FRANKFORT — After days of political wrangling, a measure that would require more accountability and transparency for two groups that represent Kentucky cities and counties was unanimously passed by the House Friday and will likely become law, according to a key supporter.
Senate Bill 88 — a bill related to contracting for health departments — was amended on the House floor Friday to include language from other House and Senate bills that would make the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties subject to open records and open meetings laws, give their boards a code of ethics and allow the state auditor to review their books.
The bill also would require the two embattled organizations, which were the subject of scathing state audits last year after articles in the Herald-Leader exposed hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable spending, to post their expenditures online.
House Local Government Chairman Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, proposed the amendment that included provisions of Senate Bill 87, sponsored by Sen. Damon Thayer, D-Georgetown, and House Bill 325, sponsored by Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington. Thayer's bill required the groups to report their expenditures online, but Simpson's did not.
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Although disappointed that the House didn't approve his bill, Thayer said Friday that he would not block passage of SB 88 when the Senate considers changes made by the House.
"I want this legislation to pass," Thayer said. "I don't care whose name is on it. I'm going to do the right thing and support this legislation."
Simpson said the proposal does not belong to him or Thayer, since State Auditor Crit Luallen suggested most of its contents. "I don't particularly care which (bill) is adopted," Simpson said. "This is really Crit's bill."
Thayer has accused Rep. Charlie Hoffman, D-Georgetown, of blocking his measure in the House for political reasons — Thayer is supporting a Republican challenger for Hoffman's seat — but Hoffman has denied the charges.
"It's disappointing," Thayer said. "All they had to do is pass Senate Bill 87. Instead they wasted time on the floor on a bill that was not germane ... to essentially put my bill on another Senate bill. Charlie Hoffman didn't want my version of the bill to pass the House."
Hoffman, in a speech on the House floor, denied that Thayer's bill was waylaid by politics and noted that he had voted for both House and Senate versions of the bill in a House committee. "There are no politics involved," he said.
Autism bill revived
The House on Friday also passed a series of other measures that were amended to include House proposals that have stalled in the Senate, a common tactic used in the waning days of the legislative session.
Most notably, the House amended a version of Senate Bill 4 — a bill that would update laws regarding organ donation — to require large insurance companies to provide coverage for intensive treatment for autism.
The autism proposal, originally found in House Bill 144, overwhelmingly passed the House earlier this session, but has languished in the Senate Licensing and Occupation Committee.
Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said Friday that he expects the Senate to approve SB 4 with the autism amendment next week before the two chambers adjourn for a 10-day veto period.
The House also approved Senate Bill 227, which would allow counties to establish community foundations to support local philanthropy, and Senate Bill 1, which would establish certifications for primary stroke centers.