Sunday, April 16, 2000

Patton castigates GOP for veto overrides

BY Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
and The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — The Kentucky General Assembly overrode three gubernatorial vetoes and passed a state budget.

        But because Friday was the legislature's last day in session, Gov. Paul Patton gets the last word on the budget.

        Under state law, the governor can still veto anything in the budget, but with the session ended, there will be no legislature to override his actions. With line-item veto authority, he can excise anything in it or all of it.

        Mr. Patton has declined to comment on his plans. At a meeting with Senate Democrats Friday, Mr. Patton was encouraged to take a stronger line with the GOP.

        And during a post-session news conference Friday, Mr. Patton said the GOP majority in the Senate “did everything they could to frustrate our plans for political reasons, not good policy.”

        The three measures Mr. Patton vetoed but the legislature reinstated deal with clashes of rights and separation of powers.

        One was a bill that exempts churches from civil rights laws. The second dealt with the sale of guns confiscated by police.

        The third bill represents a struggle between the executive and legislative branches; it would give the General Assembly a way to negate some of the governor's rule making.

        The so-called church camp bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Kerr, D-Taylor Mill, was inspired by a group of Boone County churches.

        Under the bill, religious groups would not have to rent facilities such as church camps to groups they differ with over religious beliefs. Mr. Kerr said the bill does not allow churches to discriminate but it does give them a measure of religious freedom.

        Mr. Kerr was asked to sponsor the bill by the Northern Kentucky Baptist Association, a group of 66 Baptist churches that owns a church camp in western Boone County. Four years ago, the group rented its camp to a group that does not believe in God, the Free Inquiry Group. The Baptists were uncomfortable about renting to the group but did so out of fear of being sued.

        In his veto message, Mr. Patton noted that a church is not required to open its facilities to the public. But if it does, it can't discriminate, he said.

        Several lawmakers, including four African-Americans and the legislature's only Jewish member, urged their colleagues to vote against the bill. “This bill is about discrimination,” said Rep. Eleanor Jordan, D-Louisville, also an African-American. “We have civil rights laws in this country for a reason, but this bill is a step back to the 1950s and '60s.”

        The bill dealing with confiscated guns would force police to sell the guns to licensed dealers and owners, and to use the proceeds to buy bulletproof vests.

        But police departments want the option to destroy the guns.


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