By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
Lawmakers in both chambers of the Kentucky General Assembly passed priority bills this week, but most of them face a likely chilly reception in the other chamber.
The Republican controlled Senate passed Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, which would ask voters to approve a change in the constitution allowing lawmakers to override regulations by the executive branch at any time of the year, rather than just when in session as is now the law.
Presently, a subcommittee reviews such regulations throughout the year and can find them “deficient,” but the governor can implement the regulation anyway. It can be overridden by majority votes of both chambers when they next convene in regular session.
Critics of Bowen’s measure say it would place too much power in the hands of a few lawmakers who don’t adequately reflect the will of the entire General Assembly, perhaps as few as eight which is the number of lawmakers on the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee. The bill passed the Senate 24-14 on party line votes.
The same day, the Democratic controlled House passed House Bill 1, sponsored by Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. Democrats say it’s necessary so working people can earn a “living wage,” but Republicans called it a “job killer” and an “unfunded mandate.” It passed 54-44.
Neither measure is likely to pass the other chamber. The minimum wage bill is seen by Republicans as Stumbo’s effort to boost the U.S. Senate campaign of fellow Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has called for an increase in the federal minimum wage and criticized incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell for opposing an increase. Meanwhile, Democrats suspect the Senate of trying to create a controversy over Gov. Steve Beshear’s implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act which McConnell has said needs to be “pulled out root and branch.”
In other legislative action this week:
—SB 8, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, would require physicians performing abortions first to conduct an ultrasound on the pregnant patient and describe what it reveals to the patient. The measure passed 33-5 but it likely will face obstacles in the House Health and Welfare Committee, assuming the bill is assigned to the committee chaired by Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville. Burch has declined to call similar bills in the past.
—SB 106, sponsored by Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The measure would allow victims of domestic violence under court protection to ask the court for permission to carry concealed weapon for up to 90 days if they have no prior criminal conviction;
—SB 98, sponsored by Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, would create an adult protection registry; agencies that employ caregivers of vulnerable adults would be required to check with a registry maintained by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to see if a prospective employee, vendor or contractor is registered with the Cabinet;
—The House Health and Welfare for the fourth time approved a bill creating a statewide smoking ban. HB 173, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom, would ban smoking in public places. Westrom said she believes the measure will for the first time get enough votes to pass the House and Senate. Boosting its chances this time is co-sponsorship by Rep. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, and the support of Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville. The bill passed out of committee 10-3, with three Republicans voting against it.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.