mount Sterling, has filed two floor amendments to the bill that would require the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky State Police to randomly test industrial hemp for compliance with THC levels. THC is the chemical that gives smokers of marijuana, hemp’s botanical sibling, a high.
By Linda B. Blackford and Jack Brammer — firstname.lastname@example.org
A measure to regulate hemp production in Kentucky will not get a vote in the House during the 2013 General Assembly, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Monday morning.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said time had run out for the measure, which was pushed by Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer. Monday marked the 27th day of the 30-workday legislative session.
Senate Bill 50 and other legislation stuck in the House Rules Committee on Monday morning will not get considered by the full chamber, Stumbo said.
“It’s a shame that he’s acting so proudly in killing the only jobs bill of this session,” said Holly Harris VonLuehtre, a spokeswoman for Comer. “It appears to be a one-man band running the House.”
By Jack Brammer and Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — Hoping to avoid a special legislative session, Gov. Steve Beshear and legislative leaders will meet Friday in an effort to hammer out a deal to shore up the state’s ailing pension system.
Lawmakers decided late Thursday to not convene the full House and Senate Friday, giving legislative leaders time to determine if they can find common ground on the pension issue.
“The governor wants — as we all do — to avoid a special session,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. Stumbo declined to say when the meeting would occur.
Thursday was the 26th day of the 30-day session. The legislature will reconvene Monday and Tuesday, then recess until late March, when they will meet for two days to consider overriding any vetoes made by Beshear.
Beshear met behind closed doors in his Capitol office Thursday afternoon with Republican and Democratic legislative leaders, searching for a way to jump start talks on the pension issue.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo unveiled proposed new boundaries for House districts Tuesday that pit incumbents against each other in six districts and creates seven districts with no incumbent, including one in Fayette County.
The House State Government Committee approved House Bill 2 on a party-line vote Tuesday afternoon, with Democrats voting yes and Republicans voting no. The Democratic-led House may vote on the bill Wednesday.
All but one of the incumbents who would have to battle each other are Republicans.
The new Fayette County district is 88, located in the southern part of the county.
Proposed districts that pair incumbents include:
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT –Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law Tuesday House Bill 217, which makes changes to last year’s landmark legislation to curb prescription drug abuse.
“House Bill 1, which passed last year, was a remarkable and comprehensive effort to create real and substantial changes to upend prescription drug abuse, and it’s working,” Beshear said in a ceremony with several legislators.
“Unlicensed pain management clinics have closed up shop. Prescriptions for the most addictive drugs have dropped every month since implementation. However, we recognized that a few issues needed to be worked out for the comfort of the most pain-stricken patients and for the practical needs of physicians, particularly in in-patient and long-term care settings. House Bill 217 makes those tweaks without reducing the impact of House Bill 1.”
By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — Hospitals and doctors could take complaints about Medicaid managed care companies to the state Department of Insurance under a measure passed by a House committee Thursday.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, filed House Bill 5 after hospitals, doctors and other health care providers complained that companies managing the care of Kentucky Medicaid recipients have been too slow to resolve payment disputes.
Stumbo told the House Health and Welfare Committee that the bill would allow those providers to take their complaints to the Department of Insurance, which regulates disputes between private insurance companies and providers. The state contracted with three managed care companies in November 2011 to manage care for more than 570,000 Medicaid patients. Medicaid is a state-federal insurance program for the poor, disabled and elderly.
Currently, there is little recourse for a provider who has a dispute with a Medicaid managed care company.
“They are entitled to be paid and they are entitled to be paid quickly,” Stumbo said. “This won’t cost the state anything.”
No one spoke in opposition to the bill. House Bill 5 now moves to the House for consideration.
By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — An overhaul of Kentucky’s pension system will probably have to wait for a special legislative session, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Tuesday. But there’s still hope lawmakers will quickly approve a separate plan to stabilize Lexington’s police and fire pension system.
State Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, filed a bill Tuesday containing a compromise plan for the city’s pension system that was hatched last month by Mayor Jim Gray, police and fire unions and pension board members.
The plan was ratified in recent days by 76 percent of active and retired police officers and firefighters.
House Bill 430 would reduce the police and fire pension plan’s $296 million unfunded liability by almost half, to $160 million.
By Beth Musgrave and Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Tuesday that a 40 cent increase in the tax on a pack of cigarettes is one of many options the Democratic House is considering to fund the state’s ailing pension fund.
The increase would bring state cigarette taxes to $1 a pack, which is still lower than most neighboring states, Stumbo said. Raising taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products would generate the $100 million in General Fund dollars needed by July 1, 2014, to fully fund the pension system, he said.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, declined to name other options House Democrats are considering, but said he hopes to have those options ready for the Democratic caucus to possibly vote on during a meeting on Wednesday.
“It’s going to be part of the general discussion on where the members want to go,” Stumbo said of the cigarette tax.