By

The Progress first reported on these five bills Feb. 9. Since then the legislature has voted on several bills. These are the results for bills seen as key to students.Of the five bills, four were shot down in the House. The remaining bill, House Bill 95, concerning the definition of marriage, was withdrawn by its sponsor, but a similar bill passed in the House and Senate.

This bill will now be voted on by citizens of Kentucky in November.

Cigarette tax

House Bill 107 propose a $.75 surtax per pack on cigarettes, among other things. The bill had an emergency clause on it, meaning it could have taken affect as soon as the governor signed it. This did not happen.

Jon Draud, R-Crestview, co-sponsor of the bill, said he credited its failure to the special-interest groups influencing legislators. He has been trying to get it to pass for four years.

“(Kentucky) is No. 1 for teen smoking, No. 1 for lung cancer, No. 1 for smokers and No. 3 for heart disease,” Draud said.

He said passing the bill would have been a benefit not only for health purposes, but also to help lower Medicaid costs. In addition, it would have brought in $300 million dollars to the state in additional revenue.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher has included a cigarette tax in his reform package, but it is for $.26 per pack.

“The governor will make significant changes in Kentucky taxes, but they will be revenue-neutral,” said Jim Callahan, D-Wilder, co-sponsor of the bill. Revenue-neutral means increasing one area of taxation while decreasing another, according to Callahan.

He said HB 107 still has the opportunity to pass when legislators meet on April 12 and 13 for the final two days of the session.

Gambling

House Bill 45 would have allowed electronic gaming at racetracks as part of the state lottery, but it did not pass this session.

Thomas Burch, D-Louisville, sponsor of the bill, said Kentucky is losing $500 to $600 million a year to Indiana, where electronic gaming is legal allowed.

“The governor said he would not support it, but also he wouldn’t veto it either,” Burch said. “It was just a bunch of Republicans wanting to keep their nose clean by not voting for gambling.”

Burch plans to bring the bill up in the next session until it passes. He said it may pass if the Senate makeup is changed.

Definition of marriage

Among the debated bills was House Bill 95, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

HB 95 was withdrawn by its sponsor, J.R. Gray, D-Benton.

In 1998 some laws were passed denying the union of persons of the same sex, Gray said. The bill would have required a constitutional amendment and would be left to the voters to consider in November on the ballot.

“We had some pretty militant Republicans who filed a discharge,” Gray said. “(Withdrawing the bill) had little to do with morality and more with games. I didn’t want my bill to do that.”

C.B. Embry, Jr., R-Morgantown, co-sponsor of the bill, said while HB 95 was withdrawn, there are other bills similar to it. Specifically, Senate Bill 245, the most heavily debated, allows the public vote on the issue of same-sex marriage and defines what constitutes marriage. SB 245, unlike HB 95, passed the chamber, and the amendment will be voted on by the public on the Nov. 2 ballot.

“The governor can veto (the bill),” Embry said. “But the governor would sign this to let the people decide.”

Two-year tuition freeze

House Bill 488 was a bill requiring tuition at public post-secondary schools for fall and summer semesters through 2006 to remain at the level in place during the spring 2004 term. It also would have required tuition for 2004 and 2005 summer terms to remain at the same level as the summer 2003 academic term.

The bill, sponsored by Ron Crimm, R-Louisville, was not passed. Crimm said he originally drafted a bill requiring the amount of tuition a person paid their freshman year to remain the same for four years. However, because of university pressures, he pulled the bill.

He said HB 488 would have given universities the flexibility they need during tight budget times but would also allow students to project their tuition rates each year and protect them from continuous increases.

“A bunch of Democrats were thinking tuition was getting too out of hand,” said J.R. Gray, D-Benton, co-sponsor of the bill. He added the reason he thought it did not pass might be because of pressure from university presidents.

Include unborn child as person

Two bills similar in makeup, Senate Bill 4 and House Bill 108, were voted on by the legislature, and so far have not passed.

SB 4 was an amendment to include an unborn child as a person in murder cases. Should an individual murder a mother and her unborn child, the attacker would receive the same penalty as he or she does for the mother and could face the death penalty.

HB 108 was a similar bill only it would not carry a death-penalty sentence.

SB 4 did not pass, but HB 108 did. Co-sponsor Gary L. Tapp, R-Shelbyville, said the bill will go into affect in July.

“(The bills) were pretty much the same,” Tapp said. “They are what’s called companion bills.”

According to Tapp, this is a common practice in the legislature to put pressure on one chamber to get a version passed.

Co-sponsor Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, said legal abortions will be exempt from this bill.