Legislature passes few bills

Joe Lord

Kentucky will have a state budget for the first time since July.

As far as Western is concerned, that might be all.

The General Assembly finished this year’s short session Tuesday night without passing any major legislation effecting Western and other universities.

Robbin Taylor, director of government relations, said she has tracked about 100 bills from the House and Senate since the session began in January.

Those most effecting higher education, she said, never made it through the full legislature by Tuesday, the deadline to send legislation to Gov. Paul Patton for his signature or veto.

“Nothing of great significance to the individual institutions passed,” she said.

Among the bills Taylor said she was tracking were two banning credit card vendors from giving gifts for applications on college campuses, one creating a process for state colleges and universities to follow when selling or leasing property worth more than $400,000 and one allowing principals to get tuition waivers.

While none of those bills passed, Taylor said they will likely be brought up again when the legislature next meets in January for a 60 day session.

There is one more possibility to pass those items in this session, albeit a long shot.

The General Assembly will meet again March 24 to possibly override any vetoes from Patton, said Rep. Roger Thomas, D-Smiths Grove. Legislators could pass any left over bill on those two days.

“It’s possible they could vote on the 24th, but anything that’s the least bit controversial, I don’t think will pass this session,” he said.

Taylor said legislators did OK some bills she was tracking, but nothing greatly impacting the way Western does business ever made it through.

“I think we’re up here in a short session, and there were some people that had some concerns with some of them,” said Sen. Richie Sanders, R-Franklin. He said the legislature was pressed for time in this year’s 30 day session.

They were also preoccupied.

“Everybody was focusing on the budget,” Sanders said.

Legislators failed to pass a budget during last year’s regular session and in a following special session. Since July, Kentucky’s government has ran from an emergency spending plan Patton issued.

Legislators gave their final approval to the budget bill late Monday evening. The budget has been sent to Patton, who can sign, veto or allow it to become law by waiting for the 10 day veto period to end March 22, Taylor said.

Sanders said the 30 legislative sessions in odd-numbered years are not meant to take on the budget, which is normally done during the longer, 60 day sessions in even-numbered years.

Sanders said the legislature was able affect higher education through the budget, using the agency bond pool legislators passed as an example. That amendment will give state universities and colleges money for construction and renovation projects.

Thomas said bills, especially controversial ones, move through committees and need debate from legislators before they are passed.

Sanders agreed.

“It’s not easy for something to become law,” he said. “Our forefathers did that for a reason.”

Sanders estimated one-quarter of about 1,000 bills introduced to the legislature this session passed before Tuesday.

Thomas said that because the first four days of the session were reserved for organization issues, legislators only had 26 days to address bills in year.

“We just haven’t had time during this session,” Sanders said.

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]