Heavy workload awaits lawmakers on final day of 2012 General Assembly

jbrammer@herald-leader.comApril 2, 2012 

Kentucky Budget

As Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, upper left, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, upper right, listened, Gov. Steve Beshear delivered his budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly on Tuesday night.

JOHN FLAVELL — ASSOCIATED PRESS

FRANKFORT — State lawmakers will face a heavy workload when they return to Frankfort April 12 to end Kentucky's 2012 General Assembly.

Their biggest jobs will be to consider any vetoes issued by Gov. Steve Beshear and to decide what to do with legislation that was left hanging when they departed from the Capitol on Friday night.

High on that list are two measures pushed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo: an anti-drug bill to regulate pain-management clinics in hopes of curbing prescription drug abuse, and a bill to set up a scholarship program for students in coal-producing counties.

They also will have to finalize a state road-building plan for the next two years.

Some legislators will get a head start on the pending workload on April 11.

Members of two Senate committees — State and Local Government and Judiciary — will meet then to vet appointments Beshear to various boards and commissions.

That process sometimes flares up when the Republican-controlled Senate has an issue with an appointment by the Democratic governor.

So far, Beshear has not vetoed any of the 123 bills that the General Assembly sent him through Friday.

The governor has three options in dealing with legislation: veto it, sign it into law or let it become law without his signature after 10 days. Beshear can line-item veto the state budget bill that lawmakers sent him last Friday.

He has no veto power over constitutional amendments, but none has emerged from the General Assembly so far.

Each chamber has approved a handful of constitutional amendments, but the only proposal with possible bipartisan support is Senate Bill 18, which would establish new standards for the legislature when it redraws its own House and Senate districts every 10 years.

The Kentucky Senate will reconvene at 10 a.m. April 12, and the House will start at noon.

The Senate is in possession of House Bill 4, the prescription-drug measure sponsored by Stumbo.

Senate leaders tried to push a vote on the bill last Friday but it ran into trouble. Instead, leaders will consider possible changes before attempting another vote April 12.

The Senate also did not act on House Bill 260, the scholarship program for students in coal-producing counties. The bill initially called for putting the University of Pikeville in the state university system, but Stumbo changed it when the UPike proposal faltered.

The Senate is unlikely to consider a bill that could increase secrecy of child-abuse records at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

An amended version of Senate Bill 126 would create an external task force to examine child deaths as a result of abuse and neglect, but it also would limit what information the cabinet must release about deaths and injuries of abused children. In addition, the bill would create a child ombudsmen to investigate improprieties in the state's child protection system.

Late Friday, SB 126 was sent back to committee, which means its chances of being voted on this legislative session are slim.

In addition to handling legislation, lawmakers might take a basketball break on April 12, depending on what happened Monday night in New Orleans. The legislature traditionally has invited NCAA championship teams from Kentucky to visit.

Such visits make great photos for election campaigns.

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