by State Rep. Michael Lee Meredith
This week in Frankfort, House Republicans worked hard to promote something we all should value, transparency in government. Our caucus attempted to bring the first reading on Senate Bill 45. It would require public disclosure of all retirement benefits for all current and past legislators. The bill passed the Senate earlier this session by a margin of 38-0, with all members voting. Unfortunately, the bill has not enjoyed the same success in the House. We have not even had an opportunity to have discussion on the floor.
It is important for Kentuckians to have the ability to know what their elected officials are doing in Frankfort. That includes the public pensions they will be collecting. Public pension transparency remains a priority, and I will work to see positive action toward that end.
On a high note, the Senate passed the first House Bill of the 2016 Regular Session this week. House Bill 175, my peace officer bill, passed unanimously and will now head to the Governor for his signature. It will be only the second piece of legislation signed into law by the Governor this session.
The budget process seems to go on forever. The work of our subcommittees, which have been meeting for several weeks now, is a reminder that the process is working as it should. The Executive Branch budget is typically not voted on by the House budget committee until after the first week of March, as was the case during the 2012 and 2014 sessions. That is expected to be the case again this session. The budget subcommittees are expected to meet until then.
Education is always at the top of our list of priorities in a budget session. This year is particularly challenging with the more than $30 billion pension liability Kentucky faces. K-12 education comprises around 44 percent of all state General Fund spending, with postsecondary education claiming a share of around 14 percent. The next largest share of General Fund spending goes to health care—or, specifically, state Medicaid—which claims around 13 percent of General Fund appropriations as we strive to meet the needs of our citizens.
Given our attention to health care, it is not surprising when legislation designed to improve health care delivery in the Commonwealth receives support in the House. This was the case last Monday when the House voted 94-0 to approve House Bill 163. This bill would create a new Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) law for Kentucky to improve the process by which registered and practical nurses both in our state and other states that are party to the NLC can practice in any NLC state under a multistate license. HB 163 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
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.