A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Kathy Hinkle
FRANKFORT – The General Assembly may consider many bills during a legislative session, but in even-numbered years, none are more important than the Executive Branch budget.
While preliminary work has been going on for months, it wasn’t until earlier this week – when Governor Beshear presented his first-ever budget proposal – that legislators had something in hand. Now, over the next two-plus months, the House and Senate will review this spending plan line by line and make changes we think are necessary before sending it back to the governor for his review and then responding to his actions.
Passing a budget has always been a legislative function, but for much of Kentucky’s history, the governor all but controlled this process from start to finish. Thankfully, that began to change in the early 1980s, and the result since then is better government and a budget better suited for all of Kentucky.
That work has been fairly tough in the years since 2008’s Great Recession. We’ve had to make a lot of spending cuts since then, and with limited growth projected during the next two years, it will be difficult to do some of the things we would like.
Even so, Governor Beshear said before presenting his budget that he thought it would still accomplish a lot of what Kentucky needs. He promised it would be more education-focused, and that includes teacher raises and keeping our public postsecondary schools from facing further reductions.
As the budget process gets underway in the House, our chamber did approve several important bills last week. One would make tuition at our public colleges and universities free for the immediate family of emergency medical services personnel killed in the line of duty. This benefit already is available to family members of firefighters and law enforcement officers who lose their lives while protecting us, and it just makes sense to do the same for our paramedics and EMTs, who often put themselves at risk while caring for others.
Another bill would make the Honor and Remember flag the state’s emblem of the service and sacrifices made by those in the military who die while fighting on our country’s behalf. This legislation also determines when and where the flag will be flown throughout the year. It is vital that we never forget these brave men and women, and this flag will help in that regard.
Another bill now in the Senate’s hands sheds positive light on those dogs and cats that have been adopted from or are being kept by an animal shelter or rescue service. This plan to make them Kentucky’s official pet passed the House easily last week, and will hopefully make more families think about adding a rescue dog or cat to their homes.
For our region, the biggest news last week by far was the announcement that Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital will be closing later this year. As I said to my House colleagues, so many of us are both shocked and saddened, because this is a significant blow to our healthcare and our economy.
This hospital has been a pillar of our community for decades, and it has been recognized as being one of the best in its category and one of the best places to work in Kentucky. In other words, it has gone above and beyond what a hospital should do.
Those of us in the legislature who represent those affected by this decision will do all we can to help, either to keep the hospital open or, if necessary, to make sure our access to proper healthcare is maintained and those who may lose their jobs have what they need to land on their feet. I want to thank everyone who has been involved here at home in this effort to help, because it has made a true difference as we prepare for whatever lies ahead.
For now, I want to thank everyone who has contacted me so far this legislative session, and I encourage you to do the same if you would like to let me know your thoughts or concerns. My email is Kathy.Hinkle@lrc.ky.gov, and the toll-free message line – to reach me or any legislator – is 1-800-372-7181.