2013 General Assembly ends, several bills passed

By: Katie Roach Email
By: Katie Roach Email

FRANKFORT, Ky (WYMT) - Kentucky's General Assembly wrapped up at midnight Tuesday night, but not before legislators passed several key bills and overrode a governor's veto.

Some lawmakers call it one of the most important pieces of legislation passed in recent years.

Lawmakers agreed to shore up Kentucky's financially troubled pension system.

The bill tweaked the state's tax code to generate more than $60 million. They will also pull another $33 million from other sources to make the state's annual contributions to the pension plans.

In a separate measure, the legislature approved a 401-K like retirement plan for new employees.

"That's a huge step in solving a problem. Again it was done in a bipartisan manner in both chambers," said House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

Probably the most controversial bill for the 2013 General Assembly was House Bill 279, also known as the "religious freedom bill."

It passed the house and senate, then Governor Beshear vetoed the bill, but late Tuesday night both chambers voted to override that veto.

"The issue obviously warranted the attention that it got. You had Democrats, Republicans, representatives and senators all felt very strongly about that," said Senator Brandon Smith.

The Kentucky Equality Federation released a statement saying they intend to sue the state when they receive the first complaint in regards to discrimination and House Bill 279.

Another controversial measure passed in the final minutes involves industrial hemp.

The bill easily passed the House and the Senate and would allow Kentucky to quickly license hemp growers if the federal government lifts its ban on the crop.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says it was not a bill he thought was necessary to pass.

"The facts are that every piece of evidence that we have seen, there is not a market for industrial hemp at this time," said Stumbo.

The legislature failed to pass House Bill 160, which would use coal severance money to fund scholarships for high school juniors and seniors in coal producing counties. It passed the Senate, but the House ran out of time before they could take up the measure.

A bill that would deregulate the telephone industry also did not pass this session.

Lawmakers also did not come to an agreement this session on redistricting, as well as a number of other issues including abolishing the office of constables.

Senator Brandon Smith's bill on safe child exchanges did pass. It was attached to the human trafficking bill.

Lawmakers also passed legislation lifting a Prohibition-era ban on the sale of alcohol at restaurants, bars and retail stores on election day.

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