As legislature winds down, fate of two major bills still uncerta - WDRB 41 Louisville News

As legislature winds down, fate of two major bills still uncertain

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Members of the General Assembly are back in Frankfort for the final two days of the 2015 session and action on two of the most important issues may come down to the wire.

Lawmakers say they remain optimistic they can reach a deal on a heroin bill, but the fate of a bill to stabilize the gas tax is less certain.

The same hurdles remain on the heroin bill. The Senate wants stricter punishments for heroin possession, while the House wants a program allowing addicts to exchange dirty needles for clean ones.

“We've already told them, under certain circumstances, we'll vote for a needle exchange -- and I don't want to vote for a needle exchange -- but I'm not willing to give up the good for the sake of the perfect. If the penalties are right, I'm going to vote for the bill,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown).

Lawmakers say several days of negotiations, both public and private, have brought the two sides closer but there's no agreement yet.

“We're closer than we've been. I can say that. Again, I can't guarantee that we'll get there, but I hope so,” said Rep. John Tilley (D-Hopkinsville), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Lawmakers are also negotiating a bill to freeze the gas tax. The tax goes down as fuel prices go down, and it's costing the state millions of dollars used to repair and build new roads & bridges.

“It's a matter of safety. It's a matter of travel efficiency. It's a matter of commerce,” said Dave Adkisson, the president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Adkisson spoke at a rally held by supporters of the gas tax freeze, as they try to put more pressure on lawmakers to act.

“No one wants to pay more tax, but everyone wants roads, and we desperately need to continue the programs we have to expand economic development in Oldham County,” Judge Executive David Voegele told WDRB News.

However, House and Senate leaders still appear far apart publicly.

“Well, we're on the record as to what we'll do. We're for shoring up the road fund. So, it's really a question of what the Senate wants to do," said House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg).

“There's still going to be plenty of money to pave roads, to build roads and fix potholes. Let's be honest with the people of Kentucky here. We don't need to have this crisis mentality,” said Thayer.

There is also buzz the session could be extended by adding two snow days, when the Senate was in session but the House was not. For now, leaders on both sides say that is unlikely.

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