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General Assembly Returns Monday, Much Still Unsettled

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Some of the General Assembly's meatier proposals - from the never-used runoff election to a new stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park - are unresolved as the legislature reconvenes on Monday.

Heading into the session, nearly two months ago, House and Senate leaders seemed to agree on at least one idea - that they would essentially override Gov. Ernie Fletcher's decision last year to cut about $370 million worth of projects from the state budget.

Now, even that's not so sure.

The bill was "reposing comfortably in the Senate now, and we don't know whether the repose is a mere nap or whether it's a deep sleep," Senate President David Williams said.

Lawmakers have been on a two-week hiatus and are scheduled to return to the Capitol for two more days this week in which they can pass bills or consider any of the governor's vetoes. As of Friday, Fletcher had not vetoed any legislation passed this year.

Fletcher so far has signed into law proposals to raise the state's minimum wage, beef up mine safety requirements and increase the speed limit to 70 mph on certain highways.

Currently, the legislature is scheduled to meet on Monday and Tuesday. That plan can change, but by law the legislature must adjourn by Friday.

Looming over the legislature's work is a Senate proposal to overhaul the state's pension system by selling more than $800 million in bonds and changing benefits for future employees. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate endorsed the proposal, but it has met resistance from the House.

A House panel is scheduled to consider the proposal on Monday, however House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said he's not interested in changing benefits of future employees.

Richards said he was willing to work with Williams on the pension plan.

"There's just too many questions right now to rush into this," Richards said.

Legislators still have not decided whether to dispose of the possibility of a runoff following the May 22 primary. Without a change there would be a runoff election if a candidate in either the Democratic or Republican primary elections don't gather 40 percent of the vote.

Seven Democrats and three Republicans are running for governor. Fletcher, a Republican, is facing a re-election challenge in the primary from former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup and Paducah businessman Billy Harper. Meanwhile, Richards is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor against Louisville businessman Bruce Lunsford, state Treasurer Jonathan Miller, Lexington attorney Gatewood Galbraith, demolition contractor Otis Hensley Jr. and former Lt. Govs. Steve Henry and Steve Beshear.

House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said he thought lawmakers would leave the runoff intact, and not offer local county governments any funding - which has been a chief complaint of the system.

Also unresolved is a proposal aimed at protecting state social workers from potentially dangerous on-the-job confrontations.

And, still up in the air is a bulky Senate-approved spending package the Senate approved which included $28 million for a new outdoor arena at the Kentucky Horse Park and about $25 million in grants for southern Kentucky communities dealing with the lowering of Lake Cumberland.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved


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