Ky House, Senate both pass abortion, labor measure

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Big Labor and activists for abortion rights turned out in large numbers in the Capitol again Thursday; the former lining the halls outside House chambers, the latter rallying in the rotunda.

And once again, Republicans controlling both chambers of the General Assembly all but dismissed their presence.

"The majority of Kentuckians elected super-majorities who were pro-life, in their support for the unborn," Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer told Planned Parenthood's Olivia Beres and others gathered outside his Annex office shortly before noon.

"One of the most important things we're trying to do right now is talk about the facts,"  Beres old WAVE 3 News afterward. "There's a lot of rhetoric floating around right now about how many people support the right to choose."

The upper chamber's gallery was virtually empty when the Senate took up its vote mid-afternoon, to ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless women and their doctors could offer proof that carrying full term would endanger the mother's life.

"Children at this stage, and even younger at 18 weeks , if you expose them to stimuli and try to hurt them, they will recoil to try to get away from it," bill sponsor Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) said.

Several Democrats crossed party lines in support. Others framed their opposition as a vote for individual choice.

"I don't think it's our place or the government's place to really interfere or mandate what that woman should do," Sen. Reginald Thomas (D-Lexington) said.

"Why do we spend time, our precious time in this body, debating a woman's right to choose what she does with her body," Sen. Denise Harper Angel (D-Louisville) said. "Kentucky has so many more when Kentucky demanding issues?"

Former Democratic Governor Julian Carroll, whose Senate district  includes Frankfort, maintained that he always has been opposed to abortion, but found the bill's definition of  "medically endangered" imprecise and troubling.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville), a former candidate for Attorney General, had no such reservations.

"It is a child, a life," Westerfield said. "And since some people don't believe they have a voice, I'm gonna give one to them."

"Our medical technology has become exceptional, " Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester) a physician and a bill-co-sponsor, said. "(It enables) having those children be born and led normal lives as adults."

A bill the House passed Thursday would mandate that abortion providers offer pregnant women the opportunity to view an ultrasound of the fetus 24 hours before the procedure. The lower chamber's 64 Republicans are expected to approve the Senate's abortion restrictions by holding a rare Saturday session. Should that occur, both bills are certain to receive Gov. Matt Bevin's signature, and would be effective immediately afterward.

"I don't want to speak for who necessarily is going to bring lawsuits," Planned Parenthood's Beres told WAVE 3 News. "But I do know that two bills being looked at in other states right now have been considered unconstitutional."

The Saturday session also is expected to ratify a House "right-to-work" bill that would allow workers in unionized workplaces to refuse to join or to pay dues, but still receive the same wages and  benefits negotiated through collective bargaining.  Union leaders maintain such laws lower wages and compromise labor's ability to unionize.  The vote was 58-39.

House members were on track to repeal Kentucky's prevailing wage law, which requires contractors for taxpayer-dollar-financed projects to pay workers comparably to in commercial construction within the region. Supporters maintain that both measures will remove a handicap that eliminates Kentucky from consideration by businesses seeking to expand or to set up shop.

"Kentucky will have more union workers, more workers period," Gov. Bevin told a House committee Wednesday.

The Senate passed a companion bill Thursday that would bar unions from contributing to political campaigns by using members' dues. The legislation would require labor organizations to establish separate political funds, and maintain separate accounting records subject to review.

The upper chamber also found himself compelled to some parliamentary maneuvering to advance a bill supporting Gov. Bevin's  reorganization of the University of Louisville's Board of Trustees that replaced every  member of that Board. Franklin Circuit Court overturned Bevin's order as a violation of state statutes that set the number of Board members and require cause and a hearing to remove any Trustees.

The jockeying involved transferring a bill related to dogs to the Senate's State and Local Government Committee, then gutting the bill with a committee substitute with language to codify Bevin's actions.

"We are going to use every minute of every day in this Session to deliver what we promised the people of Kentucky, what got us here," Thayer said.

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