In Frankfort, difficult budget work is ongoing as our caucus continues to research and deliberate. The two-year budget will be our blueprint for governing in tough financial times. Just like your family, state government must live within its means. Doing so, however, will require responsible spending. As any budget should, our plan will prioritize being good stewards of your tax dollars, while protecting the most vulnerable among us.
This week the Senate passed Senate Bill 1, an overhaul of the current education assessment standards. The bill provides a framework to limit government interference in how students are taught and tested, while focusing in on the four core areas of education: English, Math, Science, and Social Studies. I am eager to review this legislation, and pledge to work with the Senate to provide much-needed reforms to our public education system.
The House also passed an education bill this week which would give public school teachers at least 60 minutes per school day for lesson planning and other “non-teaching” activities. Current law says teachers must have “additional time” for nonteaching activities, but allows school councils and school districts to determine how much time the teachers get. Under House Bill 107, schools would have to set aside 60 minutes per day for full-time teachers, with at least 120 minutes allotted to teachers each week for “self-directed” activities like planning, professional development, and outreach. The bill also provides flexibility for this time if a school week is less than five days.
As lawmakers we know it is always part of our job to protect benefits for our active duty military and veterans at every opportunity. On Tuesday we voted 93-0 in favor of 3 pieces of legislation that would ensure our veterans and active duty military receive academic credit for military experience, help our veterans receive professional licenses based on their military training, and make it easier for our disabled veterans to open a business.
Academic credit for military experience is provided in House Bill 127. While most Kentucky colleges and universities already provide academic credit for active duty soldiers and military veterans, HB 127 would require that a statewide policy be created and implemented to ensure that appropriate, uniform academic credit for military service and training be given to active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces, Reserves or National Guard, and veterans.
This week also saw the passage of legislation to allow some state college and university building projects to proceed without state budget authorization. House Bill 265 would allow state postsecondary capital projects funded with restricted funds, agency funds, federal funds or private funds to be exempt from the state budget process as long as the projects are approved by the college’s or university’s governing board and the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE). They must also be presented to the state legislative Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee. All of the project costs would be the responsibility of the college or university, not the state.
House Bill 175, my peace officer bill, which passed the House unanimously last week, also passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously on Thursday morning. It will now head to the Senate floor for final passage. HB 175 was the first bill sponsored by a Republican to pass the House this session and is now poised to possibly be the first House bill to pass the Senate this session.
As always, I welcome your comments and concerns on any issues facing our Commonwealth during the 2016 Regular Session. I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or you can contact me via email at Michael.Meredith@lrc.ky.gov. You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.