Kentucky Senate president: Plan to reduce coal mine inspections unlikely to win approval

jcheves@herald-leader.comMarch 27, 2014 

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Senate's plan to reduce the frequency of underground coal mine inspections probably won't become law, Senate President Robert Stivers said Thursday.

Stivers said leading lawmakers negotiating a compromise on the state budget are unlikely to adopt language from the Senate's proposed budget that would require two annual state inspections of every active mine, compared to the six inspections now required by law.

Stivers, R-Manchester, acknowledged that some negative publicity Thursday was a result of the Senate's proposal.

"I doubt it will be two," Stivers said. The final version of the state budget could "very easily" leave the current inspection standards intact, he said.

Stivers said he still wants to cut funding for the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing, to reflect a dramatic decline in coal production, but he doesn't know what the final appropriation will be. The mine-safety agency's budget needs its "numbers to seriously reflect what we're seeing in the industry," said Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard.

Gov. Steve Beshear has called for the agency to get $14.6 million in fiscal year 2015, reflecting the same 5 percent budget cut that many state agencies would see. The House proposed $12.4 million; the Senate, $9.7 million.

The conference committee, of House and Senate leaders, is trying to produce a compromise version of the state budget, revenue plan and road plan before Monday, when the legislature is scheduled to take a two-week break. The committee adjourned shortly after 10 Thursday night and was to resume working at 10 a.m. Friday.

The legislature is scheduled to return April 14 and 15 to consider any possible vetoes by Beshear, and then adjourn for the year.

John Cheves: (859) 231-3266. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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