Legislative Update – February 13, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. – There was no shortage of visitors in the Capitol during our third week of the 2015 legislative session. Hundreds of friends, colleagues, constituents and interest groups filled the hallways and met with legislators to weigh in on what issues were most important to them.

As we welcomed the many visitors, we also were active in committees and on the Senate floor on proposed legislation. In a 30-day “short session,” it’s sometimes difficult for both chambers to fully consider all the bills that have been filed. However, over the last two weeks, the Senate has taken action on our priority legislation, giving the House chamber more time to study those bills.

This week the Senate passed important bills addressing the shoring up of retirement laws, transparency, school safety, legislative redistricting, and more.

In an effort to ensure legislative accountability, Senate Bill 27 passed the chamber this week. The bill simply states that in the next legislative redistricting session, which will be after the next U.S. Census, the re-districting must be completed by April 15, or legislative members will have to continue the process without receiving pay. In 2013, it took a special session to complete the redistricting and the extra cost of the legislative session places a financial strain on Kentucky’s budget. The bill also ensures that every county in Kentucky is adequately represented in the House of Representatives.

The Senate unanimously passed two bills regarding transparency and legislative responsibility regarding pension systems. Senate Bill 22 would clean up Retirement System loop holes and require retirement systems to disclose the use of placement agents. Senate Bill 23 will allow legislators to set a precedent with contributions to the pension system. The bill would permit members to make a one-time election to have their benefits from the Legislators’ Retirement Plan based solely on their legislative salary. In short, it would prevent pension “super-sizing.”

School safety is the goal of Senate Bill 39 which also passed this week. The bill will require public schools to consult with local and state safety officials and National Weather Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency guiding principles when identifying the best available severe weather safe zones.

An effort to close retirement loopholes of elected enforcement officials passed unanimously. Senate Bill 62 will prohibit elected law enforcement officials, such as sheriffs, from retiring, receiving that pay out, and then coming back as sheriff to also collect a salary. This is very hard on state and county budgets. The legislation will allow the salary but not the retirement benefits upon reemployment.

On Thursday, Senate Bill 82 passed with bipartisan support. The legislation is aimed to promote awareness of Kentucky children diagnosed with cancer by providing an option for taxpayers to donate a portion or all of their tax returns to pediatric cancer research.

We also passed Senate Bill 34 Thursday, which relates to driving under the influence. This bill would change what is known in legal circles as the “look back period” from five to 10 years. If someone is convicted of drunken driving multiple times in a 10-year period the penalties for the crimes are increased.

Senate Bill 132 relates to improving school and student performance. We passed that legislation Thursday, which would allow a superintendent to select the principal in a school identified as an “initial intervention school.”

Monday, February 16 is Presidents Day, a federal holiday that honors President Washington’s birthday and President Lincoln’s, reminds us of all of the founding fathers of our nation. I think this day is especially important to Kentucky because our native son, President Abraham Lincoln, was born here and eventually led the U.S. through the most turbulent time of our history. Recalling President Lincoln, President Washington, and the many that led that built the United States while keeping our democracy in tact gives us a renewed sense of our duty and reminds us what is at the heart of our work here in Frankfort.

All these bills now move to the House for their consideration. If you have any questions or comments about the issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.