Conference committees struggle to reach agreement on high-profile bills

Many of the most pressing issues facing the state are still left on the table with very little time remaining in the 2015 session and legislators are struggling to find common ground.

Prior to the veto period, lawmakers from both chambers appointed conference committees to reach agreements on bills focused on stabilizing Kentucky’s road fund, addressing the state’s heroin scourge, helping low performing schools and finding funding for the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System.

On Monday, members of the General Assembly returned to Frankfort without reaching public compromise on any of these issues.

In the morning, the conference committee on House Bill 4–a bill proposing a $3.3 billion dollar bond to shore up KTRS–met and continued discussions on potential interest rates and the idea of a study looking into the retirement system to help make structural changes. The Kentucky Chamber suggested a similar study last year but the legislature did not pursue the idea.

However, the group did not reach an agreement before the House and Senate convened at noon and House members of the committee announced they would be appointing a free conference committee to continue talks on the issue.

The conference committee seeking to find common ground on an anti-heroin bill has met multiple times since Thursday, some public meetings and others behind closed doors, but they have yet to reach a compromise.

Meetings on Thursday and Friday open to the public illustrated clear divides between the two chambers on three main provisions: penalties, needle exchange programs and a Good Samaritan provision.

Rep. John Tilley, co-chair of the conference committee and sponsor of the House version of the bill, told Courier-Journal reporter Mike Wynn Monday afternoon that the two sides are still not on the same page on those issues and could continue to work on the bill after Tuesday’s proposed Sine Die date.

Lawmakers still have two snow days they could make up this week in order to resolve some of these issues if the leaders agree to use them.

Members on the conference committee to address stabilization of the road fund have yet to discuss the issue in an open meeting and no proposals have been disclosed to the public.

And on the final night before the veto period, a conference committee to look at House Bill 449–legislation seeking to help low performing schools–was proposed and House members were appointed but no Senate members were placed on the committee. It is unclear what lawmakers will do to move the ball on this topic.

The Kentucky Chamber will be monitoring all of the developments in all of these committees and other issues in the final days. Make sure you are checking back on the blog for news and follow @KyChamber for updates.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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