State lawmakers have been hustling at a near breakneck pace to rush through legislation upon their return to the Capitol after a three-week hiatus. Pension reform, streamlining reporting for special taxing districts, and more are gaining momentum.
At the end of last week, a bill to ensure greater financial transparency of special taxing districts such as water, sewer, and volunteer fire department boards and library boards had cleared one chamber’s hurdles and is heading toward the other. The purpose of House Bill One is to simplify and clarify muddled statutes dealing with special taxing districts. It’s sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts Adam Edelen is a key ambassador. Edelen performed a comprehensive review of some 13-hundred special districts across the state last year and found that more than 2.7-billion dollars flows through them with murky accountability. That’s not all the auditor found, says Stumbo.
House Speaker Stumbo’s House Bill One cleared the House on a vote of 96 to one. The measure has bi-partisan and bi-cameral support. Earlier last week in a press conference, Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown pledged his support and said he believes the measure passes the litmus test by which his chamber will judge it.
Thayer was given credit by Auditor Edelen for championing the issue of government transparency and accountability 8 years ago. The special taxing districts bill, House Bill One, now awaits assignment to a Senate committee for action there.
While House Bill One was being endorsed by the House, the Kentucky Senate advanced — with few objections — two measures that critics say would limit abortion access. The body first acted on Senate Bill 4 sponsored by Jimmy Higdon and President Pro-Tem Katie Stine. Their bill requires a woman seeking an abortion to have face-to-face counseling 24 hours before the procedure. Proponents cited incidences where women were receiving that information by telephone instead of the face-to-face counseling that existing law intended.
The other “informed consent for abortion” measure calls for a woman to undergo an ultrasound of the fetus. Senator Paul Hornback’s Senate Bill 5 doesn’t require the woman to look at the image, but the physician would have to describe it to her. Lexington Democratic Senator Kathy Stein was one of the four Senators who voted against both measures. She condemned the bill as a degradation of women’s rights and cast it as a re-victimization of women who may have suffered sexual assault. Both informed consent for abortion measures head to the state House where they have not gotten traction in previous legislative sessions.
Watch “Legislative Update” each weeknight for a report of the most significant activities at the Capitol at 11pm ET. Monday night will feature Congressmen Thomas Massie and John Yarmuth and U.S. Senator Rand Paul testifying in favor of industrial hemp legislation (SB 50) in committee.