Ronica Shannon and Bill Robinson
When the Kentucky General Assembly convenes today, lawmakers will find about 150 pre-filed bids for their consideration. The bills concern a wide variety of issues from the implementation of expanded gambling to deciding whether or not burgoo should be the state’s signature dish.
Before any legislation is debated, however, the House of Representatives must elect leaders.
Former majority leader and state attorney general Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, is seeking to replace House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, who has held the post for 13 years.
Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, who chairs the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee and a long-time friend of both Richards and Stumbo, is supporting Richards.
“I believe Jody has done a good job as speaker, and I seen no reason not to keep him in that post,” Moberly said Monday. “I’m working to get him re-elected.”
Richards has been a consensus, as opposed to a dictatorial-type leader, and has helped increase the number of House Democrats, the veteran Richmond legislator said.
Democrats outnumber Republicans 65-35 after picking up one seat in the 2008 general election.
“When you consider how big of a majority that (Republican presidential nominee) John McCain ran up in Kentucky, I think we did pretty well by gaining one new Democratic member last year,” Moberly said.
A bill to allow video gaming terminals at licensed Kentucky racetracks, seems to be getting the most attention of any legislative proposal.
Sen. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, is sponsoring the bill that he said could raise up to $500 million in three years.
Sen. Ed Worley, D-Richmond, said the bill could possibly help derive funding, but was not clear as to whether or not he would vote in support of the bill.
One thing he is sure of — the need for more money.
“This session will be about looking at how the state will manage its finances through June 30, 2009,” Worley said.
Moberly said he is in favor, but not very hopeful, of the bill’s success.
“I think we need the revenue desperately for education and other human services,” he said. “I don’t think it has much of a chance, but I’m in favor of looking at the issue.”
Another issue getting attention is Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposal to increase the cigarette tax by 70 cents a pack.
“I’m in favor of some increase,” Moberly said.
Worley also is in favor or increasing the state’s cigarette tax, however, he said it would be difficult to pass the proposed 70-cent tax.
There could be the possibility a 30- to 35-cent tax increase could be passed, he said.
Aside from the two aforementioned bills, the remainder of the session will focus on the state’s budget and its severe deficiency because Kentucky is facing a $456 million budget downfall.
Other proposed bills include: a bill making DUI laws tougher; legislation to allow dating partners to obtain a domestic protective order; a bill restricting convicted sex offenders from participating in Halloween activities; one creating a law for vehicular assault of a bicyclist; and one establishing “In God We Trust” license plates.
Ronica Shannon can be reached at email@example.com or at 623-1669, Ext. 234.
Richmond Register news writer Bill Robinson also contributed to this story.