Quip of the day

With the House voting to adhere to their rule that the final two days of the session are to be used solely for considering veto overrides, quite a few folks make jokes around the Capitol Thursday about “the rules” and when to suspend them.

Senate President David Williams had the best.

There’s been a lot of talk about whether Williams will enter next year’s U.S. Senate race, and Herald-Leader Jack Brammer asked Williams after the Senate had wrapped up for the session whether Williams had set a personal deadline for a decision about his political future.

“Well, I would have to suspend the rules,” Williams said with a laugh. “If I told you I would have to suspend the rules.”

General Assembly may not take up additional bills this week

House leaders said today they plan to stick with House rules that reserve the final two days of the legislative session solely for dealing with overriding vetoed bills.

After a meeting between House and Senate leaders, Senate President David Williams and House Speaker Greg Stumbo both said the session could conclude without any action on remaining legislation, including a bill to revamp the state’s economic development incentives program and a proposal to create a transportation infrastructure authority to finance the state’s largest transportation projects.

From the Herald-Leader

Senate President David Williams said Monday that House leaders have told him that the Democratic-controlled House will only consider any vetoes by Gov. Steve Beshear when lawmakers return to Frankfort Thursday and Friday to wrap up this year’s legislative session. The House does not plan to consider any legislation, Williams said.

So far, Gov. Steve Beshear has only issued one veto – a line-item veto of a portion of the road plan approved by the General Assembly earlier this month.

Stumbo left open the possibility of changing the House rules based upon the will of the caucus, which will meet Thursday.

Stumbo issued the following statement this afternoon –

“The 2009 Regular Session is widely considered to be one of the most successful in recent memory, and a key reason for that is because the House established clear rules at the outset – and then strictly followed them.  This approach gave a fair and open hearing to important issues of the day, and allows the legislature to act in a prudent and thoughtful manner.

“Our rules, and the calendar we adopted, provided for the last two days of the legislative session to be dedicated to vetoes and not for considering legislation.  Before we decide whether to suspend the rules, we will have to caucus, which we will do after the session re-convenes on Thursday.  If it is the will of the caucus to have such a suspension, we will go forward accordingly.

Update, 5:08 p.m.

Beshear issued this statement about the session this afternoon –

“We understand the position of House leadership and appreciate their willingness to get direction from the caucus on how best to move forward to complete what has been a productive legislative session so far. There is broad support in both chambers and in both parties for our economic development incentives package, for efforts to bring a NASCAR Sprint Cup series race to Kentucky, and for legislation that will, finally, pave the way to fund the Louisville bridges project. All of these initiatives will preserve and create jobs, while injecting hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact throughout the Commonwealth. We should move forward now to create those opportunities for our state and our people. In addition, there are remaining measures such as corrections reform that will create millions of dollars in savings in the midst of a challenging economic climate. All of these initiatives have garnered broad support and I hope that, together, we can find a way to move forward on these important issues.”

Road plan stalls over gas tax freeze

Work to pass a road plan and funding mechanism stalled Friday over a disagreement between House and Senate  leaders about when the legislation should be delivered to Gov. Steve Beshear.

Senate President David Williams said Friday morning during a press conference with House Speaker Greg Stumbo that he wants the governor make any vetoes in the road plan and sign it into law before the Senate passes a freeze of the state’s motor fuels tax.

House Bill 374 would freeze the motor fuels tax at its current rate and allow the state to use that revenue to borrow about $400 million toward the $1.2 billion transportation spending plan contained in House Bill 330. The tax rate is currently set to drop by four cents on April 1 without action by the legislature.

“If (the governor) signs the bill today, we’ll pass the four pennies,” Williams said. “If he doesn’t sign the road plan bill or he vetoes it, we won’t need the pennies.”

That’s not how Stumbo and many House members, who have already passed the road plan and the tax freeze, want to see the legislation move forward.

Stumbo said House members won’t want to send the road plan to the governor if the Senate hasn’t already signed off on the tax freeze.

“I think we’d like to see the Senate pass the pennies first,” Stumbo said. Continue reading

Senate president: Road plan expected tomorrow

Senate President David Williams told reporters this afternoon that he expects the road plan that House and Senate leaders have been working on for more than two weeks to be presented Wednesday.

