Legislative Update – April 18, 2016

After numerous long nights highlighted by plenty of healthy debate and “number crunching,” the Kentucky General Assembly finally reached an agreement on the two-year state budget early Thursday morning. Between a newly elected governor and new political dynamics in the House, the process may have lasted a bit longer than usual, but we were happy with the bipartisan effort shown by all Senate members, House members, and respective staff. In the end, we are confident that the budget passed on Friday is a structurally-balanced budget that addresses our most vital areas of government without jeopardizing the financial soundness of our children’s future.

The Senate’s main objective throughout budget negotiations was to confront Kentucky’s $36 billion unfunded pension liability, which has undoubtedly jeopardized the financial stability of our Commonwealth. According to Governing Magazine, Kentucky’s pension systems were ranked at the top of the worst-funded of all 50 states. We originally proposed to give an additional $322 million to fund pensions than our House colleagues.

Thankfully, after nearly three weeks of negotiations, the Senate and the House reached a budget compromise that leaves our state with one of the most conservative and responsible budget documents we have seen in many years.

In the final budget compromise, we are dedicating more than $1.2 billion to the unfunded pension liabilities. This budget also exempts KET, K-12 education, and Learning and Results Services (LARS) from any funding reductions. Performance-based funding for universities was also included which provides incentives for postsecondary education institutions to raise their education standards in areas such as graduation rates and retention rates. A $100 million workforce development bond pool was another included item which will permit one new project in each congressional district to promote workforce development. Also included in the budget were much-needed pay raises for Kentucky State Police.

While the budget was being debated, several important bills were signed into law by Governor Bevin:
· Senate Bill (SB) 193 will provide insurance coverage for children with special nutrition needs.
· House Bill (HB) 40, which allows for the expungement of some Class D felonies from criminal records. The bill would expunge only 61 of Kentucky’s nearly 400 Class D felonies, but that constitutes 70 percent of the state’s Class D felon population.
· SB 56 increases the look-back window for DUI offenses from five years to 10 years.
· SB 11 will help the tourism industry, especially our booming bourbon industry, here in our state.
· SB 63 will expedite the testing of rape kits.
· SB 179, known as the “ABLE Act,” will help establish savings accounts for people with disabilities.
· SB 43, also known as the “John Mackey Memorial Act,” provides death benefits to families of EMS workers killed in the line of duty.
· SB 195 provides death benefits to families of firefighters who die from cancer caused by their line-of-duty work.

It has been an honor to be your voice in Frankfort during this 2016 Session. However, my work is not done as we continue to debate issues during the interim. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my office if there is anything we can do for you.

ATTACHED PHOTO: Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) poses for a picture with Rep. Thomas Kerr (R-Taylor Mill) after a introducing a resolution honoring Rep. Kerr for his 30+ years of service to the Commonwealth as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives. The 2016 Regular Session was Rep. Kerr’s last as a House Representative, as the Kenton County-native announced his retirement earlier this year (LRC-Public information Photo).

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