KY House Speaker talks jobs, education, drugs

By Elizabeth Donatelli - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Jobs, education, and drugs could all be on the agenda for Kentucky lawmakers in the upcoming session starting January 4th. House Speaker Greg Stumbo says they'll work to get things through this year, but it's not nearly as big of a session as those during budget years. Stumbo said there is not an official democratic house agenda, as their recently scheduled meeting was canceled due to weather.

Pre-filed bills include language on dating violence, reducing meth labs, and restoring voting rights for felons, and re-evaluating furloughs.

As for creating jobs most of that happens during even years, which are budget years.

"You're going to hear us talk a lot about the Kentucky jobs for the Kentucky families again," said Stumbo.

Unemployment offices across the Commonwealth are still full with 10.2 percent of Kentuckians out of work.

"I've been on unemployment going on eight months," said Jacy Howell at the unemployment office in Louisville just before Christmas.

The House democrats' jobs plan was an initiative it passed in it's budget that commissioned school improvement projects creating an estimated 25,000 jobs. Much of the plan was stripped from the final budget. Legislators are waiting on a study to re-assess school buildings.

"I don't think you'll see anything funded this session because of that and because we don't have the money to it with right now," said Stumbo.

He does, however, expect it to be an issue in 2012.

As for the kids inside those buildings, they can drop out of high school at age of 16 in Kentucky. The Gov. Steve Beshear supports a House bill, sponsored by Jefferson County Rep. Reggie Meeks, that would raise it to 18 over time.

Charter schools may come up in both chambers.

"The debate on charter schools hasn't really gotten to the point where there's enough support to get that bill to the House floor as of the last session," said Stumbo. "I don't know where it will go this session."

Media reports Senate President David Williams wants to allow charter schools and reform immigration, similar to Arizona's controversial law, which had dozens protesting outside the federal courthouse in Louisville this summer.

"If you took the Arizona statute and you laid it side by side with what they can do now under existing law there's not many differences," said Stumbo. "The big difference is in Arizona they actually made it a state statute instead of a federal statute for illegal immigrants to be present within their state boundaries."

Williams who is running for governor is trying to push his priorities early including tax and pension reform early.

"We're not going to react, none of us are running for governor over here so we don't have the need to have a formal agenda a such right now," said Stumbo.

Lawmakers will have to tackle a budget issue this session. Kentucky was expecting to get more money from the federal government than it did for medicaid. Now there is an approximately $145 million gap.

Beshear has proposed a solution that would take shift over money from the second year of the budget.

"From the discussions I have had from the other members of leadership and with members of both democrat and republican, I think that that measure will likely gain the support of the House," said Stumbo.

Lawmakers will likely have to look at medicaid funding again in 2012.

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