Whitesburg KY

Special session ends, lawmakers may return soon


The General Assembly’s illfated special session ended this week, as the House and Senate adjourned with an agreement to spend the coming weeks crafting an energy tax incentive plan.

Lawmakers could be back as soon as mid-August to pass the legislation, if they are able to agree on how Kentucky should best pursue landing a coal gasification plant.

Legislative leaders said they’ve already assigned lawmakers to working groups that would begin the task of devising a plan. Key lawmakers met last week with Peabody Energy officials and said they were told Kentucky would be recommended for the plant if the state passed certain tax breaks.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher called the special session earlier this month.

But Fletcher ordered the legislature to deal with other issues, too, including a proposal to ban domestic partner benefits at Kentucky’s public universities and more than $427 million in construction projects throughout the state. Fletcher, a Republican, also wanted legislators to pass income tax breaks for military families.

The Democratic-controlled House and GOP-led Senate were divided on the special session, which came in the middle of Fletcher’s re-election campaign.

House lawmakers adjourned on July 5, the day they reported to Frankfort, saying the call was politically motivated and none of the measures was urgently needed. House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, has said the session did not warrant the nearly $60,000 per day it cost the state to have a special session.

Nevertheless, the Senate carried on and passed legislation addressing each part of Fletcher’s agenda.

With the chambers at odds, Fletcher called for them to take a three-week break and ordered the legislature to return Monday. Lawmakers, according to state law, were paid nearly $300 apiece per day for every day during the break.

The legislature did not address the pay matter during the brief return Monday.

However, both Richards and Senate President David Williams said they were nearing a resolution that would essentially have lawmakers work without pay until they’ve repaid the state what they were overpaid during the special session.

Williams said the legislature could have saved time and money by staying in session. With cooperation from the House, Williams said, the legislation could have been passed as early as this Wednesday.

“We had reached an impasse that not even the governor’s cooling off period could take care of,” Williams said.

Meanwhile, supporters of the proposed ban on domestic partner benefits at Kentucky’s public universities crammed the Capitol Rotunda, urging lawmakers to pass the legislation this summer.

Kent Ostrander, executive director of the Lexington-based Family Foundation, said Kentucky voters in 2004 overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment that banned samesex marriage. He said public universities would be flouting the constitution by offering domestic partner benefits.

The Kentucky Fairness Alliance, which opposes the proposed benefits ban, sent state lawmakers a petition with the names of people from throughout the state opposed to the proposal.

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