Final Days: Weekly Update March 18

The final few days of the 2013 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly wound down as a flurry of bills were passed back and forth between the House and Senate.  Work remains though  on other bills when we return next week for the final two days of the session.

The House began debate on Senate Bill 1, a bill to allow Kentucky’s military men and women serving overseas an easier way to cast their ballots in future elections.  The intent of the bill had broad bipartisan support in both the Senate and House, but there was one sticking point.  The bone of contention was how the votes would be cast.  The Senate voted 37 – 0 to have the ballots sent to the troops via email and returned by regular mail while certain members of the House wanted to have the ballots returned by email and offered a substitute to the original bill with that change.

The reason for wanting the ballots returned by United States Postal Service was to assure the privacy of the votes.  The Kentucky Circuit Clerk Association said that there was no way to assure that the returned email ballots would not be seen and if they were seen it would be in conflict with statute and the constitution and thus violate the principle of a secret ballot.  There was also the very real possibility of cyber terrorism and identity theft.

The difference of opinion came to a head when the Speaker Pro-Tem of the House gaveled Representative Lt. Col. David Floyd (U.S. Air Force Retired) out of order for equating this substitute to other actions by the House majority that he felt violated the Constitution.   Rep. Floyd is the most senior member of the military among the House ranks and in my opinion the Speaker Pro-Tem’s action was an insult to both the military and the House of Representatives.  Rep. Tim Moore, a current member of the Air Force Reserves also spoke in opposition to the House substitute but to no avail.  The substitute was approved in the House along mostly party lines, but it is doubtful that the Senate will change its mind.  I voted against the House substitute.

Industrial Hemp legislation remained stalled when House leadership would not allow the bill to be brought up for a vote.  Unbelievably, minutes before the House adjourned for the “veto session”, the Majority Floor Leader announced that he had filed an amendment to the full Senate and House Agricultural & Small Business Committee approved bill.  Under the new scheme, the licenses would be issued by the Kentucky State Police and oversight for the projects would be transferred to the University of Kentucky.

This new scheme will be addressed when the House reconvenes next week for a two day session that was supposed to be for consideration of any gubernatorial vetoes.  It was made clear after adjournment that the proposed changes had not been discussed with either the State Senator who sponsored the original bill or with Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner who championed this legislation.  This is radically different than what had previously been authorized and I doubt it will be approved.

The Religious Freedom Act is still awaiting the Governor’s signature.  It is my hope and prayer that he sees fit to sign this important piece of legislation.

The two day veto session begins March 25 and will be the final days of the 2013 Regular Session.  As of now neither Pension Reform nor Tax Reform legislation has been agreed to by both legislative chambers.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you; your input is most welcome.  I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 800-372-7181, directly at 502-564-8100 ext 665, or by visiting the Kentucky Legislature Home page at www.lrc.ky.gov  and clicking on the “Email Your Legislator” link.  You can also keep track of legislation for the 2013 session through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page and clicking on the “2013RS Record” link