2011 General Assembly

Senate to reconvene Wednesday, pay still in question

pay still in question; any action taken on beshear's Line-item vetoes would be Moot

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comApril 6, 2011 

FRANKFORT — The state Senate will return Wednesday and may vote to override Gov. Steve Beshear's line-item vetoes of a fix to the state Medicaid budget. However, any measure passed by the Senate Wednesday will be moot.

The Democratic-controlled House will not return, and it takes both chambers to override a veto.

The House adjourned March 24 sine dine, a parliamentary move to end its participation in the special legislative session that began March 14. The cost of the special session is about $63,500 a day, including weekends.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, have been sparring over whether legislators are going to be paid for the time since March 24 when they have not been at the state Capitol.

Beshear vetoed a section of House Bill 1 — the bill to close a hole in the Medicaid budget — that would have suspended legislative pay between the adjournment and April 6, saying the constitution does not allow the legislature to alter its pay while it is in session. Stumbo agreed and asked Williams to adjourn the Senate so that legislative pay would stop.

On Friday, Stumbo said that the cost of the legislative session since March 24 would top $500,000.

Because the special session does not end until both chambers move to end it, lawmakers from both chambers still could be paid.

In a letter to Stumbo on Friday, Williams proposed that the House and Senate agree to suspend pay during the 13-day veto period. Senate Republicans have agreed not to be paid during the veto period, he said.

Stumbo said in a letter Tuesday he did not think that the legislature had the authority to stop paying legislators and suggested that the General Assembly request an opinion from Attorney General Jack Conway, a Democrat.

Williams, in a letter dated Tuesday, said it would take only a directive from Stumbo to the Legislative Research Commission to solve the issue of pay.

Robert Sherman, the director of the Legislative Research Commission, said Tuesday that no lawmaker has been paid for the days after March 24.

Stumbo said late Tuesday that he still believes that an attorney general's opinion is needed.

The House voted to adjourn March 24 after approving the Senate's version of a bill to provide funds for Medicaid, even though a majority of the House opposed more than $100 million in spending cuts in the bill. Beshear vetoed most of the spending cuts. But he also vetoed other portions of HB1, including reporting requirements to document savings in Medicaid.

The bill would allow Beshear to transfer $166 million in the Medicaid budget from next fiscal year to the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Williams, who wants to replace Beshear, called for the House to return to Frankfort to override Beshear's vetoes.

"The vetoes have removed any accountability, assured fewer recurring cost savings for the taxpayer and provided the governor with an unlimited ability to increase Kentucky's debt level," Williams said.

Beshear has said that he vetoed many of the reporting requirements because he needed more flexibility to manage the state's fragile finances.

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