Politics & Government

Stumbo says no gambling legislation this session

FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Wednesday that the legislature is unlikely to tackle any gambling related legislation this session, which begins next week.

Proponents of expanded gambling have pushed the legislature to change the law to allow for video lottery terminals, or VLTs, at the state's race tracks. However, those efforts have been stymied by the Republican-controlled Senate in recent years.

After November's election, the Senate Republicans increased their majority to 22. There are now 15 Democrats and one independent who caucuses with the Republicans.

"Obviously the makeup of the Senate hasn't changed any," said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. "Until that changes, until there is some movement, I don't think that the General Assembly, or at least the House, is going to act on anything in that regard."

Earlier this month, Senate Republicans unveiled a sweeping agenda for the 2011 legislative session, which begins Tuesday and lasts 30 days.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, has said the Senate plans to pass much of that agenda during the first few days of the legislative session, which is typically used for organizational purposes and the election of leadership positions. The agenda includes creating a commission to examine the state's tax structure, tweaking the state pension plan for new state employees and making changes to some state election laws.

The Republican agenda also includes a proposal that is similar to Arizona's controversial law that would allow police officers to ask for identification and detain people they suspect are in the country illegally.

Senate Republicans made available copies of the proposed immigration bill late Wednesday. The bill would make it possible for police to determine whether someone is in the country legally and would make smuggling and helping an illegal immigrant a crime.

According to the bill, someone who is charged with smuggling a person for profit could be charged with a felony. Anyone who aids an illegal immigrant either by providing transportation, concealing the immigrant from authorities or inducing an immigrant to come to the United States could face a Class A misdemeanor charge under the current proposal.

Stumbo said he didn't believe that the state needed to change its immigration laws because there are current laws that allow police to ask questions about a person's immigration status.

Instead, Stumbo said he supports a measure pushed by Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, which would penalize companies that do business with state and local governments if they hire illegal immigrants. Under Damron's previous bills, any company convicted of employing illegal immigrants could not receive government contracts for up to five years.

"I think there will be some discussion on immigration," Stumbo said. "If you really want to solve the immigration issue, then you make the burden on the employers. Because if the jobs aren't here, neither would the illegal immigrants be here."

The House Democratic caucus was supposed to meet earlier this month, but meetings were canceled because of the weather. Stumbo said that after the caucus meets, the priorities for the 30-day session will become more clear. However, Stumbo said he does expect the House Democrats to tackle legislation that would increase the state's dropout age from 16 to 18, a measure that has been pushed by Gov. Steve Beshear. Similar efforts to increase the dropout age have failed in previous sessions.

Stumbo said he believes there is also support for a measure that would require people to obtain a prescription for some cold medicines that contain high amounts of pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in making methamphetamine.

The state's narcotics officers are encouraging passage of the bill to curtail methamphetamine use in Kentucky.

Stumbo said it is unlikely that the Democrats will unveil a sweeping agenda.

"None of us is running for governor over here," Stumbo quipped. Williams is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. Beshear is also seeking re-election in 2011.

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