General Assembly begins digging into bills, committees at work
By Jill York
One of my great joys as a legislator is the moments I get to spend in classrooms explaining the process by which we Kentuckians craft the laws that govern us.
Usually, I’ll walk the students through the process and they delight in seeing how an idea can evolve and change during the bill to possible law journey. It’s wonderful to see them dive in and analyze. They debate, try to rally support for the parts of the bill they like and have no trouble expressing their views on what they see as “bad ideas.”
Young people are interested in the good the bill might do plus the fairness of it. Does it treat everyone the same? Sometimes a student will pipe up with an “I want this because I said so!” sort of comment only to be met with a chorus of disapproval from their peers.
That brings up the idea of control. Who gets to decide? Is it an idea that citizens see use in and will embrace or does it steal citizen control and fall back on “… because the government said so?”
Of course, many of you reading this recognize that those are the very questions that legislators wrestle with in the hopes of creating good policy for our citizens. I can report that all of those components are firmly in play in Frankfort this past few days as the legislature reconvened after a three-week recess.
At last, bills finally began getting their first appearances before members in committee. That’s where most of the questioning and debate can occur as the bill’s sponsor and supporters present the legislation and present all the reasons they feel this “idea” should become a law.
The discussion can get pretty heated or sometimes technical as members push those testifying to troubleshoot the legislation. This part helps refine the bill to truly meet the need it intended.
A resolution designed to take a deep look at Kentucky Retirement Systems and begin the process of making them more solvent, House Concurrent Resolution 7, would direct that an outside independent audit of the Kentucky Retirement Systems be conducted, and those findings be reported back to the Public Pension Oversight Board. A recent story by Bloomberg ranked Kentucky’s pension system the worst in the nation due to its funding gap. The aim here is to have another set of analysts – another set of eyes not associated with state government – conduct a review and issue their findings.
Another bill gaining attention this week is the effort to pass a statewide smoking ban in Kentucky. House Bill 145, approved by the House Committee on Health and Welfare, would prohibit smoking in all businesses and places of employment in Kentucky. Similar bills have been proposed in past sessions and have drawn great debate. This issue has come to some prominence in our region and I have fielded comments from citizens on both sides of question. I am very appreciative of the feedback and commentary that I have received. If this is an issue that you feel strongly about, I urge you to contact our toll free legislative message line where your comments will forwarded to me, 1-800-372-7181.
Also expected to generate a lot of debate and conversations over the next week is House Bill 1, which is the local option sales tax proposal. If House Bill 1 should become law, a Constitutional Amendment would be placed on the ballot before Kentucky voters. If that amendment is approved by voters, it would give local governments the option of placing a local sales tax of no more than one percent to pay for infrastructure projects in their counties and communities. That local tax would first have to be approved by voters, and would then expire once the project has been paid off.
It seems that this short session has more than its fair share of controversial, important, and timely bills up for consideration. I hope in my next few articles that I might highlight some legislation I have sponsored, such as HB 175, which would create a refundable tax credit for firefighters. This has primary importance for the many volunteer fire departments in our district, where our firefighters are unpaid and fund much of their own training and equipment out of their own pockets.
You can also expect me to keep you advised on progress on proposals to combat the growing problem of heroin in Kentucky, to expand broadband access in the Commonwealth, and measures to bring greater transparency to government.
I hope you will follow the action taken on all these ideas and that you will reach out to me with your insights and opinions so I can make the best informed decisions when it is time to vote. I encourage you to contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our toll free number at 1-800-372-7181 to share your thoughts about what is important to you.