General Assembly Convenes for 2020 Session
by Rep. Michael Meredith:
I joined legislators from throughout Kentucky in Frankfort this week as House and Senate members convened the 2020 Regular Session. I am always reminded that it is a privilege to serve this district and our communities, an honor and responsibility that I take very seriously. I hope to continue communicating with you through these legislative updates, but also invite you to reach out to me directly through the contact information at the end of this update.
We saw more than 300 bills filed this week, and while some were pre-filed over the past few months, there are many new proposals that I will be reviewing in the days to come. While a thousand bills may eventually be filed, only a fraction will move through the legislative process to become a law. Many times the final version of a bill is often quite different from how it was introduced. That is the result of the input that legislative committees provide to ensure the final product is strong and accomplishes its goal without unintended consequences.
I cannot stress enough that the top priority for the House is crafting the biennial budget. We will spend a considerable amount of time meeting with stakeholders, and ensuring that the needs of every level of state government are addressed. Our state has many needs, including funding our state pension obligations, addressing the skyrocketing costs associated with incarceration and funding our public education system. We have a challenging road ahead, but I know that my colleagues in the House Majority Caucus and I are in agreement that we want to be good stewards of your taxpayer dollars. Rest assured, we will do our best to ensure that the needs of the families and people across the Commonwealth are met.
Since the Kentucky Constitution states that the budget must start in the House Chamber, the Senate has more flexibility in what they give their time and energy to during the early days of the session. You may have seen recent announcements regarding what they plan to highlight.
When we come back next week, legislative committees will start to hear testimony and consider bills, but also we will hear from Governor Andy Beshear on Tuesday, January 14. The Governor will give his first State of the Commonwealth Address, a speech aimed at laying out his priorities for the future, and his assessments of how he believes Kentucky state government is operating today. I look forward to this speech and hope it gives us some idea of how he intends to fund the promises he made throughout the campaign. Unfortunately, I fear it may rely on funding we do not have.
As I have mentioned so many times, our commitment to funding programs like education and workforce development remains strong. However, we must also address the skyrocketing costs of our jails and prisons and Medicaid, as well as the $43 billion unfunded liability in our public pensions. It will be difficult to continue moving Kentucky forward while paying off the debts of the past, but this budget will provide us an opportunity to map a responsible path.
I hope to hear from you on any issues that are important to you. It is crucial for me to understand your views so that I may better represent you in Frankfort. I can be reached during the week from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. (EST) through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at Michael.Meredith@lrc.ky.gov. You can also keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.