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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 Kentucky General Assembly Final Night: What Passed, What Didn't

Via CN2- The final hour probably was not lawmakers’ finest hour.

Earlier Tuesday night — the 60th and final day of the 2014 session — they passed a flurry of bills. But the last hour of the session was marked by procedural votes, finger-pointing and inaction on several key bills.

First, what passed on the final night:

The Road Bill – Not passing the bill with road and bridge projects or the funding for the transportation cabinet has forced special sessions in the past, most recently in 2012. But lawmakers avoided that Tuesday. Lawmakers passed the roughly $4 billion project list that includes money for megaprojects, including $29 million for the next phase of a new Northern Kentucky bridge and funding for expansion of the Mountain Parkway. Both chambers also passed the corresponding transportation operations bill late Tuesday night.

The “AK Steel bill” – The measure provides tax incentives for large manufacturing companies to make major investments, such as AK Steel’s plans for a new boiler at its facility in Ashland. Lawmakers from northeast and eastern Kentucky circled this one as a priority. Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, said Tuesday evening that outside of the road bill, this was next on his list of what the legislature must get done. Attached to Senate Bill 74, the measure passed both chambers Tuesday night, although not without an emotional fight in the Senate over another rider dealing with lifting a nuclear power moratorium in Kentucky.

Coal county scholarships – For the second session in a row, the bill to establish a scholarship program for students from coal producing counties came down to the final hours. Last year, the clock ran out on the measure. This year, it was done by 10:30 p.m. The measure calls for coal severance tax money to be used to help students from eastern and western Kentucky coal counties attend colleges in their regions.

Blocking rapists’ parental rights — Both chambers signed off late on Senate Bill 108, sponsored by Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, that would cut off the ability of a man convicted of rape to get visitation rights to a child fathered during the attack.

Accountability for school finance officers – After a spate of financial malfeasance in several school districts over the last two years, lawmakers passed a bill that requires school district finance officers to have a business and accounting background and calls for more financial training for school leaders.

What was left on the legislative cutting room floor:

The heroin bill – Left to the end by the House amid concerns about different provisions, the House ran out of time in the final hour to pass anything.

The AT&T bill — The bill to remove a key telecommunications requirement, known as the AT&T bill, failed to pass, much to the chagrin of state Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville.

Legislative ethics bill – House Democrats made a last-ditch effort to strengthen the governance of the Legislative Ethics Commission. Those new proposals came in the wake of last week’s vote by the commission that resulted in no charges against former Democratic Rep. John Arnold for violating the ethics code by making sexually inappropriate comments and actions toward legislative staffers. In the end, the Senate didn’t take it up.

Rupp Arena project finding – Last ditch efforts to approve state funds and approval to go forward with the the renovation of Rupp Arena just couldn’t get much traction. In the end, Senate Republicans, as a group, weren’t comfortable with how solid the financing plan from Lexington was.

Felon voting rights — A potential compromise on the constitutional amendment emerged Tuesday evening. House Democrats put out a version that included a three-year waiting period for ex-felons to automatically get back their rights to vote. Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, who had wanted a five-year waiting period as well as other guidelines, declined Tuesday night to say what he and Senate Republicans would accept, saying he was focused on other bills. Ultimately, the constitutional amendment that Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, had been pushing for more than a decade, was left undone.

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