Today, Kentucky lawmakers return to Frankfort to conclude the annual General Assembly session.
They will have until 11:59 pm on Thursday to override the bills, resolutions and budget line items Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed since the legislature adjourned two weeks ago.
The General Assembly, which has Republican supermajorities in both chambers, needs only a simple majority from the House and Senate to override a veto.
Lawmakers will review 25 bills and resolutions fully vetoed by Beshear, plus line items on four spending bills.
The relationship between Beshear and Republicans in the General Assembly hasn’t been the friendliest. GOP lawmakers have criticized Beshear for his top-down handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the governor has criticized several moves by the legislature to take power away from his office.
However, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters in Frankfort last week lawmakers would review the governor’s veto messages to the bills he rejected.
“If he gives us some legitimate reason, we’re going to listen to him,” Stivers said. “There’s information that he may have that we don’t have, and that’s what we want to know.”
Still, many believe most, if not all, of the vetoes will be overridden during the final two days lawmakers are in session.
The vetoes may not be the only items lawmakers take up. Several pieces of legislation remain on either the House or Senate floor and could be approved in the final days.
That includes three gambling bills in the Senate. One would legalize sports betting, another would outlaw gray games or skill machines, and the third would establish a first-of-its-kind problem gambling fund in the state.
Stivers cast doubts on the problem gambling fund getting to the floor, saying the $50 million proposal probably should have been included in the state budget. However, Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, hoped the bill could get passed.
There’s also some disagreement between the two on the sports betting bill. Stivers told reporters the bill does not do much for him and wouldn’t provide significant revenue to the state.
Thayer is a proponent of the bill and helped get it into a position for it to pass this week. However, even he admitted last week the bill was a long shot at passing, although he hoped supporters could still get the votes they needed in the 38-member chamber.
Of the three, the gray games ban may have the best chance of passage, but it remains uncertain if it gets the necessary votes.
Proponents of the ban include the Kentucky Lottery, the state’s horse racing industry and charitable gaming organizations. Those groups say machines at bars, lodges, and convenience stores take away from revenues the regulated gaming businesses generate, reducing the state’s taxes.
Opponents of the ban include gaming manufacturers who say they have a right to be in the state. A group of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle also have concerns about denying smaller businesses, especially family-owned stores, a chance to generate revenue and stay in business.
Stivers mentioned a conversation he had with a constituent in his district who urged him to ban the machines.
“He said, ‘I like making money. I’m a businessman,’ but he said, ‘I can’t put these machines in my place of business,’” Stivers recalled. “‘They’re not regulated. They’re not set. They don’t have a mandatory payback. You don’t pay taxes on them, and it is really detrimental to that area.’ And it kind of shocked me that he said that.”
Chances to pass a medical marijuana bill seem unlikely in the final days. However, Stivers mentioned a bill calling for a study on the issue could be passed.
Beshear previously mentioned he would consider issuing an executive order on medical marijuana if the General Assembly failed to act. He further explained his thinking during a Monday press conference. He said such groups as seniors suffering from glaucoma and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder deserve to be able to use marijuana to help them.
“I’m going to have certainly our attorneys in the executive branch as well as others that are interested look at and explore every option because this is the will of the people,” the governor said.
This article was originally posted on Kentucky General Assembly to wrap up session beginning today