After over two months of anticipation and debate, the Senate finally received the state budget bill from the House on day 49 of the 60-day 2016 General Assembly. Governor Bevin was elected in a landslide because the people of Kentucky recognized a need for financial change and fiscal responsibility. We think the upcoming budget will 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 solve our 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 provide for generations to come.
In the midst of receiving and reviewing the budget, the Senate also passed a number of bills last week:
*SB 224, a bill I proudly sponsored, would update mine safety education and training requirements lessening the cost for our already strapped coal mines by eliminating duplicating requirements.
*Senate Bill (SB) 66 would offer confidentiality to peer reviews done by doctors.
*SB 198 would amend KRS statute so neither a franchisee nor 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 242 would allow a retailer or its agent to offer recommendations, consistent with the label, for over-the-counter animal health products it sells. This commonsense legislation protects the retailers who provide so many goods to our farms across the state.
*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.
*HB 148 would permit licensed child-care centers and certified family child-care homes to have an epinephrine auto-injectors for emergency use. An amendment to HB 148 would increase the age limit in the definition of a newborn infant to 30 days in order to allow parents to abandon a child at a designated safe place.
*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.
*SB 202 would allow lawsuits involving the Commonwealth or its agencies to be heard in court outside of Franklin County.
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 that Kentuckians can be proud of. I also appreciate Governor Bevin’s initial budget proposal which laid the groundwork for a smarter, more responsible Kentucky.
If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Brandon.Smith@LRC.ky.gov. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.
Senator Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) represents the 30th District including Bell, Breathitt, Johnson, Leslie, Magoffin, and Perry Counties. He is the Vice-Chair of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee and the Transportation Committee; and a member of Appropriations and Revenue Committee. He is a member of the Federal Environmental Reg. Impact Assessment Task Force Special Committee. For a high-resolution .jpeg of Senator Smith, please log onto http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/pubinfo/Portraits/senate30.jpg