Legislative Update From Rep. Meredith: WWII Veterans, Budget, Also Concussion, Firearm, Pharmacy Bills
by Michael Lee Meredith
The men and women who served in World War II are our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. They are also our heroes—members of “The Greatest Generation” that grew out of the Great Depression and went on to win the world’s freedom in battle and on the home front.
On Monday, six distinguished WWII veterans came before the Kentucky House to be recognized for their service. The five men and one woman who we had the honor to recognize are among 8,892 Kentucky WWII veterans. They are also among the 16 million Americans who served in the war, many of whom have passed on in the 70 years since the war ended. It was truly our honor to be able to recognize these veterans and to pay tribute to all of Kentucky’s brave WWII veterans through the adoption of Legislative Citation 74.
Several modern-day military heroes, who were killed in service to their country, were also recognized by the House on Monday. Families of some of these heroes were present as the House conducted a somber ceremony honoring the lives of the soldiers and their loved ones. It was a time of both reflection and respect.
Though we are already three-fourths of the way through this session, members just began voting on budget bills in the Appropriations and Revenue Committee this past week. Since we don’t expect House Leadership to unveil their budget proposal until next week, members were only able to vote on Governor Matt Bevin’s original budget proposal.
The Kentucky Constitution requires us to pass a balanced budget. We owe it to you, the hardworking taxpayer, to get this done, and to do it in a way that respects the precious dollars you send to us. We have a $20 billion biennial budget, and we must reign in our spending, prioritizing what is most important. Among other things, we must pass a budget that addresses the unfunded liabilities in our pension systems.
While we are willing to work in a bipartisan manner to potentially restore some of the cuts to education proposed by Governor Bevin, those would have to be offset by responsible savings in other areas. We will not accept a budget that borrows money from our children and grandchildren to deal with today’s problems. Doing so would be irresponsible.
In other news, a critical, bipartisan bill sailed through the House this week, 96-0. House Bill 217, also called the Concussion Bill, clarifies the circumstances in which a high school athlete suspected of having a concussion can return to play. This bill allows officials to remove a student athlete from a game if they have already been removed once, and the official believes that further evaluation is needed.
House Bill 314 also overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives this week. This bill allows off-duty and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed firearms at any location where on-duty officers can. Allowing firearms to be in the hands of law enforcement officers at all times is an easy way to protect against violent criminals.
On Friday, the House also passed House Bill 458, a bill I cosponsored, on a vote of 91-1. HB 458 allows local pharmacies to be able to compete and keep the business of many of their patients who were being forced, by their health plans, to use mail order pharmacies to fill needed prescriptions. The bill would also allow local pharmacies to compete with mail order on specialty drugs that they have the capability to dispense. Our local pharmacies play a pivotal role in Kentucky, providing employment and valuable counseling and information to customers on their medical conditions. They also give back to our communities through sponsorships and volunteer work. I am proud to support HB 458 to keep healthcare dollars spent by Kentuckians here in the Commonwealth.
As this session continues, I am committed to working with members of both parties to produce a budget that is responsible, conservative, and balanced. I pledge to work as hard as I can to produce a timely budget. This, along with the moving of some final pieces of legislation, will take up the rest of our time in the 2016 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.