KET Legislative Coverage

Day 49: Shorter Legislative Sessions and Salve for Seizures

by Renee Shaw | 03/20/14 2:46 PM

A bill to allow voters to decide whether to shorten regular General Assembly sessions and to empower legislative leaders to call a special session is on its way to the House after sailing through the Senate.

Senate Bill 195 would amend the Kentucky Constitution to reduce sessions in even-numbered years from 60 to 45 days; in odd-numbered years, sessions would drop from 30 to as many as 15. The chief sponsor, Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said the measure would save precious tax dollars and make legislative service more attractive to working citizens.

Two Democrats offered friendly floor amendments to address concerns they expressed last week when the measure unanimously cleared the Senate State and Local Government Committee. First, Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) offered a floor amendment that doubles the number of legislative leaders who could call a special session.

Minority Floor Leader R.J. Palmer (D-Winchester) explained a second floor amendment.

Both amendments were adopted and SB 195 cleared the chamber on a vote of 34-3. The measure now goes to the House, where Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) has expressed other ideas for session modification.

Marijuana Derivative to Help Seizure Patients
A bill in the General Assembly that legalizes the medical use of oil extracted from hemp and marijuana could offer relief for some children suffering debilitating seizures. Senate Bill 124, sponsored by Sen. Julie Denton (R-Louisville), was met with sympathetic approval in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon. It exempts from the definition of “marijuana” those drugs administered in FDA-approved studies or compassionate-use programs. It also exempts cannabis oil (also known as CBD) when ordered by a physician practicing at a state research hospital.

The measure would effectively legalize for authorized medical uses cannabis oil, which comes from marijuana or hemp but doesn’t contain enough of the psychoactive compound THC to produce a high. Denton said seizure patients given drops of the oil on their tongues had their conditions improved or cured.

In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Rita Wooton told lawmakers she believes it will help her son, Eli, who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy. Wooton said she's exhausted all other medical remedies, even those not FDA-approved for pediatric or toddler use.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R- Hopkinsville) is a co-sponsor of SB 124. He and other proponents believe cannabis oil shows great promise in treating severe forms of epilepsy, and legalizing the treatment here could help Kentucky families who otherwise have to travel great distances to get cannabis-related remedies. Senators Westerfield and Denton responded to concerns from Rep. Reginald Meeks (D-Louisville) who asked about the purity and safety of the oil.

The House Judiciary Committee approved SB 124 without dissent and the measure now awaits action by the full House.

Watch Legislative Update each weeknight at 11 on KET. Follow me @ReneeKET on Twitter.

Senate reporter Steve Shaw contributed to this post.