Kentucky House Leaders Refuse To Return For Special Session

Associated Press Writer

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - House lawmakers won't return to Frankfort for a special session they contend Gov. Ernie Fletcher called in hopes it would help his chances of being re-elected in November.

"There was no foundation laid for this session, and it was bound to fail from the get-go," House Speaker Jody Richards said.

Fletcher and leading Democratic lawmakers took part in a 45-minute conference call Monday morning, but were unable to resolve an impasse that developed last week. House lawmakers, saying Fletcher's decision to call them back to Frankfort was unnecessary and too costly to be justified, adjourned without taking any action shortly after the session began Thursday.

The Senate continued meeting on Monday, and Fletcher appeared before a budget committee to push for a number of construction projects he had vetoed last year.

Fletcher said he was disappointed by the House's decision and compared them to labor union employees out on strike. Gubernatorial election-year politics, not differences over policy, were to blame for the impasse, Fletcher said.

"They simply have gone on strike and won't do their job," Fletcher said.

The governor said the primary purpose of the special session was to pass an energy bill championed by Democratic lawmakers last year. It passed in the House, but died in the Republican-controlled Senate. The bill would provide financial incentives to companies that build plants to convert coal to alternatives forms of fuel.

Peabody Energy Corp. has expressed an interested in building a $3 billion plant to convert coal to synthetic natural gas.

Fletcher, a first-term Republican who is running for re-election this fall, had included a measure that would have prohibited public universities from providing health insurance benefits to domestic partners.

The domestic partner initiative is aimed primarily at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. Both universities have already opted to provide health insurance to domestic partners.

Senate President David Williams said last week that he expects the measure to pass the Senate on Monday.

Williams also said if Fletcher was unable to persuade House lawmakers to return to Frankfort, that the Senate may adjourn on Monday.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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