Kentucky lawmakers promise same focus but slower pace as 2017 session resumes
From restricting abortion to passing right to work, state lawmakers were very busy during the first week of the 2017 session.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- From restricting abortion to passing right to work, state lawmakers were very busy during the first week of the 2017 session.
As they now return from a month-long break, House and Senate Leaders say not to expect the same rapid pace in the last 25 days as in the first five. But the new GOP majority says it will get a lot done.
The big priority will be passing a charter schools bill.
The questions are what form the bill might take, how will the schools be funded, who is empowered to authorize charter schools and whether it will be a pilot program limited to Louisville and Lexington.
“I don't want to pass a pilot bill that's just Louisville and Lexington. I won't consider that successful," said Sen. Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown), the Senate Majority Floor Leader. "I think it needs to be available around the state."
In this short 30-day session, don't expect anything requiring a change to the state constitution, such as the local restoring voting rights to felons.
Senate President Robert Stivers says those constitutional issues can be dealt with in 2018.
“We want to try to keep it on a narrow focus, one related to the creation of jobs and opportunity,” said Stivers (R-Manchester.)
But there will be some social issues lawmakers will address, including one aimed at Planned Parenthood.
“I think we're going to take a look at continuing more pro-life bills like de-funding Planned Parenthood," Thayer said. "I think that's got a chance to pass."
With a GOP super-majority in both chambers, there's little Democrats can do but protest bills they oppose.
“To make sure that it does not hurt working families, working people,and the most vulnerable people in the state," said Rep. Jim Wayne (D-Louisville). "That's what we have to do right now as the minority, is to stay vigilant."
There will be some measures that get bipartisan support, such as a criminal justice reform bill designed to reduce the prison population.
“Those violent criminals, gun-related crimes, they need to be behind bars," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said. "Other folks, non-violent crimes, they need to out on the streets, rehabilitating themselves, getting back into our economy and being productive citizens."
Gov. Matt Bevin will set the tone Wednesday night when he gives his State of the Commonwealth address.
“Expect us to continue to move with a sense of purpose," Gov. Bevin told WDRB. "Expect is to continue to be focused."
One important item they will not happen this session is tax reform. That will wait until a special session later this year.
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