Beshear signs snow days bill into law; Senate sends marijuana oil bill to governor

jbrammer@herald-leader.comMarch 31, 2014 

Gov. Steve Beshear delivered his State of the Commonwealth Address on Jan. 7 at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort.

PHOTO BY MARK CORNELISON | STAFF — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

FRANKFORT — In one of the busiest days of this year's state legislative session, lawmakers on Monday sent Gov. Steve Beshear several major bills, ranging from snow-days relief for school districts to allowing marijuana oil for children with seizures.

Several other key bills hit snags, which might mean their demise in the 2014 General Assembly.

Among the bills in trouble are proposals to restore voting rights to nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences and to block the Bluegrass Pipeline from using eminent domain to take private property for construction of a natural gas liquids pipeline through Kentucky.

Monday marked the last day of the session until lawmakers return to Frankfort on April 14 and 15 to consider any vetoes made by Beshear. Lawmakers could pass more bills during those two days but would not get the opportunity to consider any vetoes of them by the governor. The Kentucky Constitution requires that the legislative session end April 15.

Beshear signed into law Monday the snow-days relief bill a few hours after the Senate gave final passage to House Bill 211. It contains an emergency clause, meaning it took effect immediately upon becoming law.

The measure had been debated in the House and Senate for a few weeks until a compromise was reached last week.

The law allows school districts to make June 6 the last day of this school year. It urges the districts to reach 1,062 hours of instruction for the academic year with oversight from Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. The districts may extend the length of their remaining days as long as no school day has more than seven instructional hours. Any school district that wants to go beyond June 6 may do so under the new law.

Some districts, especially those in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, have missed more than 30 days of school due to winter's bad weather.

Winners

The Senate gave final approval and sent to the governor a variety of other proposals, including:

■ Senate Bill 124, which allows the hospitals at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville to provide oil derived from marijuana and hemp to children who suffer from certain severe seizures. The benefits also could apply to adults.

The substance would be allowed when recommended by doctors practicing at the research hospitals. The bill also would allow anyone enrolled in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration trial to be treated with the oil.

■ Senate Bill 109, which prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

■ Senate Bill 92, which sets up a registry of adults who have abused someone. People could check the registry when looking for someone to tend to their loved ones.

■ Senate Bill 66, which requires police to have reasonable suspicions before entering a boat on Kentucky waters to check for possible violations. Several boaters on Lake Cumberland have complained about overzealous boating enforcement officials.

■ Senate Bill 212, which allows Sunday alcohol sales at small farm wineries.

■ House Bill 81, which calls for displaying the national motto "In God We Trust" in legislative committee rooms in the Capitol and Capitol Annex.

Likely losers

Meanwhile, Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo said it looked doubtful that several other high-profile bills would win approval in the final days of the legislative session, including:

■ House Bill 31, the eminent domain measure. Stivers, R-Manchester, said the Senate did not plan to consider the bill because of the ongoing court case about the issue.

"Until the courts deal with it, we don't think the legislature should get involved," said Stivers.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd recently ruled that owners of the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline can't use eminent domain to get land for the planned project. An appeal of the ruling has been promised by the company.

■ House Bill 70, which would change the Kentucky Constitution to give most ex-felons the right to vote. Felons convicted of intentional murder and certain sex offenses would be excluded.

The Democratic-led House wants to keep the bill in its original form, while the Republican-led Senate wants to require felons to wait five years with no misdemeanor or felony convictions before they could register to vote. The Senate version also would exclude felons with multiple prior offenses.

"I haven't seen any movement to try to resolve differences," Stivers said, but noted that lawmakers could approve such constitutional amendments April 14 and 15 and not be concerned about any gubernatorial vetoes. Beshear has no power to veto a constitutional amendment, which must be ratified by voters.

■ Senate Bill 90, dubbed the AT&T bill, which would end major phone carriers' legal obligation to provide basic land-line service in urban areas, defined as telephone exchanges that serve 15,000 or more customers. Instead, the phone carriers could steer customers into more costly wireless plans or Internet protocol-based technology.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the House would not be acting on the phone deregulation bill, which would allow major carriers to drop many land-line phone customers. AT&T has been pushing the bill for several years.

■ Senate Bill 205, which would allow Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green to run for U.S. president and the U.S. Senate in 2016. Stumbo said Monday the bill needed more study.

In limbo

Stumbo said Senate Bill 5, a proposal to stiffen penalties for dealing heroin and provide more treatment to heroin addicts, is likely to pass in some form when lawmakers return in mid-April.

The measure has been controversial primarily for its provision that would allow heroin dealers whose buyers die from the illegal drug to be charged with homicide.

Also in limbo is Senate Bill 200, an overhaul of the state's juvenile justice system that is designed to jail fewer youths. The House approved the bill Thursday and sent it back to the Senate to consider minor changes, but the Senate took no action Monday.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.comJack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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