Brent Spence Bridge: Did pro-toll legislative effort contribute to demise of heroin bill?

Bill's failure to 'put hundreds of lives at risk'

This much is certain: The results of the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly assure that the $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge project will be moving about as slowly as traffic on the span during rush hour.

What’s less clear, however, is whether a legislative maneuver to allow for tolling to fund the bridge project contributed to the demise of a bill designed to address the state’s heroin epidemic.

“Whether that amendment made (the heroin bill) a bridge too far or was just one more piece of nuisance flotsam that got in the way of it, somebody needs to answer for what happened,” said Covington City Commissioner Steve Frank, a vocal opponent of tolling for the Brent Spence project. “This is literally going to put hundreds of lives at risk, if not thousands.”

Here’s what happened: During the waning hours of April 15, the final day of the legislative session, Rep. Sannie Overly, a Democrat from Paris, Ky., attached an amendment to Senate Bill 5. Sen. Katie Stine, a Southgate Republican, had introduced Senate Bill 5 to combat the heroin problem that is ravaging communities in Northern Kentucky and around the state.

Overly’s amendment would have attached the original language of House Bill 407, the so-called P3 legislation, to Stine’s heroin bill.

That was a controversial move among Northern Kentucky lawmakers because House Bill 407, as originally proposed, would have paved the way for tolls to help pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project.

But business leaders who support the idea of tolling to help pay for the project say they had nothing to do with trying to attach the P3 measure to the heroin bill.

Insiders can read more about how the legislative maneuver played out in Frankfort, what local business leaders think about it and what proponents of the bridge project think will happen next.

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