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General Assembly Adjourns Special Session

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - The General Assembly's ill-fated special
session ended Monday, as the House and Senate adjourned with an
agreement to spend the coming weeks crafting an energy tax
incentive plan.
Lawmakers could be back as soon as mid-August to pass the
legislation, if they are able to agree on how Kentucky should best
pursue landing a coal gasification plant.
Legislative leaders said they've already assigned lawmakers to
working groups that would begin the task of devising a plan. Key
lawmakers met last week with Peabody Energy officials and said they
were told Kentucky would be recommended for the plant if the state
passed certain tax breaks.
Gov. Ernie Fletcher called the special session earlier this
month.
But Fletcher ordered the legislature to deal with other issues,
too, including a proposal to ban domestic partner benefits at
Kentucky's public universities and more than $427 million in
construction projects throughout the state. Fletcher, a Republican,
also wanted legislators to pass income tax breaks for military
families.
The Democratic-controlled House and GOP-led Senate were divided
on the special session, which came in the middle of Fletcher's
re-election campaign.
House lawmakers adjourned on July 5, the day they reported to
Frankfort, saying the call was politically motivated and none of
the measures was urgently needed. House Speaker Jody Richards,
D-Bowling Green, has said the session did not warrant the nearly
$60,000 per day it cost the state to have a special session.
Nevertheless, the Senate carried on and passed legislation
addressing each part of Fletcher's agenda.
With the chambers at odds, Fletcher called for them to take a
three-week break and ordered the legislature to return Monday.
Lawmakers, according to state law, were paid nearly $300 apiece per
day for every day during the break.
The legislature did not address the pay matter during the brief
return Monday.
However, both Richards and Senate President David Williams said
they were nearing a resolution that would essentially have
lawmakers work without pay until they've repaid the state what they
were overpaid during the special session.
Williams said the legislature could have saved time and money by
staying in session. With cooperation from the House, Williams said,
the legislation could have been passed as early as this Wednesday.
"We had reached an impasse that not even the governor's
cooling-off period could take care of," Williams said.
Meanwhile, supporters of the proposed ban on domestic partner
benefits at Kentucky's public universities crammed the Capitol
Rotunda, urging lawmakers to pass the legislation this summer.
Kent Ostrander, executive director of the Lexington-based Family
Foundation, said Kentucky voters in 2004 overwhelmingly supported a
constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage. He said
public universities would be flouting the constitution by offering
domestic partner benefits.
"This is a constitutional crisis," Ostrander said. Ostrander
referred to the University of Kentucky and University of
Louisville, which decided earlier this year to offer domestic
partner benefits to employees.
The Kentucky Fairness Alliance, which opposes the proposed
benefits ban, sent state lawmakers a petition with the names of
people from throughout the state opposed to the proposal.
"Most Kentuckians agree healthcare discrimination is wrong,"
Christina Gilgor, the group's executive director, wrote in the
letter.
Attorney General Greg Stumbo's office released a statement
Monday saying that U of L had agreed to abide by his office's
recent opinion that universities' domestic partner benefits plans
violated the state constitution.
Robbie Rudolph, Fletcher's cabinet secretary and running mate,
said the governor would want agreement between the House and Senate
before he added any issues beyond the energy tax incentives
proposal to lawmakers' agenda. He also was not ruling it out,
Rudolph said.
"We're going to see how it plays out over the next few weeks,"
Rudolph said.
Richards, however, said the House did not want to address other
issues and would adjourn if the agenda changed
"If he puts anything else on the call before that, we will not
convene," Richards said. "If he puts something on after we get
here, we will adjourn immediately and he needs not take that as an
idle threat."

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


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