06/18/2009 11:00PM

Slots bill passes Ky. House, but Senate may kill it


The Kentucky House of Representatives narrowly approved a bill Friday that would legalize slot machines at the state's racetracks, but the leader of the Senate contended that the bill would not pass the Senate and countered with a plan of his own to subsidize purses.

The House voted 52-45 to approve the bill, which needed 51 votes to pass, after three hours of debate. The House is controlled by Democrats, who have rallied behind the slots legislation with the help of Gov. Steve Beshear, also a Democrat.

Supporters of the bill have spent the past several days lobbying undecided representatives, and the sponsor of the bill, Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, attached provisions that would dedicate a portion of the state's proceeds from slot machines to the construction of schools to attract support.

The House vote appears largely symbolic because Sen. David Williams, the president of the Senate, said on Thursday that the Senate would not take up the legislation because it lacks the votes to pass. Republicans have accused Democrats of vote buying by designating almost $1.3 billion in proceeds from slots revenue to school funding, a tactic that is designed in part to complicate the re-election campaigns of any legislator who votes against the measure.

On Friday, Williams attached a separate measure to an economic development incentive bill that would tax lottery ticket sales and direct the revenues to subsidies for purses at Kentucky tracks. The house has already passed a version of the bill without the amendment. As of late afternoon on Friday, the Senate had not yet voted on the bill, which would have to be sent back to the House if the amendment survives.

The Kentucky legislature is in a special session called by Beshear to address an estimated $1 billion shortfall in the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. Though Democrats have said that the special session may stretch into next week, Williams said on Thursday that he wanted the Senate to adjourn at the close of business Friday. Late Friday, the Senate passed its version of the budget bill.