Senate Passes Energy Bill; Has No Chance To Become Law

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Senate lawmakers passed a bill on Monday
that would provide financial incentives to companies that convert
coal to cleaner burning fuels, even though the measure appears to
have no chance of becoming law.

House lawmakers have refused to take part in a special
legislative session where the issue is being discussed. To become
law, the energy bill and other initiatives on the agenda would have
to be approved by both the Senate and House and signed by Gov.
Ernie Fletcher. The energy bill passed 34-1.

Democratic lawmakers say Fletcher's decision to call them back
to Frankfort was unnecessary and too costly to be justified. They
adjourned without taking any action shortly after the session began
Thursday.

House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, contends Fletcher
called the special session in hopes of improving 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," Richards said.

Fletcher compared House lawmakers 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.

State Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, D-Lexington, the only lawmaker to
vote against the energy bill, said Fletcher is wasting time and
money on the special session. Scorsone said Fletcher abused his
power as governor by calling the session.

The governor said the primary purpose of the special session was
to pass the energy bill championed by Democratic lawmakers earlier
this year. It initially passed in the House, but died in the
Republican-controlled Senate in a legislative session that began in
January.

The bill would provide some $300 million worth of financial
incentives and tax breaks to energy companies that build plants in
Kentucky.

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 faces Democratic
challenger Steve Beshear in the Nov. 6 election, included a measure
on the special session agenda that would have prohibited public
universities from providing health insurance benefits to domestic
partners of their employees.

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.)

AP-NY-07-09-07 1538EDT


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