Legislative Update – January 19, 2018

Despite the slick roads and thick accumulation of snow across the Commonwealth, the Kentucky General Assembly returned ready to work following the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. The general atmosphere in the Capitol was one of anticipation as citizens rallied for causes in the Rotunda and met with their legislators throughout the week.

Senate Bill (SB) 8 passed the Senate this week with overwhelming bipartisan support and is headed to the House for a vote. The bill provides civil immunity for damaging a vehicle if a person enters the vehicle with the reasonable, good-faith belief that a dog or cat is in immediate danger of death if not removed. Also known as a “Look Before You Lock” law, the bill will hopefully cut down on the amount of heat-related illnesses and deaths of pets in Kentucky.

During even-numbered years members of the Kentucky General Assembly craft a two-year budget for the state. This year’s budget discussions kicked off with Governor Matt Bevin’s State of the Commonwealth Budget Address, which I attended, on the evening of Tuesday, January 16. The Commonwealth, unfortunately, currently faces a bleak financial outlook that can only be solved by reducing our spending. We in the General Assembly are held accountable by taxpayers, and we must use taxpayer dollars in the most responsible manner possible. Although this budget will be tight, I believe this is one more step to getting our state’s financial health on track.

The budget address by the Governor is one of the first steps in crafting a final budget that will guide Kentucky’s financial decisions for the next two years. Once the Governor outlines his plan, the Kentucky Senate and House will craft their own budget plans, and all three parties—after long discussion and input from stakeholders—will come together to create a final budget.

Governor Bevin outlined his vision for moving Kentucky in a positive direction starting with a balanced budget that meets our pension-funding obligations. Although spending cuts were proposed, the Governor also proposed that the SEEK “per pupil” funding will remain the same—the highest it has ever been—and 100 percent of lottery proceeds will continue going toward student scholarships. His proposed budget also includes additional funding for law enforcement, public prosecutors, and defenders; additional dollars to fight the opioid and substance abuse crisis; and more support for adoption and foster care initiatives.

Again, the Governor’s budget proposal is just that—a proposal. We face a months-long process of negotiations, studies, and public hearings before a final draft is crafted. The final product could look much different from the Governor’s original proposal, but the driving force behind it remains the same—we must put our state on a financially-sound path forward.

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