by Michael Lee Meredith
As we close in on the final week of the 2016 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly, the Legislature is working day and night to finish conducting the people’s business, which includes passing a timely and fiscally responsible budget.
While the budget is clearly at the forefront of the legislative conversation at the moment, there is still other policy action going on within the halls of the Capitol. We are working hard to get some more good bills through the legislative process, which we hope will ultimately end with the Governor’s signature of approval. One bill that is especially of interest to our caucus focuses on two of the most important issues facing the Commonwealth: Our broken pension systems, and transparency in government.
Senate Bill 45 would be a good first start to confront both of these issues. This legislation would open up the pensions of legislators to public disclosure, giving taxpayers a look into the retirement benefits that members of the General Assembly receive. This bill has already passed the Senate unanimously, with complete bipartisan support, and just passed through the House State Government Committee this past week. While multiple members of the majority party cast nay votes on this common sense bill, it was still able to go through with bipartisan support. We are still holding out hope that House Leadership will allow a full vote on this bill, which represents the principles of transparency and accountability.
One bill that passed the House this week on a bipartisan basis is the “DUI lookback” bill. SB 56, which is now headed to the Governor’s desk, expands the look-back window for prior drunk driving offenses from 5 years to 10 years, for sentencing purposes. This bill would put into place additional deterrents to prevent those who drive recklessly from harming our children and families - a principle that rises above partisan politics.
While the executive branch and judicial branch budget passed the House last week, this week a road plan made it through the chamber. HB 305, and House Joint Resolution 91—which includes projects for the last four “out” years of the state’s 2016-2022 six year highway plan. The project funding, found in the House’s proposed Transportation Cabinet budget, or HB 304, would only be appropriated for road and bridge projects marked for funding between fiscal years 2016 and 2018. Those projects, which total $4.8 billion in road improvements across the Commonwealth, are detailed in HB 305.
Following House passage of the state’s operating budget of the next two years, the Senate passed their own budget this week, which strongly concurs in many ways with Governor Bevin’s proposal. While there are some differences, their budget commits to the conservative principles of fiscal responsibility, long-term budgeting, and protecting the most vulnerable among us while cutting waste, fraud, and abuse in government. Since there are such serious disagreements among the House and Senate, leadership of both bodies are meeting daily in Conference Committee, in order to hammer out a compromise budget to send to the Governor.
The remaining legislative days, which includes time to override any potential vetoes from Governor Bevin, will be spent working on required legislation, like the budget, and passing other priority bills.
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.