FRANKFORT — Two work days remain for the 2015 Kentucky General Assembly, and much is unfinished.
Lawmakers will return March 23 and 24 to consider any vetoes issued by Gov. Steve Beshear and pass a last-minute flurry of legislation on their way out of the Capitol for another year.
Until then, handfuls of lawmakers are meeting informally in conference committees to seek compromises on thorny issues such as heroin addiction and teacher pensions. The committees hope to have deals signed, sealed and ready for floor votes when the entire legislature returns next week.
Here's where some major issues stood last week after the House and Senate adjourned:
House Bill 8 would extend civil-protective orders to dating partners, and it would add stalking as an offense that would justify a protective order. It awaits a Senate floor vote and then House concurrence with a relatively minor change. Its chances look good.
Senate Bill 192 would establish revenue streams for heroin-addiction treatment; set different penalties for heroin dealers, depending on the amount of drugs they were caught with; allow local governments to establish needle exchanges for addicts; and make it easier for the public to access naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an overdose. The House and Senate don't agree on this bill, so a conference committee is reviewing it. Its chances are iffy. Lawmakers say they want a deal, but heroin bills have died for lack of consensus during the past two sessions.
House Bill 152 will largely strip the Kentucky Public Service Commission of its oversight of phone service and end the legal obligation of phone carriers AT&T, Windstream and Cincinnati Bell to provide basic phone service in urban and suburban areas. Beshear has signed it into law.
Senate Bill 17 and House Bill 70 would propose constitutional amendments allowing most felons to vote after they finish their sentences. The bills did not get a hearing in the Senate State and Local Government Committee, and no action is expected this year.
House Bill 4 originally would have authorized $3.3 billion in bonds to bail out the ailing Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System. The Senate amended it, dropping the bonds and calling for a task force to study teacher pensions. A conference committee is reviewing it. The chances for bonds are bad; a study seems more likely.
House Bill 236 would let school districts allow a high school student to serve on the screening panel that meets with superintendent candidates. It awaits a Senate floor vote. No one appears to oppose the bill, but its chances look bad nonetheless. Senators plan to attach two controversial amendments to the bill, one on religious expression in schools and the other on which bathrooms transgender students must use.
Senate Bill 29 would freeze the average wholesale price of gas in Kentucky at $2.354 a gallon for the purposes of computing the state's gas tax, which supports the Road Fund. The recent drop in gas prices is rapidly eroding the fund, which pays for road and bridge projects. The Senate Transportation Committee never held a hearing on the bill, and its chances remain iffy. Privately, lawmakers worry about a lack of money for roads and could be working behind the scenes toward a last-minute compromise. Publicly, they fear casting any vote that could be advertised against them as a tax increase.
Senate Bill 32 would cap the annualized interest rate on short-term payday loans at 36 percent. It never received a hearing from the Senate State and Local Government Committee. Its chances are bad.
Senate Bill 119 would allow school districts to waive some of their mandatory 1,062 instructional hours if they can't make up snow days by June 5. It sits on Beshear's desk awaiting his signature or veto.
Senate Bill 76 would limit transgender students to school bathrooms that match their biological sex or to accommodations such as unisex bathrooms. The House Education Committee has not given it a hearing. The bill's language also is in a Senate floor amendment attached to House Bill 236, which would let high school students serve on panels that screen superintendent candidates. Its chances are bad.
House Bill 443 would allow public-private partnerships between governments and corporations on major building projects. The Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee has not given it a hearing. Its chances are bad.
Local option sales tax
House Bill 1 is a proposed constitutional amendment to let communities vote to temporarily increase their 6 percent sales tax by 1 percentage point to fund major projects. The Senate State and Local Government Committee has not held a hearing on it. Its chances are bad.
House Bill 168 would ban breweries from owning beer-distribution networks, an action that retroactively would force Anheuser-Busch to sell its distributorships in Louisville and Owensboro. It sits on Beshear's desk awaiting his signature or veto.
Statewide smoking ban
House Bill 145 would prohibit indoor smoking in public locations and workplaces in Kentucky. The Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee has not given it a hearing. Its chances are bad.
House Bill 315 would expand requirements for use of child booster seats in Kentucky. Currently, the law says children younger than 7 and shorter than 40 inches tall should use booster seats or there might be a $50 penalty, plus a $10 mandatory donation to the Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund. The bill, as amended by the Senate Transportation Committee, would raise those requirements to age 8 and 57 inches tall. After years of failure, the proposal's chances look good this year.
UK medical research center
House Bill 298 will provide the University of Kentucky with $132.5 million in state bonds for a six-story medical research center, with UK raising another $132.5 million for the project through research contracts and private donations. Beshear has signed it into law.
House Bill 134 would give a tax break to Lexington's Keeneland racetrack when it hosts the Breeders' Cup in October. It sits on Beshear's desk awaiting his signature or veto.
Senate Joint Resolution 20 would direct the state auditor's office to determine the number of untested sexual-assault examination kits in law-enforcement offices and deliver a report to the Legislative Research Commission by Nov. 1. It sits on Beshear's desk awaiting his signature or veto.