FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A top House Democrat said Friday he's
optimistic that legislative negotiators can reach agreement on an
energy tax incentive plan that Gov. Ernie Fletcher wants taken up
in a special General Assembly session.
House and Senate negotiators agreed to meet again Monday to try
to reach a compromise on legislation aimed at helping Kentucky land
a coal gasification plant.
Fletcher said he also was upbeat about prospects for the energy
legislation and was optimistic that a special session could convene
House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins proposed the Monday afternoon
resumption of talks, and Senate leaders - who wanted to negotiate
over the weekend - agreed.
Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said conferees from the Democratic-led
House and Republican-controlled Senate made progress last week but
that a few unresolved matters remain. Sticking points persist over
the incentives, he said, without going into details.
"I'm optimistic that we can reach an agreement on the bill and
hopefully be able to move forward," Adkins said in a phone
Soon after the Monday negotiations were set, Fletcher said in a
statement that his administration would continue working with the
House and Senate on the energy legislation and said "negotiations
are coming along well."
He said he would not call lawmakers into special session Monday
but was optimistic that lawmakers "will work through their issues
so the session can convene soon."
Senate President David Williams had wanted talks to resume
Saturday. Adkins said scheduling conflicts for some lawmakers
prevented weekend meetings.
Williams, R-Burkesville, said Friday that the House and Senate
sides were exchanging proposals so negotiators would have time to
review them before Monday's meeting. He said he thought a special
session could have started Monday if conferees had met Saturday but
declined to predict a new timetable for a special session.
"We've been ready since July 5," Williams said of the Senate,
referring to the day an ill-fated special session on an energy plan
and other topics began.
Fletcher, who is running for a second term against Democrat
Steve Beshear in the Nov. 6 election, added other issues in the
previous special session, including a proposal to ban domestic
partner benefits at Kentucky's public universities and more than
$427 million in construction projects throughout the state.
House lawmakers adjourned the day they reported to Frankfort
last month, saying the call was politically motivated and that the
measures weren't urgently needed. The Senate carried on and passed
legislation addressing Fletcher's agenda.
Even as the first special session ended in an impasse, the House
and Senate agreed to spend the coming weeks crafting an energy
Key lawmakers recently said Peabody Energy officials told them
Kentucky would be recommended for a coal gasification plant if the
state passed certain tax breaks.
Adkins and House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said
Friday that House Democrats want to limit a follow-up special
legislative session to the energy issue.
Adkins, who sponsored an energy bill that died in this year's
regular legislative session, said he sees the energy plan as an
economic development tool for the regions "that need it the most -
eastern and western Kentucky." Both areas are coal producers.
Williams said there's still strong support for the other issues.
He said he didn't see any reason to keep them off the agenda of
another special session other than resistance from House Democrats.
"It's the governor's prerogative," Williams said.
Fletcher spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker said the energy proposal
remains the governor's "primary focus" but said Fletcher was
keeping his options open.
"The governor has no intention of putting anything on the call
that would interfere with the passage of an energy bill," she
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)