Ky. lawmakers to begin working on range of issues - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Ky. lawmakers to begin working on range of issues

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky lawmakers were back at work in Frankfort Tuesday afternoon.

The state budget will be a big focus for the 2014 session. Hundreds of millions of dollars are needed to shore up government pensions. That will leave less money than some lawmakers would like for education.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo wants to raise money by hiking the state sales tax, which Republicans oppose.

Lawmakers will also be looking at tax reform, casino gambling and domestic violence.

But by Tuesday afternoon, Democrats and Republicans were already accusing each other of playing politics -- and the central issue involved sexual harassment allegations against a former House member.

The committee charged with investigating sexual harassment allegations against former Representative John Arnold officially issued its report, and it sparked a fierce debate on the House floor. On the same day Arnold's replacement, Suzanne Miles, was sworn in as a new member of the House, the chairman of the committee, appointed by House Speaker Stumbo, told members it took no action because Arnold had already resigned.

Based on the advice of the council, the committee found that the resignation of the former member ended the committee's ability to recommend any disciplinary action," said Rep. Jeff Donohue a Democrat from Fairdale.

Donohue's comments touched off a sharp response from the committee's Republican members who wanted the investigation to continue.

"I strongly disagree that this committee did not have the legal authority to investigate," said Rep. Robert Benvenuti, of Lexington. "It did. I believe the citizens of the Commonwealth understand that it did, and I believe they will hold us accountable."

"There was an air of, 'I'm going to be partisan first and a human being second,'" added Rep. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville.

But as Yolanda Costner, one of the women who accused Arnold, looked on, the committee Democrats defended their actions, accusing Republicans of playing politics.

"Some sought to go beyond the scope of the petition to go on a hunting expedition," said Covington Democrat Arnold Simpson. "

It was clear as far as House Speaker Stumbo was concerned, the case was closed.

"I take a bit of offense at the political nature of what I think occurred today," Stumbo said.

But even some of Stumbo's fellow democrats remain unsatisfied.

"There are still some questions out there that need to be addressed," said Rep. Reggie Meeks of Louisville.

So now the House moves on to other issues, starting tonight, when Gov. Beshear gives his State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly.

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