- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014
House, Senate far apart on school snow days bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - As Kentucky braced for more wintry conditions, state lawmakers could not agree Monday on a bill to relax the state’s school attendance laws for some school districts that have missed more than a month because of snowy weather.

State law requires school districts to have at least 170 days and 1,062 hours of classroom instruction each school year. But some school districts have missed more than 30 days this year because of snowstorms, pushing the school year for some districts toward the end of June.

The House and Senate both passed bills to help school districts meet state attendance requirements. Now both sides have to compromise.

Both sides agree school districts can extend the school day to a maximum of seven hours per day in order to meet the 1,062 hours requirement. But they disagree on when the school year should end.

The Senate proposed ending the school year on June 13, according to Republican Sen. Mike Wilson. But Democratic Rep. John Will Stacy, the House’s chief negotiator, said that would only benefit two school districts. He said the school year needs to end closer to June 4 to help districts that have missed more than 20 days.

“I felt like that we were very close and we would be able to get everything worked out and passed today,” Wilson said. “So it’s kind of a little shocking to me that it would come back to be that big a difference.”


Senate passes its version of Ky. budget

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The Kentucky Senate pared bond funding for construction projects and restored operational funding for universities in passing its version of a $20 billion, two-year state budget Monday, setting the stage for negotiations with House counterparts.

Senators voted 25-2 to pass a budget featuring several similarities to the spending plan recommended by Gov. Steve Beshear and passed by the House. Now both chambers must settle on a final version and complete their biggest task this year.

Senate and House versions support pumping more money into the state’s main funding formula for kindergarten through 12th-grade classrooms.

Both chambers also endorsed 5 percent funding cuts for many state agencies, freeing up money for education as Beshear recommended. The competing budget plans each support pay raises for state employees.

Beshear, reacting to the Senate action, said there are some big differences that negotiators will have to resolve.

“I expect we will come to an agreement before the end of the session,” the Democratic governor said in a statement.


House approves campaign finance reform bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Candidates for governor who donate at least $1 million to their own campaigns would automatically increase the contribution limits of their opponents under a bill the Kentucky House approved Monday.

Under the bill, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, when a candidate for governor donates at least $1 million to his or her campaign, the contribution limits for every other candidate would increase to $2,500 from $1,000.

Rep. Joseph Fischer, R-Fort Thomas, said he voted against the bill because the contribution limits would not change for the candidate who donated $1 million to his or her campaign.

The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate.


The legislation is HB 366.


Bills bottleneck in legislature’s final week

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The federal government is holding an estimated $200 million of Kentuckians’ money, and state treasurer Todd Hollenbach wants it back.

The Democrat is pushing legislation in the state General Assembly that would reclassify about $200 million worth of unclaimed U.S. savings bonds, making the state of Kentucky the official owner of the money - modeled after similar legislation in Kansas.

The bill passed unanimously in the Republican-controlled state Senate last week. But its fate in the House is uncertain. It is one of 259 bills that are in limbo as state lawmakers enter the final week of the 2014 legislative session. Of the 824 bills filed this year, only 26 have passed both bodies and eight have become law - a byproduct of Democrats controlling the House and Republicans controlling the Senate.

“Anything perceived to be of importance to one chamber is kept (from passing),” said Gene McLean, a veteran statehouse lobbyist. “You have 60 legislative days and as you’ve witnessed not much has happened, nothing really of significance. And everything comes down to the end and then you see a lot of trading back and forth. I don’t think anybody ever perceived that it should work that way, but it’s just kind of the political reality.”

Kentucky is one of five states - including Iowa, New Hampshire, New York and Virginia - where political control is split among the House and Senate. Nebraska has a nonpartisan, unicameral legislature.

Kentucky lawmakers have one week to pass a $20 billion biennial budget, a $4.5 billion biennial plan to improve the state’s roads and bridges and a bill setting state revenues for the next two years that includes a gas tax increase in the House version. The Senate passed its version of the spending plans on Monday, while the revenue bill is likely to pass on Wednesday.

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