Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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March 27, 2014

Lots of scrambling as clock ticks on General Assembly

FRANKFORT — It’s the time during a General Assembly session when the clock is ticking, the nerves are fraying and the games are played.

Lawmakers are negotiating between chambers – the Senate is controlled by Republicans, the House by Democrats – on different versions of legislation and especially the budget and a road plan.

A conference committee – leaders of both parties in both chambers, 20 lawmakers in all – began meeting Wednesday and resumed Thursday morning to work out a budget compromise. But as of Thursday afternoon, there wasn’t much apparent progress.

“We’re miles apart on the road plan,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “And we’re only about halfway going through the budget.”

The state constitution limits the General Assembly to 60 days in even-numbered years and requires it to conclude its business by April 15. Lawmakers lay out a schedule in advance which uses 56 days for legislation followed by 10 days off  – called the veto interim – while the governor considers which bills to sign or which to veto.

Lawmakers save four days after that to override vetoes. But in some past years when they were unable to agree on a budget before the veto interim, they used veto days to work out a deal. But that left the governor with the ability to legislation without the possibility of an override.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said Wednesday he wants to complete work by Monday which would preserve the veto days. Stumbo said he doesn’t think that’s possible given how little is being accomplished in the conference committee.

“We’re either going to have to quicken the pace and make some decisions or we’re going to be here through the veto period,” Stumbo said.

The conference committee was scheduled to resume work around 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Earlier that morning, the committee was still going through line-by-line comparisons of the two budgets before they adjourned for lunch, so it’s unlikely there was a break through Thursday night.

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