2017 General Assembly marked by passage of conservative agenda, failure of attempt to limit Attorney General
House Speaker says the new GOP Majority kept its promise.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- In the hours after the 2017 session of the General Assembly ended, the talk at the Kentucky Capitol was almost as much about a bill that did not pass as those that did.
The session ended shortly before midnight without passage of a controversial bill that would limit the powers of the Attorney General. House Speaker Jeff Hoover said the clock simply ran out on House Bill 281.
“We had some concerns about it, but we think we could have brought it on the floor and had a good debate and probably could have passed it if we would have had time,” he said.
The politically charged bill, which was seen as an extension of the feud between Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, did pass the Senate, 26-12, late Thursday, but not before Democrats blasted it.
“House Bill 281 is nothing more than a power grab and nothing more than a way not just to weaken the Attorney General but to weaken the people of the state of Kentucky,” said Sen. Reggie Thomas (D-Lexington)
Attorney Andy Beshear applauded the bill's defeat.
“HB 281 was an unconstitutional power grab that would have silenced the voice of Kentuckians before the United States Supreme Court," Beshear said in a statement. "The House's refusal to pass the final bill will allow me to continue to fight for all Kentucky families."
Senate President Robert Stivers said he'll try again next year.
“Without a doubt,” Stivers said.
Lawmakers did pass a flurry of bills in the final hours.
HB 330 gives the KFC Yum! Center more time to pay off its debt, but lawmakers made it clear they want the University of Louisville to keep its promise to contribute more cash.
“There is is an expectation from this body that they will step up beyond what has been stepped up before and come to the table and do this deal,” said Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill.)
Lawmakers also toughened penalties on trafficking fentanyl and carfentanil used to lace heroin. That same bill also restricts prescriptions on pain pills.
“This bill is aimed at, at least in part, curbing the flow of some of those prescription meds, getting into our communities, the opiates,” said Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville.)
The House spent much of its final hours debating and narrowly passing the so-called Walmart bill, requiring the posting of a bond when appealing zoning decisions in court.
“One of the main reasons for doing this, that I'm voting for this, is because of the people in west Louisville that wanted that Walmart ... are now being denied the opportunity for economic development,” said Rep. Jerry Miller (R-Louisville.)
But another Louisville lawmaker passionately opposed the bill.
“House Bill 72 is designed to stop people who are living in poverty in Appalachian areas, people in rural areas, from challenging oppressive zoning decisions,” argued Rep. Attica Scott (D-Louisville.)
But with Republicans in control of both chambers for the first time in a century, the session was marked by passage of a conservative agenda that included right to work, new abortion restrictions and education issues such as charter schools.
“To pass 75-80 percent, maybe even 90 percent of that agenda, is pretty impressive,” Stivers said.
“We made promises during the election last year of things we wanted to do, and we kept those promises,” Hoover said.
Lawmakers may not be gone for long. Gov. Bevin is expected to call them back for a special session on tax reform later this year.
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