Beshear: 'Plenty of time' left to consider expanded gambling

jbrammer@herald-leader.comFebruary 8, 2012 

Gov. Steve Beshear and other state and federal officials spoke about Kentucky's drug problems at the Kentucky Prescription Drug Abuse Summit in Lexington.

HERALD-LEADER

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear said Wednesday he will wait "a few more days" to unveil his long-anticipated constitutional amendment to expand gambling because of the uncertainty of legislative redistricting.

"I think we still have plenty of time to address that issue after redistricting is settled," Beshear said to reporters after a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda to honor Black History Month.

Beshear said in December that he would present in the 2012 General Assembly a constitutional amendment to expand gambling. Wednesday is the 24th day of the 60-day session, which must end by April 15.

Redistricting — the redrawing of boundaries for legislative and congressional districts — has largely paralyzed the lawmaking session.

Lawmakers generally don't like to act on controversial issues until they know who their opponents will be.

On Tuesday, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd declared Kentucky's newly drawn legislative districts unconstitutional and ordered election officials to use previous district lines in this year's state legislative elections.

The judge tossed out boundaries that lawmakers approved and Beshear signed into law last month. Shepherd also extended the filing deadline for legislative candidates to 4 p.m. Friday.

Beshear said he should know more in the next two or three days on what is going to happen to redistricting.

He said the redistricting issue is "delaying a lot of significant issues that are on hold, not only the gambling amendment but a lot of other issues that are waiting to be considered."

But, he said, "We still have plenty of time to address significant bills."

Senate State and Local Government Chairman Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he has talked to Beshear since Shepherd's ruling about the status of a gambling amendment.

"At this moment, I still think a controversial issue like that still needs to wait a little while longer," said Thayer, who has said he might introduce the Democratic governor's gambling proposal in the Senate.

"It's clearly delayed, but there is still plenty of time to deal with it," Thayer said. "There's no sense of rushing it out under current circumstances."

Asked whether he will wait to introduce it until redistricting is resolved, Thayer said, "Today, I think redistricting is looming so large over this session that a controversial issue like that is probably not going to help matters.

"I think we need to devote our time and energy to redistricting."

Thayer was adamant that the issue of expanded gambling is not dead.

"We still have about two-thirds of the session to go. It's just delayed."

Martin Cothran, spokesman for conservative advocacy group The Family Foundation, which opposes expanded gambling, disagreed with Beshear's and Thayer's assessment of the gambling measure.

"The gambling bill is still dead," said Cothran. "If they introduce this now, it will be like the coming-out party for Norman Bates' mother in Psycho."

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is to hold "a coalition news conference" at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda to support a constitutional amendment on expanded gambling.

Herald-Leader staff writer Janet Patton contributed to this article.

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