by Representative Michael Lee Meredith:
The pace shows no signs of slowing down as committees continue to send legislation to the full House for consideration, and members put the final touches on bills as the deadline to file legislation is less than three weeks away. While we worked on legislation, I also enjoyed seeing another sign that we are returning to normal as several school groups toured the Capitol, and we visited with folks from our Family Resource and Youth Services Centers (FRYSCs), county officials, and other groups in Frankfort to advocate for their issues.
In addition, we spent a great deal of time this week on the House Floor, and I thought I might update you on some of the measures that cleared the chamber this week:
Putting the brakes on the skyrocketing car tax: I am glad to report that we voted to pass HB 6, legislation that would require the Kentucky Department of Revenue to use the average trade-in value as the standard measure for assessing a vehicle’s value for tax purposes. Earlier this year, the Office of Property Valuation issued a notice that 2022 motor vehicle tax valuation increased an unprecedented 40 percent. Under current law, PVAs must use a standardized measure when assessing the value of motor vehicles for tax purposes, defined by statute as the “average trade-in value.” However, since 2009, the Department of Revenue has defined “average trade-in” to mean a higher valuation of “clean trade-in.” HB 6 would first require that the 2022 motor vehicle tax due by Kentuckians be based on the 2021 amount, rather than the increased amount the administration levied. The bill also provides refunds to anyone that has already paid their tax for this year. Provisions of the bill also prevent this from happening in the future by requiring Property Value Administrators (PVAs) under the Kentucky Department of Revenue to use the average trade-in value as the standard measure which is far more realistic and accurate. HB 6 now moves to the Senate for passage.
Unlocking the door to early childhood literacy: We also approved HB 226, which establishes Read to Succeed an early childhood literacy program that we provided $11 million for in the budget. Under the provisions of the bill, Read to Succeed implements the use of evidence-based reading strategies, a reading universal screener, reading diagnostic assessments, and training for all K-3 teachers. HB 226 would ensure that those beginning a career in education have the tools to apply Read to Succeed strategies by requiring all Kentucky public post-secondary institutions to include them in curriculum for students pursuing careers in K-3 education. The bill also includes language providing local school districts with funds to assist in hiring reading interventionist specialists for students in need of additional support. Study after study shows that early childhood literacy plays a massive role in how successful children are, and I am pleased to see us make this investment.
Retooling the unemployment insurance program: The House approved HB 4, which provides a necessary and long overdue retooling of the state’s unemployment insurance (UI) program. The measure aims to increase employment and preserve the availability of benefits by strengthening work search requirements, limiting the maximum amount of time a claimant can receive benefits, making UI taxes more equitable, and offering employers an alternative to laying off part of their workforce. The unemployment insurance program was created to ensure Kentuckians have a safety net, but we also need to ensure that the focus is getting participants re-employed in a timely manner. Between 2009 and 2019, Kentucky claimants received benefits for an average of 19 weeks – longer than any other state in the nation. In addition, Kentucky currently ranks in the bottom three in the nation for workforce participation. The state’s workforce participation rate has dropped steadily from 64% in 2000 to 53.8% in June of 2021, when more than 1.5 million Kentucky adults were neither employed nor looking for work.
Providing tools to enforce DUI laws: HB 154, a measure that tightens driving under the influence statutes cleared the House last Wednesday. The bill clarifies that law enforcement officers may obtain a search warrant when a suspect refuses a request for a blood test after a Kentucky Supreme Court decision made the step necessary. Law enforcement still relies heavily on breathalyzer tests for incidents involving those suspected of being under the influence of alcohol. However, there is no field test like a breathalyzer that can identify the presence of medication.
As always, I can be reached here at home anytime, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Feel free to contact me via email at Michael.Meredith@lrc.ky.gov. If you would like more information, please visit the LRC website www.legislature.ky.gov.