Thursday, April 15, 2004

Another session with no budget

Accomplishments overshadowed

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - It could have gone down in history as the legislature that deregulated broadband.

Not all that romantic, perhaps, but more dignified than the legislature that failed - again - to pass a budget.

The 2004 General Assembly seems likely to be best remembered, if remembered at all, for not meeting the single task demanded of it by the 1891 Kentucky Constitution - enacting a spending plan for the next biennium.

"It's a real empty feeling that you work hard for 60 days and you can't even get a budget," Rep. Jon Draud, R-Crestview Hills, said Tuesday.

House and Senate leaders were unable to agree on a budget - mostly on whether it should include a "tax modernization" plan championed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher - and each side called the other obstructionist.

Rep. Tom Burch of Louisville, a legislator for 28 years, said the 2004 General Assembly "will have to go down as being one of the less productive sessions that I've ever been in."

Fletcher said he does not intend to call a special session to pass a budget. Without a budget, state government would operate under a spending plan by Fletcher when the next fiscal year begins July 1.

Lawmakers passed bills that run the gamut, assuming all become law: Bills against identity theft and prescription drug abuse. Better electrical safety standards in coal mines. High school diplomas for Korean War veterans - to name a few.

Broadband service was deregulated in hope of spreading high-speed Internet access across rural Kentucky. A three-year moratorium was put on mandated state health benefits to try to attract insurers.

Social conservatives claimed victories with the passage of a fetal-homicide bill and a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriages.

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