Legislature 2011:Sit-Ins–Drugs–Immigration–TV–Halfway!

 Well we’re nearly halfway home in the 2011 Kentucky General Assembly, so let’s see if anything’s been accomplished–yet.

 As I write this there are several dozen protesters occupying Governor Steve Beshear’s outer office, and they plan to remain throughout the weekend.  The protesters are trying to stop mountaintop removal by mining companies, and spoke with Beshear for quite a while Friday afternoon. The effort is led by members of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, and includes noted Kentucky author Wendell Berry. At least a dozen of them say they’re willing to be arrested in order to be heard. A rally is scheduled for Monday and they say they’ll remain in the office until then. I’m told the Governor talked with them for about half an hour, but they weren’t happy with what they heard, so they’re sticking around for now.

As for more restrictions on over-the-counter cold medication containing Pseudoephedrine, that bill seems to be DOA, and is ripe for compromise, BUT neither the House or Senate is showing any inclination to budge on additional safeguards or any tweaks to their versions of the bill. Frankly given the current political climate, I’m doubting Beshear will sign any form of the measure if it does pass.

The good news is that the House does agree, (for the most part), that Kentucky needs to raise the high school droput age to 18 years of age. It passed the House 91-8, with all eight no votes coming from Republicans, which could signal more objections than expected from the GOP controlled Senate. The sticking point could be that Beshear supports the measure, and that might be all it takes to kill it. But Senate President David Williams insists the bill will get a fair shake in the upper body. We’ll see.

After a huge rally at the Capitol, the immigration bill got ugly this week in the House Local Government Committee, with Chairman Steve Riggs berating one witness for characterizing illegal immigrants as a criminal element. Lexington contractor Douglas Roy is president of Kentuckians for Immigration Reform and Enforcement. In his testimony, he claimed Kentuckians were being robbed, raped, and molseted by illegal immigrants but was cut off by Riggs. Several witnesses, including law enforcement official, testified against Senate Bill 6, which Riggs says has only about a 50 percent chance of even being considered after the contentious day of testimony, but Representative John Shickel says Riggs is biased against the measure and isn’t giving it a fair shake.

A big screen TV took center stage briefly in The Senate, after it was revealed that a 60 inch monitor in the Senate chamber came from Senate President David Williams’ office. Williams said the monitor was moved to the chamber after the antiquated projection system finally expired. KentuckyDemocrats tried to rouse some anger over the TV with an e-mail blast, but it got little traction when it was revealed the unit was the same one purchased several years ago amid controversy when Williams’ office suite was refurbished. In fact the Burkesville Republican informed anyone who would listen that he replaced the unit himself, buying one from his own pocket for his office.

So there we are so far about halfway through the 2011 session and no scandal–yet.  No real fireworks–yet. Not much accomplished–yet.