Posts Tagged ‘Senator Kathy Stein’

Kentucky House May Choke on Hemp Bill

Monday, February 18th, 2013

“It won’t make us high, but it can certainly make us happy.” That’s how a Lexington Democrat characterized the highly-publicized industrial hemp bill during the Senate floor debate on Senate Bill 50 last week.

Senate Ag committee chairman Paul Hornback, himself a farmer, is the sponsor of the bill that doesn’t legalize hemp in Kentucky, since it’s currently outlawed by the federal government, but it sets up a regulatory framework in case Congress legalizes it or Kentucky is granted a federal waiver to grow it.

The Commissioner of Kentucky State Police, Rodney Brewer, vented his objections to the measure in committee last week. The KSP fear that hemp harvesting will complicate marijuana eradication efforts if growers try to disguise the weed in their legal hemp plots. And, they question whether the economic viability of hemp is worth the risk. On the Senate floor last Thursday, Senator Hornback agreed that industrial hemp may not be a cash cow, but, he claimed, it is a crop worth trying.

If the hemp plan becomes law, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer’s office will certify that hemp seed is below the appropriate THC level; administer background checks and license growers; provide GPS mapping of industrial hemp production to law enforcement; inspect the crops; and conduct testing when necessary.

Senator Kathy Stein of Lexington spoke on how hemp came to be misunderstood and misclassified decades ago.

Freshman Chris Girdler of Pulaski County, lives in the home district of U.S. Representative Hal Rogers. Rogers is against the bill because the federal dollars granted for efforts to rid his fifth congressional district of illegal and prescription drug abuse might be compromised if hemp is allowed. During the roll call vote, Girdler became the first to vote ‘no’ after characterizing hemp as a distracting non-issue amid more worrisome woes.

Hornback’s Senate Bill 50 cleared the Kentucky Senate on a vote of 31 to 6. Senate President Robert Stivers of Clay County in eastern Kentucky did not cast a vote. The measure faces a bleak future in the Kentucky House as the House Speaker Greg Stumbo is on record as being skeptical of hemp’s economic benefits. Senate Bill 50 now awaits action by the House Ag Committee.

Tomorrow, I’ll have the latest on telecom deregulation, school dropout legislation and human trafficking measures that passed last week. Bill Goodman and panelists will discuss the telecom bill on tonight on “Kentucky Tonight” at 8pmET.

State lawmakers are off Monday in observance of President’s Day, but tune in tomorrow night at 11pm ET for “Legislative Update” for a recap of the day’s activities. Follow @ReneeKET on Twitter for constant updates throughout the day.

Special Taxing District and Pro-Life Bills Advance

Monday, February 11th, 2013

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.

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