FRANKFORT — Surely this isn’t the way it was supposed to work?
Short or odd-year sessions of the Kentucky General Assembly were supposedly designed to clean up bills passed in regular even-year budget sessions or to address issues which arose since the last session. And they were supposed to diminish the number of special sessions.
If Wednesday’s events at the state capitol are an indication, the idea isn’t working.
The day started with an effort by the Democratic-controlled House to change a bill passed by the Republican Senate to “set up a framework” to regulate the cultivation of hemp if the federal government allows its cultivation.
It ended with constitutional debates as the Democratic House majority overruled Republican Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, who said the House was violating the law by passing a bill to change state pensions without the legally required actuarial study.
In between, the House apparently killed the hemp bill, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, and pushed by Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer.
The Democratic leadership also ruled that “an act dealing with taxation” – a bill to use proceeds from instant racing and expanded lottery games to fund the pension system – did not require a three-fifths vote, even though Section 36 of the state Constitution says any revenue or expenditure measure passed in a short session must secure a three-fifths majority.
But House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, relied on an obscure 1892 court ruling to say that since the bill still required approval by the Senate, Wednesday’s vote did not represent “final passage” and therefore didn’t require a three-fifths majority.
This is how Hoover put it after a meeting of party leaders at the Speaker’s podium ended: “We are right, but we aren’t going to win.”