Long days, heated discussions, and budget negotiations marked the 13th week of the 2016 General Assembly. The Senate was in session three of the five weekdays while the Senate and House leaders used the other two days to work on budget negotiations.
The Senate is working diligently toward a budget compromise ensuring the people of the Commonwealth are not left without a state budget at the end of the session. We do not want to waste taxpayer dollars by calling a special session.
Our main concern and budget priority is funding our pension liability. We have over $36 billion in unfunded liabilities, and we cannot afford to keep delaying our obligations to the pension funds. As one of my colleagues said, “Refusing to address the pension crisis is equivalent to mortgaging our children’s future.”
Additionally, we proposed to fully restore cuts to K-12 education and the Family Resource and Youth Services Centers (FRYSC). We also proposed to fully restore the judicial branch’s budget to ensure the court system can continue to function.
Even while busy with budget negotiations, we passed quite a few bills last week including:
· House Bill 40 would allow the expungement of some low-level felonies from criminal records.
· HB 305 is the state’s road plan which provides funding for road projects all across the Commonwealth.
· HB 352 would update regulations relating to security interests in motor vehicles.
· HB 382, which would immediately transfer a vehicle’s title to its new owner upon its sale from a dealership, providing the proper paperwork is filed.
· HB 111, as amended, would require public school to post the Kentucky child abuse hotline number. Additionally, this bill gives more flexibility to school calendar scheduling.
· HB 263, as amended, would require more transparency in the public pension system.
· House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 187, which urges the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to require advanced screening of all inbound shipments to the United States to intercept illegal synthetic drugs and chemicals.
· HB 570 relates to Kentucky State Police employees and updates statutes to reflect current and correct information.
· HB 369 would add the Arc of Kentucky to the Kentucky Commission on Services and Supports for Individuals with an Intellectual Disability and Other Developmental Disabilities.
The General Assembly will not be in session during the veto period, which concludes on April 11. During that time Senate and House leadership will continue budget negotiations in hopes of voting on a budget on April 12, the last day of the 2016 Regular Session.
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 [email protected] 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.