Legislative Update – February 27, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. – As we approach the final days of the 2015 legislative session, we have been working diligently to complete our consideration of Senate bills, while also vetting legislation that has passed the House chamber. We will begin considering several House bills next week, and on Monday the Senate plans to pass the first bill to receive the approval of both legislative Chambers.

A major focus for both chambers this week was the approach to combat heroin in the Commonwealth. The House’s measure was presented in the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Wednesday and our Senate Bill 5 was discussed in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, both informational hearings only.

It is imperative that we find common ground on this legislation and make an impact on the heroin epidemic that has plagued so many Kentuckians in recent years. As Senate President Stivers stated, this session will be judged on whether or not heroin legislation is passed. The fact that both chambers had informational hearings is a positive step to protect Kentucky families from this terrible drug.

While heroin continues to be the focal point, plenty of other significant bills passed this week. From technical changes and statutory updates, to legislation that was the fruition of years of work, the Senate continued to move bills with the intent of creating Kentucky jobs and strengthening Kentucky families.

Legislation that creates jobs, incentivizes entrepreneurship, improves infrastructure, and grants greater access was passed this week with bipartisan support. Senate Bill 168 creates a funding mechanism to deploy grants and incentives that is better known as “SOAR,” an acronym for “Shaping Our Appalachain Region. SOAR is a 501C nonprofit corporation that would provide aide to east Kentucky coal counties that have taken a significant economic hit as a result of the war on coal.

The Senate also passed Senate Bill 110, which would create a new opportunity for Kentucky’s students by translating education into jobs. The bill enables Kentucky high school juniors and seniors who have earned scholarship money through the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) program, to take up to six hours of dual credit courses from an accredited college or an industry-recognized program offering certification or licensure in a skilled trade.

In order to improve awareness regarding child abuse, Senate Bill 119 was passed. This bill would ensure that educators and other certified staff are trained to recognize abuse and neglect and how to properly report these acts.

The Senate also passed measures to save money through efficient elections, and to create a debt-limit. Senate Bill 93 would move all elections of Kentucky’s statewide constitutional officers to even-numbered years along with federal elections. By doing this, state and local governments would achieve significant savings. Because the elections would coincide with federal elections, voter turnout also would likely increase. Statistics prove that more voters go to the polls for federal elections.

The Senate Majority is resolved to keep debt reigned in and keep Government accountable to current and future taxpayers. Senate Bill 94 would address this in addition to working in favor of the Kentucky Employees Retirement System by limiting the issuance of general fund-supported debt, calculate the debt limitation savings, and transfer the savings to the nonhazardous employee unfunded liability trust fund.

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 additional measure the Legislature passed this week online at www.lrc.ky.gov.