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2015 Kentucky General Assembly

2015 Kentucky General Assembly

Bill and his guests discuss the 2015 General Assembly. Guests: Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester; Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg; Kentucky House Minority Whip John Carney, R-Campbellsville; and Kentucky Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville.
S22 E7 Length 56:48 Premiere: 1.5.15

Previewing the 2015 General Assembly

As the Kentucky General Assembly convenes this week, legislators bring a number of priorities to the agenda for this year’s 30-day session. Several state House and Senate leaders appeared on Monday’s Kentucky Tonight to discuss their views on potential bills ranging from medicinal marijuana and heroin addiction, to state pension funding and local-option taxes.

Heroin Addiction
Kentucky House Minority Whip John Carney (R-Campbellsville) says the state medical examiner reported 722 overdose deaths in the commonwealth last year. About a third of those were attributed to heroin. Carney calls heroin addiction a statewide epidemic.

Although legislators debated measures in the 2014 session to address heroin abuse, House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) says lawmakers ran out of time to pass a bill. He says compromise on the issue is possible, and he hopes new legislation will include long-term funding for drug courts, more treatment beds, and education programs. He argues for a balance between helping addicts and punishing dealers.

Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) says heroin legislation should also include provisions for first responders to use Naloxone to treat overdose victims, and a Good Samaritan clause to protect those who report a potential overdose. He says drug abuse is not a partisan issue, and he hopes lawmakers with gubernatorial aspirations will let their colleagues shepherd any heroin-related bills.

State Pension System
Stivers says the unfunded liabilities facing the state employee retirement systems will begin to improve in about five to eight years, especially as the reforms enacted in 2013 being to take effect.

Stumbo concurs, saying problems in the systems didn’t occur overnight, nor will they be fixed that quickly. He pledges that retirees will continue to get their benefits and that the system will remain solvent. Stumbo supports a proposal by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to have Attorney General Jack Conway audit the pension system to ensure it is being properly managed.

Stivers says he’s neither for or against an audit. He says he’s drafting a letter to Conway to request clarification on the goals and actionable outcomes that could come from an audit.

Local Taxing Options
House Speaker Stumbo is backing legislation to allow local communities or jurisdictions to vote on small, time-limited sales tax increases to fund specific projects. The proposal embodied in House Bill 1 is called Local Investments for Transformation or LIFT. Some 37 states already allow such taxes.

“I think it’s democracy in its purest form,” says Senate President Stivers. He says Kentuckians would have to approve the proposal as an amendment to the state constitution. Then local residents would have to approve any sales tax increase in their particular communities. Stivers says LIFT could be a valuable tool to help tax reform efforts.

“I know that word is ‘tax’ but you’re allowing the individual in Manchester, or London, or Prestonsburg, or Pikeville to be the ones to decide that,” Stivers says.

“It’s really not a tax because you’re imposing it upon yourself in these communities,” Stumbo adds. “It’s not the General Assembly mandating something be done, it’s the people of Kentucky in their communities through their local governments, deciding what they want their future to be.”

Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray Jones (D-Pikeville) says he’s not heard any opposition to LIFT from his constituents. He says the plan gives fiscal courts and city governments greater flexibility to fund local projects.

Rep. Carney takes a more cautious approach. He says he supports the idea of localizing such decisions, but he also knows many citizens oppose tax increases in any form. He says he’s undecided on the idea and reports the House GOP caucus would likely be split on the proposal.

Medical and Recreational Marijuana
Last year, lawmakers approved legislation to allow doctors at the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville to prescribe medicinal cannabis oil to treat juvenile seizures. Speaker Stumbo says he will file a bill in the 2015 session to enable doctors to treat certain patients with medicinal marijuana. He staunchly opposes legalizing recreational marijuana, and pledges the legislation for medicinal prescriptions will be tightly written so as to not “open the floodgates” on illegal marijuana use.

Sen. Jones agrees medicinal marijuana must be strictly regulated and says Stumbo’s proposal deserves debate. Jones says he’s for anything that would provide relief to those with cancer, seizures, or other conditions that marijuana could alleviate.

Because there is limited research on the therapeutic value of medicinal marijuana, Senate President Stivers is skeptical of any legislation to legalize it in Kentucky. He says he would need to see conclusive studies from the American Medical Association or in the New England Journal of Medicine to be able to support medical marijuana use in Kentucky.

As for recreational marijuana, Stivers says he strongly opposes decriminalizing it. He says businesses in Colorado have seen worker compensation costs and liability insurance premiums escalate after that state legalized marijuana.

