Source: Lexington Herald-Leader
There’s been a lot of sniping between the two houses of the Kentucky General Assembly about which is getting things done.
Until late last week the Senate might have earned bragging rights on this point.
But the House turned the tables.
On Thursday and Friday, the House passed major legislation to:
■ Amend the state constitution to both restore felon voting rights and allow voters to decide on local sales tax increases to fund local projects;
■ Create a statewide smoking ban in public places;
■ Provide civil protections for partners in dating relationships;
■ Address the heroin epidemic (the Senate had already passed its own bill on this issue.)
The Senate is now facing its moment of truth, with barely two weeks left in this short session.
These are important pieces of legislation that could affect the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians, their engagement in civic affairs, and the ability of communities to fund projects locally rather than rely on Frankfort or Washington. All have been debated but failed to become law in recent years.
Approving the constitutional amendments simply means putting them on the ballot for voters to decide upon. For the local-option sales tax, local voters would have to give approval before a tax could be levied. The time has come for the Senate to let the voters decide on these two measures.
The Senate’s objections to the dating violence law, which extends civil protections to dating couples now available to married and co-habiting couples or those who have children, have always been difficult to understand. This year it seems as if reason might prevail. Both the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, have signaled a willingness to pass a bill.
The smoking ban will face opposition in the Senate, where legislators worry that protecting the health of employees and others who are exposed to secondhand smoke in public places infringes excessively on the rights of people who choose to damage their own health by smoking.
A major point of contention between the two heroin bills will be the House provision allowing communities to establish needle exchanges. Again, this would empower communities to weigh the merits for themselves.
Compromise is inherent to our system; we expect the Senate to debate and recommend changes. But these measures are too important to be torpedoed with disingenuous amendments or relegated to committees from which they never emerge.
Most taxpaying voters are more interested in seeing quality legislation passed than in parsing out exactly which chamber gets the blame when nothing gets done.