“We’re getting very near,” Williams said. “We met with the House today and we’ve got a few adjustments, but we’re getting very near.”

The plan is needed since the plan adopted by the legislature last year was ruled invalid for being delivered to Gov. Steve Beshear after the 2008 legislative session ended at midnight on April 15.

The plan will include budgeting state and federal dollars for road and bridge projects along with how the $421 million in transportation dollars the state expects to receive from the federal economic stimulus package should be spent.

House leaders delivered their draft of the plan to Senate leaders just more than a week ago.

The House and Senate will also be considering a proposal to freeze the state’s current motor fuels tax at its current level rather than letting it decrease by 4 cents on April 1 as called for by state law.

The tax is tied to the wholesale price of fuel, which has declined in recent months and prompted the expected decrease in the tax.

Williams, a Burkesville Republican, said he expected the Senate to adopt the freeze proposal, but that will only be taken up after the road plan has been released and members get a chance to see how the money will be spent.

“Everybody will have to make up their own mind,” Williams said.

Williams hasn’t made decision on potential U.S. Senate run

Following reports over the weekend that he is considering a run for the U.S. Senate next year, Kentucky Senate President David Williams told reporters this morning that he had made not decision about running for a different office. 

“We’ll just see what the rest of the year brings,” Williams, a Burkesville Republican, told reporters, according to the Herald-Leader. 

The Washington D.C. -based The Hill publication and kypolitics.org are both reporting that Williams met with members of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during his recent trip to D.C.

Williams did say he has been contacted about running for the seat now help by fellow Republican Jim Bunning of Southgate, who has held the seat since 1998, but hasn’t made any decisions about entering the race.

Read more about Williams’s comments at the H-L’s Bluegrass Politics.

State’s top Republicans in Bowling Green tonight

Some of the state’s top Republicans will be in Bowling Green tonight for the Warren County GOP’s Lincoln Day dinner

Among the elected officials attending are Bowling Green’s U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, who began his first term in Congress last month, and both of Kentucky’s U.S. senators – Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning

Given that there has been a bit of tension of late between KY’s two U.S. senators over Bunning’s plans to see re-election next year, tonight’s dinner could be an interesting one to watch. 

Also at the dinner will be Senate President David Williams of Burkesville and attorney J. Marshall Hughes, who is running for Guthrie’s seat in the Kentucky Senate.

The dinner will surely be a boost for Hughes, who is running against Democrat Mike Reynolds in a special election for the 32nd District slated for Tuesday. 

The event begins at 5 p.m. CST and is being held at the Carroll Knicely Center on Western Kentucky University’s South Campus.

Update …

Here is the story about the event from the Bowling Green Daily News.

House, Senate leaders hope to have budget plan passed in a week

Senate President David Williams and House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Friday during a morning press conference that they hope to have a plan to close a $456 million gap in the state’s budget passed and to the governor by Feb. 13. 

The plan, which is still being hammered out, will likely include cuts on par with those proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear, use of the state’s “rainy day” budget fund and a mix of increases on tobacco and alcohol taxes, Williams and Stumbo said. 

“Our members would like to see a blend (of tax increases),” said Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat. 

Beshear has proposed a 70 cents per pack increase on cigarettes that he estimated would provide the state with $81 million this fiscal year and $144 million next year. 

Williams and Stumbo said neither chamber would likely support that high a tobacco tax increase, but new revenue could also be raised by increasing alcohol taxes. 

Neither would say whether they were leaning toward raising the wholesale tax on alcohol or levying a retail tax on alcohol, which isn’t currently paid at the point of purchase.  

The two leaders met with Beshear Friday morning before the press conference in what Williams said was a “wonderful” meeting.

Williams said the details of the bill haven’t been agreed upon at this point, but he hopes to have the legislation to House and Senate members on Tuesday with the bill passing the House on Wednesday and then the Senate approving the measure on Friday. 

The legislation will have an emergency clause which means it can be immediately enacted. 

“It’s my opinion that action will be taken on the budget by next Friday,” Williams said. “We’re very close to coming to an agreement.” Continue reading