Other Issues for the Legislative Agenda
Sen. Jones says he hopes lawmakers will revisit the idea of public-private partnerships for construction projects in the state. A bill allowing so-called P3 deals passed the General Assembly last year but was vetoed by Gov. Steve Beshear in part because of an amendment that would have prevented tolling to fund a new Ohio River bridge in northern Kentucky

“I think it would stimulate a great deal of economic activity around the state and help see projects to fruition that may not otherwise happen,” says Jones of the P3 proposal.

Jones and Carney support legislation to allow for the expungement of certain drug-related felony convictions from the criminal records of non-violent offenders.

“I was raised old school,” Carney says, “and I believe people should be punished. But if you committed a Class D felony 15 years ago and you still can’t keep a job from it, we’ve got to fix that.”

The legislators agreed that the Administrative Office of the Courts should review caseloads and judicial apportionment before any additional funding can be allocated for state courts. And they concurred that something must be done to stabilize the state road fund, but the panel had no specific proposals for doing so.

The group also supports legislation to allow those in dating relationships to be covered under emergency or domestic violence protective orders. But the panel split on statewide smoke-free bill. Sen. Stivers and Rep. Carney say that should be a personal choice or a local decision, not a state law. Rep. Stumbo says the House should have a floor vote on the matter to finally determine the fate of a smoking ban.

The opinions expressed on Kentucky Tonight and in this program synopsis are the responsibility of the participants and do not necessarily reflect those of KET.

Program Details

Kentucky Tonight

About Kentucky Tonight

Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, is an hour-long, weekly public affairs discussion program broadcasted live on Monday evenings. Discussions focus on issues confronting Kentuckians.

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Voting Rights and Election Laws

Host Renee Shaw talks with her guests about voting rights and election laws. Scheduled guests: Secretary of State Michael Adams (R); Joshua A. Douglas, University of Kentucky election law professor; State Rep. Jennifer Decker, Republican from Waddy; State Rep. Buddy Wheatley, Democrat from Covington; Corey Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky; and James Young, former elections director in Louisville.

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Recap of the 2021 Kentucky General Assembly

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Season 22 Episodes

Candidates for Governor

S22 E43 Length 56:40 Premiere Date 10.26.15

Candidates for Lieutenant Governor

S22 E42 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10.18.15

Candidates for Attorney General

S22 E41 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10.12.15

Candidates for Auditor of Public Accounts

S22 E40 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10.5.15

Candidates for Commissioner of Agriculture

S22 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 9.28.15

Candidates for Secretary of State

S22 E38 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 9.21.15

Candidates for State Treasurer

S22 E37 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 9.14.15

Issues Impacting the 2015 Election

S22 E36 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 8.24.15

Health Care: A Reality Check

S22 E35 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 8.16.15

Tough Choices Ahead for State Budget

S22 E34 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 8.9.15

Jobs and Wages: Behind the Numbers

S22 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 7.26.15

Tax Reform: The Issue That Won't Go Away

S22 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 7.19.15

LGBT Rights and Religious Liberty

S22 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 7.12.15

Postsecondary Education

S22 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 7.5.15

Discussion on Public Employee Pensions

S22 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6.28.15

Education Discussion

S22 E27 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 6.21.15

Energy and the Environment

S22 E26 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 6.14.15

Transportation Issues Hit Bumpy Road

S22 E25 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6.7.15

Analysis of the 2015 Primary

S22 E24 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 5.31.15

Kentucky Republican Governor Primary

S22 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 5.10.15

Democratic Primary for State Treasurer

S22 E18 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 4.12.15

Republican Primary for State Treasurer

S22 E16 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 3.29.15

2015 Kentucky Elections

S22 E15 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 3.22.15

General Assembly Breakdown

S22 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 3.15.15

2015 Ky General Assembly

S22 E13 Length 56:46 Premiere Date 2.23.15

Telephone Deregulation

S22 E11 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2.9.15

Local Option Sales Tax

S22 E10 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2.2.15

2015 Kentucky General Assembly

S22 E7 Length 56:48 Premiere Date 1.5.15

2015 General Assembly

S22 E6 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12.15.14

Executive Order on Immigration

S22 E4 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11.24.14

About

Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, is a public affairs discussion program broadcasted live on Monday nights at 8/7c on KET and KET.org/live.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to kytonight@ket.org or use the message form on this page. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

After broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on KET.org and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

Kentucky Tonightwas awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

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