By RONNIE ELLIS
While everyone was focused on the fate of a new state budget during Monday’s final legislative day in the 2014 General Assembly, several bills made it out of both chambers while others got caught in the last day logjam.
Some appear dead — but it’s an axiom in the Capitol hallways that no bill is dead until the General Assembly adjourns on April 15. Others, especially the two-year road plan, are likely to be passed as the Democratically-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate negotiate compromises on different versions.
Lawmakers will return on April 14 and if they choose could also meet the following day, to consider vetoes by Gov. Steve Beshear. So there’s still time for some bills to pass.
Among those that made it out of both chambers was a bill to give school districts, which missed a lot of days due to winter weather, some options. That bill went to the governor Monday and became effective when he signed it.
It requires districts to work with Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holliday to get in as many of the mandated 1,062 hours of annual instruction time they can before school ends. Districts may extend the school day, though not beyond seven hours, and those which do not have schools used as polling places may attend on primary election day.
But if the district can’t complete the 1,062 hours by June 6, it may end the school year. Districts may voluntarily continue school beyond June 6.
Making it into law was a bill to allow the research hospitals at the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville to study the effects of CBD oil on seizures and prescribe the substance derived from hemp or marijuana.
The oil, which contains either no or very small amounts of THC, the psycho-active ingredient in marijuana, seems to reduce seizures. Senate Bill 124, sponsored by Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, was in many ways the 2014 session’s “feel-good” story.
The CBD oil bill is different from “medical marijuana,” which Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, once again sponsored, but which never made it out of committee.
Senate Bill 92, sponsored by Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, establishes an adult abuse registry. Caregivers with substantiated cases of abusing adult patients would be listed on the registry which care-giving employers could check before hiring new employees.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, would prevent the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and Senate Bill 66, sponsored by Sen. Chris Girdler, R-Somerset, requires law enforcement officers from boarding water craft without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the two chambers will negotiate a compromise road plan by April 14, but it won’t include freezing the gas tax at December’s higher levels to fund more construction.
Stumbo has all but pronounced dead some Senate bills, including a constitutional amendment by Stivers to reduce the number of days lawmakers meet each year and another bill by Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, to clear the way for Kentucky Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul to run for re-election in 2016 while still running for president.
A House priority, sponsored by Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, which would automatically restore voting rights to non-violent, non-sex crime felons upon completion of their sentences seems doomed in the Senate. Thayer, the Senate Majority Leader, amended the bill to require a five-year waiting period during which the ex-felon could not commit any further offenses, including some misdemeanors.
Crenshaw has been reluctant to discuss publicly any compromise he might accept but other supporters have suggested they might accept a shorter waiting period if the other provisions added by Thayer are removed.
The Senate also hasn’t acted on a House bill to deny the natural liquids gas companies to invoke eminent domain to acquire private property for the gas line route. Franklin Circuit Judge recently ruled the pipeline companies can’t invoke imminent domain but the Williams Company and Boardwalk Partners have said they will appeal the ruling.
Stivers said the Senate believes it would be inappropriate to legislate on matters currently in litigation.
The House is sitting on Sen. Katie Kratz Stine’s bill to increase penalties for heroin offenses while increasing treatment options for addicts. A provision which defines an overdose death as “foreseeable” and allows prosecutors to charge the heroin seller with a capital offense has drawn opposition from defense attorneys and some House members who say it’s unconstitutional.
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.
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