KY. STATE TREASURER JONATHAN MILLER BLASTS HB 184. BILL ALLOWS BUDGET COMMITTEE TO MEET IN SECRET AND PASS OR REPEAL ANY STATUTE

The House will vote on HB 184 on Tuesday Feb. 20th.  The bill would affirm that the General Assembly has – the power to suspend, modify, amend, create, repeal, and repeal and reenact statutes in the budget bill; amend KRS 48.316 to conform; make the amendment retroactive.- 
This bill would allow the Budget Committee to bypass the traditional committee system of the legislature and pass or repeal new legislation without notice, and in secret.  The checks and balances of the committee system would be rendered irrelevant.  This bill would give the Budget Committee jurisdiction over any issue, not just those affecting spending.
The following is an excerpt from an e-mail sent out by Ky. State Treasurer Jonathan Miller.
Dear Friend,
I am taking a break from the campaign trail to ask for your help in stopping passage of a harmful piece of legislation that is scheduled to be debated by the State House of Representatives tomorrow. While all Kentuckians would like to see a government that is more responsible and responsive to the people, this legislation – House Bill 184 – represents the worst of the good-ole-boy system, where a handful of legislative leaders cut deals behind closed doors that are not in the best interests of the people of Kentucky.
As every middle school student learns, for a bill to become law, it typically must go through a process of analysis and discussion in both the House and the Senate, examined by committees and subcommittees, and then brought to the legislative floors for debate and a vote.
Over the years the process has retreated further and further under a shroud of secrecy with deals being cut, laws being made while others are repealed, and pork-barrel projects being funded – all without the benefit of public debate. In the past few years, a few legislative leaders have inserted major laws into the bi-annual budget bill during middle-of-the-night, closed-door, top-secret sessions involving only a handful of the most powerful legislators.
Because the budget bill must be passed – or else state government shuts down – the rest of the legislature is presented the full bill, without amendments, for an up-or-down vote. Not only do they have no time to read most of the details; even if they found something objectionable, they could not vote against it, unless they wanted to be on record to opposing the entire budget.
We saw how harmful this practice could be when this procedure was used to try to raid $14 million from the KAPT (Kentucky’s Affordable Prepaid Tuition) program, a trust fund we established to help Kentucky families save for their children’s higher education.
Even though 95% of the legislature supported KAPT and would have opposed this attempt to rob the KAPT families of their hard-earned savings, they were misled by a few of their leaders and were forced to vote on this huge budget bill that they had not had a chance to digest completely.
As State Treasurer, I sued, and the court agreed that the KAPT raid was unconstitutional. The 9,000 KAPT families are now permanently protected and continue to realize the dream of affordable higher education for their children, shielded from the excessive tuition taxes of the last few years.
Just last year, lawmakers met for hours on end – behind closed doors guarded by State Troopers – to discuss the state budget with no public vote taken on compromises made and with expenditures that likely would never have seen passage if the votes were up to public scrutiny.
This is all wrong, and unfortunately, House Bill 184 would make such legislative abuse more likely in the future. While the legal effect of a budget bill expires at the end of the two-year budget cycle, House Bill 184 would deem any substantive laws tacked onto the budget bill as permanent.

Jonathan Miller
 

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF HB 184:
 

HB 184/FN (BR 455) – H. Moberly Jr
     AN ACT relating to the branch budget bills.
     Amend KRS 48.310, relating to the operation of the budget bill, to reaffirm that the General Assembly has the power to suspend, modify, amend, create, repeal, and repeal and reenact statutes in the budget bill; amend KRS 48.316 to conform; make the amendment retroactive.
HB 184 – AMENDMENTS

     HCS – Retain original provisions; create a new section of KRS Chapter 446 to clarify the intent of the General Assembly regarding branch budget bills; amend KRS 446.145 to refer to the provisions of KRS 48.310 as establishing the method by which the General Assembly will designate intent with regard to a branch budget bill.
     Jan 4-introduced in House
     Jan 5-to Appropriations and Revenue (H)
     Feb 8-posted in committee
     Feb 14-reported favorably, 1st reading, to Calendar with Committee Substitute
     Feb 15-2nd reading, to Rules
     Feb 16-posted for passage in the Regular Orders of the Day for Tuesday, February 20, 2007

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