By State Representative Michael Lee Meredith
Pace Picks Up During Week Two of 2015 Regular Session
FRANKFORT, Ky. (February 9, 2015) – After a three-week recess, we in the General Assembly returned to Frankfort to begin part two of the 2015 Regular Session. Between now and early March the House and Senate will debate numerous pieces of legislation. Because this is a 30-day session, the pace promises to be fast and furious with more than 200 bills and resolutions being introduced in the House in the first two days of this week.
Several bills of great importance passed out of committee this week. One bill, House Concurrent Resolution 7 sponsored by Rep. Brad Montell of Shelbyville, would direct that an outside independent audit of the Kentucky Retirement Systems be conducted, and those findings be reported back to the Public Pension Oversight Board. A recent story by Bloomberg ranked Kentucky’s pension system the worst in the nation due to its funding gap. It is essential we get a better idea regarding the financial structure of KRS if we hope to find solutions on how to make the system more solvent.
Another bill gaining attention this week is the effort to pass a statewide smoking ban in Kentucky. House Bill 145 was approved by the House Committee on Health and Welfare, which would prohibit smoking in all businesses and places of employment in Kentucky. Similar bills have been proposed in past sessions and have drawn great debate among supporters and opponents, who believe the decision to institute a smoking ban is better left up to the local level and not by the General Assembly. House Bill 145 is sure to be debated thoroughly when it comes before the full House.
The House Judiciary Committee also passed House Bill 154 this week, which would outlaw the possession, training, breeding, and selling of four legged animals for fighting. The bill is intended to curb dog, which constitutes cruelty to animals in the first degree—a felony—under current state law but is hard to prosecute since law enforcement must catch dog fights in process. The bill makes clear that animals engaged in hunting or field trials and other activities authorized either by a hunting license or by the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources would not constitute a violation of this law if passed.
During the past week, I also filed House Bill 206 which would exempt many of our rural churches that do not have employment contracts with their pastors or with people who clean or maintain church property from the Commonwealth’s workers compensation laws. The bill is a direct result of discussions with many of you who had concerns resulting from fines that were issued to two of our local congregations for lack of workers compensation insurance coverage. I have been working with other members on the issue and am hopeful that we will be able to remedy this situation.
Next week it is expected that House Bill 1, which is the local option sales tax proposal, will come up. If House Bill 1 becomes law, a Constitutional Amendment would be placed on the ballot before Kentucky voters, which if approved, would give local governments the option of placing a local sales tax of no more than one percent to pay for infrastructure projects in their counties and communities. The local tax would have to be approved by voters, and would expire once the project has been paid off. This proposal should also see great debate in the House in the coming weeks.
Many key bills are still expected to be debated in the coming weeks, including proposals to combat the growing problem of heroin in Kentucky, before both chambers recess for the veto period on March 9th.
In addition to the issues I mentioned, there could be ideas and concerns important to you that need to be addressed between now and the middle of March. I encourage you to contact me by e-mail at email@example.com, or call our toll free number at 1-800-372-7181.
Michael Lee Meredith, District 19 Representative