Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

February 20, 2013

Lawmakers productive in first 13 days


Feb. 20, 2013 —     We like to fuss at the Kentucky General Assembly for doing so little during the odd year, 30-day legislative sessions which started in 2001.

    But if this year’s first 13 days are any indication, the session could be very productive.

    We recall that voters were promised in 2000 that if we voted to allow annual sessions then it would not be necessary to call as many special sessions.

    However, there have been 10 special sessions since 2002 and we may get another one this year to deal with tax reform, the hottest potato in the 2013 session.

    But let’s get back to this year’s session and our evaluation of the first 13 days.    

    Lo and behold, the legislators got off to a fast start with the Senate passing a landmark bill to revamp the state’s badly underfunded retirement systems for public employees.

    Not to be outdone, the House also moved quickly on its top priority, a bill aimed at

bringing order to the state’s more than 1,200 special districts which operate everything from libraries to sewer systems in virtually every county in the state.

    The Senate then grabbed some more headlines as first a committee and then the full chamber blessed a bill to legalize the growing of industrial hemp for the first time since World War II.

    State Agriculture Commissioner Jamie Comer was joined by U. S. Sen. Rand Paul and Congressmen John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie in testifying on behalf of the bill as a means of helping the state’s farmers with a new cash crop.

    Law enforcement officials fear that the similar appearance of hemp and marijuana will make it more difficult to detect pot. Also, it remains illegal to grow hemp without a federal license.

    Two House committees added to the good scorecard as one approved a statewide ban on smoking in all workplaces and another gave the OK to increasing the public school dropout age to 18.

    Legislators from both parties are being nicer to each other and that’s a refreshing change. We voted for lawmakers, not barroom brawlers.

    No one is saying so publicly but it appears the 138 legislators will ignore tax reform until a special session later this year.

    Supermajorities of 60 House votes and 23 in the Senate are needed to pass a tax or revenue bill in a 30-day session.

    In a special session, it takes only simple majorities of 51 and 20.

    In our view, waiting is the best strategy, despite the cost of another special session.