Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

January 28, 2014

Treasurer bill passed over again

By RONNIE ELLIS
Glasgow Daily Times

FRANKFORT — For the second time in as many days, the Republican-controlled state Senate passed over a bill to offer voters a chance to do away with the constitutional office of treasurer.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sens. Chris McDaniel of Latonia, Joe Bowen of Owensboro and Damon Thayer of Georgetown, requires a super-majority of 23 votes because it’s in the form of a constitutional amendment. There are 22 Republican senators and one independent, Bob Leeper of Paducah, who typically votes with Republicans.

But Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, whose wife just gave birth, was absent. Thayer, the majority leader, said Monday – when the measure was first passed over after being placed on the orders of the day – that there was plenty of time this week to pass the measure. But several senators, Republican and Democratic, said the delay was because Republicans can’t count on any sure Democratic votes for the measure and need to wait until all Republicans are on the floor.

The office of treasurer is viewed by many as antiquated and no longer necessary. The holder of the office signs Kentucky’s checks but that’s all that is constitutionally required. Even Democratic Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has said the office is purely administrative and outdated.

The Senate did pass four other measures sponsored by its members Tuesday.

Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, would allow computer language to be counted as a “foreign language” in Kentucky high schools. Givens said it is estimated there will be as many as 1 million unfilled computer programming jobs by the year 2020 and said the measure is both “a jobs bill” and will give schools greater flexibility.

The bill passed 27-7 with six Democrats – Perry Clark, Denise Harper Angel, Morgan McGarvey, Gerald Neal, Jerry Rhoads and Dorsey Ridley – and one Republican, Joe Bowen, voting no.

Senate Bill 55, also sponsored by Givens, prohibits the commissioner of education or Kentucky Department of Education from withholding SEEK funds from a local district to punish districts or district officials. (SEEK is the primary funding formula for Kentucky public schools.)

Givens said, “To my knowledge there have been no attempts to do this, but there have been rumors.” The bill passed 36-0.

Senate Bill 53, sponsored by Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, and Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, allows ethics commissions in Jefferson and Fayette counties, both of which have merged city-county governments, to issue subpoenas. It passed 36-0.

The fourth bill passed by the Senate is SB 45, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, would allow warrants to be issued electronically. It passed 36-0.

All four measures now go to the House for action.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.