Kentucky HIV/AIDS community suffers as the legislature continues fighting over non-life threatening issuesApr 15th, 2010 | By Michael Thomas, Kentucky Political Editor & Senior Contributor | Category: Kentucky Guardian News, Kentucky Political News, Lead Story
Facing a deadline of midnight tonight to adjourn, legislative leaders have yet to agree on a budget. Governor Beshear told Kentucky lawmakers to “get their egos under control” and produce a budget by midnight as Kentuckians expect.
Leaders of the House Democratic and Senate Republican majorities have met and exchanged proposals this week.
First Lady Jane Beshear’s Communications Office had no immediate comment.
Mr. Speaker and Mr. President: “Can you Spare some ‘change’ from your 3.5 billion in road projects to save lives?”
Currently, the new budget has no funding for the Kentucky AIDS Drug Assistance Program, but an effort led by Kentucky Equality Federation effectively killed House Bill 350, a bill that would have dismantled the education and prevention efforts performed by the Kentucky HIV/AIDS Branch, a unit of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
In addition, House Bill 350 would have removed the requirement that podiatrists, physicians, acupuncturists, physician’s assistants, athletic trainers, chiropractors, dentists, dental hygienists, registered nurses, advanced registered nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses, pharmacists, optometrists, physical therapists, laboratory personnel, and social workers complete HIV/AIDS education and training as a condition of being licensed to practice in the Commonwealth.
At the last moment however, House Bill 350 was attached to Senate Bill 127. “This is an underhanded technique used at the end of sessions to move pieces of legislation that haven’t moved before by hiding them in other places,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer.
By attaching a Senate Bill to a House Bill, the Kentucky House of Representatives had to concur, they did not, effectively killing amendments and attachments to Senate Bill 127.
Lawmakers have ignored pleas from a coalition led by Kentucky Equality Federation to restore the Kentucky HIV/AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which is the only way people with HIV/AIDS without medical insurance can receive the medication that saves their lives. The coalition was outraged that the Kentucky Senate wanted nearly 3.5 billion in new road projects, but couldn’t allocate any funds to save people’s lives.
Coalition members included the Kentucky HIV/AIDS Advocacy Action Group, AVOL, Kentucky HIV/AIDS Planning and Advisory Council, COLAGE (Children Of Lesbians And Gays Everywhere), Northern Kentucky Chapter, United We Stand – Kentucky’s LGBTI News®, The Wings Clinic, House of Ruth, Moveable Feast, GLSO, University of Kentucky OUTsource, and the University of Kentucky Gay-Straight Alliance. (press release)
House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg), said in a statement that House Democrats offered the Senate a proposal that “accomplishes the goals of being fiscally responsible and creating jobs and opportunity across the Commonwealth.”
And the midnight Thursday deadline is firm. The Kentucky Constitution requires that during 60-day sessions in even-numbered years the session must end no later than midnight April 15.
Two years ago a frantic House and Senate unplugged the clocks in their chambers and continued working for another hour. But a lawsuit stemming from that episode produced a Franklin Circuit Court ruling that said any action taken by the General Assembly after midnight on April 15th is invalid.
Yesterday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo entered into closed-door talks with Senate President David Williams (R-Burkesville), a day that started with President Williams pronouncing a budget deal all but dead.
The Democratic controlled House of Representatives would not include any new road construction projects, a deal breaker with the Republican controlled Senate. House Democrats an additional $1 billion in school, water, sewer, and other projects, but Senate Republicans refused.
House Democrats also refused the Senate’s proposed cuts for schools and to the Medicaid program.
Since lawmakers waited until the last minute to pass a budget, Governor Beshear could veto all or part of it, and lawmakers would be unable to try to override it since the session must end at midnight tonight.