When the General Assembly wrapped up much of its work at the end of last month, there was only one day left in this year’s legislative session.
Traditionally, this time is spent just considering any vetoes the governor might issue on the bills making it through the House and Senate. This year, however, there was still some unfinished business that had to be addressed, with the most pressing being the state’s road plan and a budget for the Transportation Cabinet. The agenda also included my initiative to curb prescription drug abuse.
Because time truly was of the essence due to constitutional constraints, other legislative leaders and I began meeting early last week to hammer out agreements, which we tentatively reached just hours before dawn and the start of the veto day on Thursday.
One of those agreements – the far-reaching road plan with $4.5 billion worth of projects over the next two years – did make it through the General Assembly. Unfortunately, the cabinet’s budget never left the Senate, and without it, the cabinet literally cannot open its doors when the fiscal year begins in July. That would leave the road projects on the drawing board, as well as such things as bridge inspections and other highway safety measures, something we cannot afford to let happen.
Kentuckians have every right to be upset that we have to have a special session to fix this, but it could have been avoided if only the Senate had voted on the already agreed-upon budget for the cabinet.
Senate leaders say they stopped the process because they worried Governor Beshear might veto some of their road projects without the legislature being able to override the vetoes, or that he might veto the entire plan and be able to approve road projects without any legislative input, which would have been very unpopular politically. They also voiced concern that the House decided not to override any of the relatively minor vetoes Governor Beshear issued in the budget that runs every other aspect of state government. No such promise to override these vetoes was made, as Senate leaders claim.
Nevertheless, I am hopeful that cooler heads will return this week, and that we can build on some of the true accomplishments made this year.
Ideally, that will include passing my far-reaching proposal to limit prescription drug abuse. The hallmark of this bill is moving the state’s monitoring program from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to the Attorney General’s office, which will help law enforcement be much better prepared in spotting and then stopping “pill mills” and doctor shopping by abusers. Other states such as Florida and Ohio have taken action to crack down on this abuse in recent months, and if we don’t follow suit, the epidemic we are already seeing will get much worse.
I will of course keep you updated on what occurs this week. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me if you have any thoughts or concerns about state government. You can call 800-372-7181, and for those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.