WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | News

House Speaker Moving Ahead With Peabody Meeting

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - House Speaker Jody Richards will go ahead
with plans to meet with Peabody Energy's chief executive officer,
and he may take Gov. Ernie Fletcher along.
"We're anxious to continue our work on this issue, so we will
start making arrangements for the meeting," Richards said Monday.
Peabody Energy Corp. has expressed an interest in building a $3
billion plant to convert coal to synthetic natural gas. If the
company's chief executive will agree to build the plant in
Kentucky, Richards said House lawmakers would pass legislation to
provide some $300 million worth of financial incentives for the
project.
Richards invited Fletcher to travel with him to St. Louis for
the meeting. In a letter to Richards on Monday, Fletcher suggested
he may accompany Richards on the trip.
"It is unprecedented and unwise to have legislators negotiate
business deals for the state," Fletcher said in the letter.
"However, if Peabody views another meeting with me, my staff
and/or members of the legislature as constructive, I will be glad
to accommodate them."
Fletcher had called lawmakers to Frankfort for a special
legislative session earlier this month to deal with the Peabody
issue.
However, House Democratic lawmakers, saying Fletcher's decision
to call them back to Frankfort was unnecessary and too costly to be
justified, adjourned the same day the session began without taking
any action.
Fletcher, a first-term Republican, is running for re-election
this fall.
House Democrats, who are refusing to be paid for the special
legislative session, contend Fletcher included potentially volatile
issues on the agenda to energize his political base. Along with the
Peabody initiative, Fletcher included a measure that could prohibit
public universities from providing health insurance benefits to
domestic partners.
On Monday, state Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, D-Lexington, joined the
House Democrats in refusing to accept any pay for the special
session.
"This has simply been an exercise in wasting time and money,"
Scorsone said. "It's an abuse of taxpayer dollars to pretend as if
work is being done, when it's clear that nothing is being
accomplished. The House is correct in forfeiting session pay. This
entire session has been Republican political theater on the
taxpayers' dime."

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


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