FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 11, 2013) – After House Speaker Greg Stumbo on Monday declared the industrial hemp bill dead, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer blasted the Speaker of the House on his attempt to block the bill.
Stumbo argued that Senate Bill 50 could not be moved from the House Rules Committee to the House floor for a vote. Time has run on the industrial hemp measure, he said.
Tuesday is the last day of the legislative session before the March 13-23 veto recess, when lawmakers return to their home districts to wait for potential gubernatorial vetoes. Lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Capitol on March 25-26 for the final two days of the 2013 legislative session.
“Speaker Stumbo is a tone-deaf, one-man band trying to kill the only jobs bill this session,” Comer said Monday afternoon in a press release. “This bill has come to symbolize everything wrong with Frankfort, and I hope Stumbo’s fellow Democrats recognize the backlash that will result if they follow their leader on this one.”
House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover said Stumbo’s procedural argument was hypocritical, noting that Democrat leaders had moved several other bills from the Rules Committee to the House floor for a vote.
“Stumbo passed the buck to House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins,” Comer said, by stating that Adkins suspended the rules for the other bills. Hoover then asked Stumbo if Adkins could do the same for SB 50, and Stumbo acknowledged that he could, Comer said.
SB 50, the industrial hemp legislation sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, establishes an administrative framework for industrial hemp production, which will help Kentucky’s congressional delegation as it seeks a federal waiver allowing Kentucky to become the first state to grow the crop. The bill passed the Senate 31-6.
Reintroducing hemp to Kentucky would give farmers a new crop, Comer has said, and create processing jobs to turn the fiber and seeds into products ranging from paper to biofuels.
U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, and Congressmen John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie have offered bipartisan support for SB 50, and numerous other Democrat legislators support the bill.
“Never has such a popular bill received such overwhelming bipartisan support,” Comer said. “I remain hopeful that Speaker Stumbo will come to his senses and realize that a hollow political victory for himself does nothing but hurt his caucus.”
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the Senate gave the measure full consideration even though he is neither a proponent nor opponent of the measure, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
The Senate approved the bill last month. After weeks of delay, the industrial hemp legislation made it out of the House agriculture and small business committee last week.
Comer has said he will not give up on the bill.