Legislative Update – March 18, 2016

After over two months of anticipation and debate, the Senate finally received the state budget bill from the House midway through the 11th week of the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly. Governor Matt Bevin was elected in a landslide last fall because the people of Kentucky recognized a need for financial change and fiscal responsibility. We think the upcoming budget should reflect those needs for the betterment of the Commonwealth.

As expected, many changes were made to Governor Bevin’s budget by the House. Now that we have received their budget, we will comb through the fine details and make our own changes. Once we have our version of the budget completed, we must work with the House to compromise on a solution that we will ultimately send to the Governor to be signed into law.

One of our main concerns in the proposed House budget is the use of funds that are only for one-time expenses for items that are recurring, causing a structural imbalance. The use of these funds may help short-term problems, but it does not address our $35 billion, long-term pension liability. We cannot continue down the path of spending more money than we have. However, the Senate does plan to address the pension crisis in our version of the budget in a responsible manner that will protect future generations.

In the midst of receiving and reviewing the budget, the Senate also passed a number of bills this week:

·         Senate Bill (SB) 66 would offer confidentiality to peer reviews done by doctors.
·         SB 198 would amend statutes so neither a franchisee or an employee of a franchisee will be considered an employee of the franchisor.
·         SB 205 addresses false advertisements about nursing homes that often encourage unwarranted lawsuits.
·         SB 260 would clarify procedure for confirmation of appointments made by the Governor.
·         HB 160 would require the Department for Public Health to establish guidelines for safe disposal of hypodermic syringes, needles, and sharps. An amendment to the bill also states that needle exchanges across the state must stick with a one-for-one exchange, which we believe will further advance our fight against the current drug epidemic.
·         SB 180 would protect the religious freedoms of business owners.
·         SB 206 provide that cities may employ retired police officers upon the fulfillment of certain criteria.
·         SB 227 would increase the amount of basic training hours for peace officers.
·         SB 244 would amend Section 29 of the Constitution of Kentucky to permit the General Assembly or an agency or committee it creates to review, approve, or disapprove any administrative regulation of the executive branch during or between regular sessions of the General Assembly and ultimately put those on the ballot for voter approval.
·         SB 63 would expedite processing of untested rape kits.
·         SB 253 would create a charter school pilot project in Jefferson County and Fayette County in order to help address the achievement gap for children receiving free or reduced lunches.

The days are getting longer and there is still much work to be done, but I feel confident in the Senate’s ability to negotiate a budget bill of which Kentuckians can be proud. I also appreciate Governor Bevin’s initial budget proposal which laid the groundwork for a smarter, more fiscally responsible Kentucky.

ATTACHED PHOTO: Senator Damon Thayer with Scott County-resident Marie Jones, who was inducted into the Gov. Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 (KY Senate Communications).

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