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By State Representative Michael Lee Meredith
Getting the House in Order Focus of First Week of 2015 Session
FRANKFORT, Ky. (January 9, 2015) –With the turn of a page of the calendar and a whirl of arctic air, Kentucky state lawmakers began the new year in Frankfort this week with a new legislative session, some new faces in legislative leadership, and a mix of issue both old and new to tackle over the 2015 Regular Session’s 30 legislative days.
Over 120 House bills were filed on the session’s first day on Tuesday. A worsening heroin problem in the Commonwealth is expected to be addressed this session, with several bills filed already to tackle the issue. Proposed provisions would maximize sentencing for heroin dealers, require reporting of overdose deaths, and allow emergency responders to use the rescue drug Naloxone to treat overdoses, among other purposes. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have expressed a desire to get some form of heroin legislation to the governor’s desk before session’s end, and it would be surprising if that doesn’t happen. We hope to also tackle issues related to job creation, including passage of public-private partnership and broadband expansion legislation, and also address the unfunded liability in the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System.
Proposals on these issues and more are expected to begin flowing in and out of House standing committees and on to the House floor for a vote by all members when the General Assembly returns on Feb. 3 from its session break scheduled for January 10 through Feb. 2. This first week, considered “Part I,” is designed for leadership elections, organizing committees, filing of bills, and lots of ceremony.
The House chamber was filled with legislators’ spouses, children, parents, and other family and friends during the administration of the oath of office, or “swearing in” of all 100 House members by Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr. on Tuesday. Eleven new members and 89 incumbents took the oath shortly after the House convened at noon. Later that afternoon, the chamber’s majority and minority party caucuses met to choose their leaders for the next two years, giving two legislators their first House leadership positions and bringing two legislators back into House leadership after a fairly short hiatus.
Freshly organized, both the House and Senate met in joint session Wednesday night to hear Governor Beshear’s State of the Commonwealth address, in which the governor set out his legislative agenda for this session.
The Governor’s priorities do not necessarily mirror the priorities that lawmakers have for their chamber and the state, but leaders from both chambers expressed after the speech that agreement could likely be reached on some major bills this session—including heroin legislation.
Nothing is predictable in a legislative session, where many personalities and ideologies factor into policymaking. Sometimes, the fate of a bill is about as easy to predict as a horse race, in the parlance of this great Bluegrass State. The only way to know what is happening to a bill (or resolution) is to follow the legislative process throughout.
In addition to the issues I mentioned, there could be ideas and concerns important to you that need to be addressed between now and the middle of March. I encourage you to contact me by e-mail at email@example.com, or call our toll free number at 1-800-372-7181.