By: Joe Arnold
Kentucky’s 2015 General Assembly convenes in just 33 days amid gloomy predictions whether legislators will be able to come to any agreements on pressing issues.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) — Kentucky’s 2015 General Assembly convenes in just 33 days amid gloomy predictions whether legislators will be able to come to any agreements on pressing issues.
Yet, Governor Steve Beshear (D-Kentucky) tells WHAS11 he is optimistic that lawmakers will come to an agreement on several initiatives that have come up short in prior sessions, among them bills to deal with dating violence, heroin abuse and a statewide smoking pan in workplaces and public places.
“I think there are several things we can accomplish during this upcoming session,” Beshear said. “I think something on dating violence needs to be done. And you know that issue has been around, it’s been worked on.”
Kentucky is one of only four states that don’t provide emergency protective orders to people in a dating relationship or to victims of sexual assault and stalking.
“And I’ve got some indications with leadership in both houses that we might be able to put something together on that,” Beshear said.
The odd-year session lasts only 30 days and comes between the hotly contested 2014 elections and what’s expected to be an equally contentious 2015 governor’s race.
“Obviously the heroin issue has to be addressed,” Beshear said, “And I believe we’ll also be able to get everybody together on that.”
369 days are left before Beshear leaves the governor’s office. But he’s not counting the days, He’s counting on lawmakers.
“Someone’s got to sign those bills I guess,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown). “I don’t know if that’s a factor. We’re going to be for our set of core beliefs. And we’re going to work to pass those whether or not we think the House will pass them or not, and whether or not Governor Beshear will sign them.”
“There are a number of big issues that we can work with the House and the governor to get passed,” Thayer added, singling out heroin reform.
A heroin reform bill sponsored by Sen. Katie Stine (R-Southgate) withered in the closing hours of the 2014 session. Stine has retired and will not return for the 2015 session, but Thayer said Republicans will pick up where she left off.
“We want, in general, a bill that cracks down on the dealers, puts them in jail and punishes them and sends a message to these dealers,” Thayer said. “They can just stay away from Kentucky. And we also need to look at more treatment options for addicts.”
Though Thayer said the Senate agenda will be driven by members of the caucus, he concurred that the Republican led Senate will likely pass legislation on Right to Work, tort reform and charter schools.
Priorities in the Democratic majority House include a minimum wage hike, public-private partnerships and the local option sales tax.
“I think it’s a very innovative way to raise money for our communities dedicate those funds to issues of that community,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo
(D) Prestonsburg said in a news conference last month.
Supporters will also try again to pass a statewide smoking ban in workplaces and enclosed public places.
“But that’s a tough one,” Beshear acknowledged. “As we all know, so that’s going to take some time to probably get there. But, we’ll be pushing several measures like that. Hopefully they’ll get at least part of the way down the road.”
As he enters his final year in office, Beshear is not spending any political capital on what was his top issue when he first took office, expanded gambling.
“You know, the gaming issue I’ve supported now for seven years,” Beshear said. “And while I support it and I think most of the public supports it, I have never been able to get the industry together on it.”
“I’ll have some tracks that are for it and some are against it,” Beshear continued. “Some breeders are for it, some are against it. And they’ve never been able to some together for the good I think of the Commonwealth and the good of the horse industry.”
“It’s still an issue on my mind, but I don’t see a lot of people coming together to make that happen,” the governor said.
He also issued the following statement to WHAS, “Governor Beshear and the newly elected Republican leadership of the Kentucky State Senate met today in his office to discuss issues to be addressed in the upcoming legislative session. All parties agreed to continue working together in a bipartisan manner to move the Commonwealth forward.”