FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear said he does not understand why a bourbon-sampling bill is in jeopardy in this week's special session because legislative leaders had told him they would support the bill.
"It's hard to figure out what the problem is," he said Thursday during a Capitol news conference.
The measure, sought by the Kentucky Distillers Association, would allow free bourbon samplings at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this fall and other conferences in wet counties around the state.
"Both the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House asked me privately and publicly to put that issue on the call because they had the votes to pass it," Beshear said.
The Senate has passed the measure, but the House has defeated it. The House still can consider the Senate bill, but key lawmakers say there are no plans to do so.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Thursday that he never told the governor there were enough votes in the House to pass the bourbon bill. "I told him I supported it and we ought to do it," he said.
Stumbo said he thinks most House members thought the bill would apply only to the Games, but the bourbon industry wanted it to be more far-reaching. He called the bourbon industry "a bit disingenuous."
Earlier this week, House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, pushed in a committee a bourbon-sampling bill that would expire Oct. 31.
Stumbo said Clark is willing to support a compromise that would allow samplings at the Games and the National Conference of State Legislatures in Louisville in July, but industry representatives rejected the idea.
"We would pass a scaled-down version," Stumbo said.
Clark said Wednesday that he thought the Senate bill was too permissive for many House members. "Most of the members I've talked to want to have a more controlled environment," Clark said.
But Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington and the original sponsor of the bill, said she felt the bill was doomed because Clark was not willing to negotiate. Westrom said the measure was never intended to be temporary. The same bill was first introduced in 2006, she said.
Westrom said Clark is angry that distillers did not do enough to support one of his previous bills that would allow sales of some alcoholic beverages at the state parks. Clark has denied that's the reason he doesn't support the measure.