Last-minute bills were printed, passed and enrolled into the evening Thursday as the Kentucky General Assembly bid adieu to its 2012 Regular Session after passing final legislation—including a $4.5 billion two-year Road Plan—on the session’s 60th and last legislative day.
The House and Senate had worked behind the scenes since the veto recess began March 30 to reach agreement on the two-year blueprint for state roads and bridges, but striking a deal was difficult since both chambers and most members had competing ideas about which of the literally hundreds of worthy road projects should be included.
When the impasse on the Road Plan, found in House Bill 267, and House Joint Resolution 77—a piece of legislation that lists state and federal road projects for the last four “out years” of the overall projected six-year plan — was broken late Thursday, we lawmakers were relieved and satisfied we had met our duty to provide for the Commonwealth’s transportation needs until our next budget session in 2014.
The two-year Road Plan passed both chambers and was sent to the governor to be signed into law Thursday afternoon, along with the list of future projects in the six-year plan. But our work on making that Road Plan a reality was not finished.
As the two-year Road Plan and out-year plan were being signed and delivered to the governor’s office on the first floor of the Capitol, a group of lawmakers continued meeting upstairs on a Transportation Cabinet operating budget that would actually pay for the projects in the two-year plan. That budget, found in HB 266, was dissected and debated until late into the night. But in the end, the bill never made it back to House for final passage. The reason? Some lawmakers simply could not get the assurance they wanted from the governor that key parts of the Road Plan — which HB 266 would fund — would not be vetoed.
The result of the impasse is undesirable and unnecessary: We lawmakers were called into an extraordinary “special” session by the governor, beginning Monday, to approve a Transportation Cabinet budget. If the Governor and majority leadership in each chamber had worked together and they felt as though they could trust each other’s word, this could have been solved Thursday. That being said the Commonwealth must have a two-year Road Plan and a way to fund the projects found therein and we must reluctantly have a special session to do so.
The state’s $19.2 billion budget to operate most of state government over the next two years passed the General Assembly the day we recessed for the veto period, but it wasn’t until Wednesday that several line items in the budget bill, House Bill 265, were actually vetoed by the governor.
Forty five provisions were vetoed in all by Gov. Beshear, including one that mandates state surplus money be used to beef up the state’s Budget Reserve Trust Fund (or “rainy day” fund) to nearly $73 million by the end of the biennium. Also vetoed was a provision that requires the governor to come up with another $80 million in savings across state government — one of many provisions that the governor said limits his day-to-day ability to manage the budget as events dictate. The majority leadership of the House chose not to vote to override the governor’s vetoes, but instead focused on getting the Transportation budget and prescription “pill mill” legislation (found in HB 4) through both chambers – though the prescription-drug bill wasn’t resolved by adjournment. The Governor’s last minute vetoes and the lack of consideration of overriding any of them are direct reasons for the mistrust in regard to the road plan and why this process was not finished
Despite the failings of the last day of the 2012 session, nearly 150 bills were approved by the House and Senate that either have been signed into law, or are awaiting the Governor’s signature during the 60-day session. Legislation passed during that time range from making synthetic forms of marijuana and other drugs illegal, to lowering the filing age for city council candidates to 18. Other bills approved include doing away with the pension program for Confederate veterans, and expanding the criminal definition of an abused child to include those sexually abused or forced into prostitution.
As always, I welcome your comments and concerns about state government. I can be reached on my cellular phone at 270-597-6019 or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. A taped message containing information on legislative committee meeting schedules is available by calling 1-800-633-9650, and information on the status of each bill is available by calling 1-866-840-2835. If you have Internet access, I can be reached at Michael.Meredith@lrc.ky.gov or you may keep track of legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.