by Representative Michael Lee Meredith:
As I file this update from my Capitol desk, it is hard to believe that January is over and we are almost a third of the way through with this year’s legislative session. We continue working on meaningful legislation, sending bills and resolutions to the Senate for that body’s consideration. The first bill passed by both chambers is also on its way to the Governor’s desk. This week we focused a good bit on health and children's issues. At the same time, our budget committees and staff began reviewing the budget draft presented by Governor Beshear on Tuesday.
Let me start with an overview of some of the legislation that moved this week. For example, the Senate will now consider legislation that closes a loophole in our existing registered sex offender statutes. Existing laws prohibit registered sex offenders from being on the grounds of or living within 1,000 feet of a public playground. The House voted 86-9 on Tuesday to expand, those requirements to publicly operated playgrounds on leased property.
On Thursday, the House voted 89-2 to approve a resolution asking the federal government to complete research on medical marijuana. The bill, HCR 5, sends a message to federal regulators that our state joins others in requesting more federal research into the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana.
Members of the Health and Family Services Committee approved legislation with the potential to boost efforts to find cures to major diseases. The measure, HB 5, would set Kentucky on course to improve public health, save taxpayer money, and promote medical research. The bill creates a multistate compact to offer prizes for curing major diseases; the prize would be equal to five years of taxpayer savings. There is no risk to taxpayers because, if there is no cure, there would be no payment from the compact. The bill now goes to the full House for a vote.
The House Education Committee passed several pieces of legislation this week, including a bill aimed at helping students access millions in grants and aid for college tuition. The measure, HB 87, would require high school students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The money is currently available, yet thousands of Kentuckians do not take the time to fill out the FAFSA documents. The bill does include language that allows parents to opt-out.
School maintenance projects would be more efficient and cost-effective if a bill approved by the House State Government Committee becomes law. Under the provisions of HB 151, the minimum amount for advertising and bidding school building and maintenance projects would increase from $7,500 to $30,000. The legislature made an identical change to the bidding threshold for school supplies, streamlining that process and helping schools focus less on red tape and paperwork and more on the children in our classrooms.
On Tuesday, Governor Andy Beshear presented his much-awaited budget proposal to members of the House and Senate. This is the first step in a process that will take the better part of this session. The final product of this work is a spending plan that provides funding for state agencies and programs over the next two fiscal years. I am reviewing the document Governor Beshear presented, which is filed for consideration as HB 352. I will continue to update you on the budget process over the next few weeks.
As you can see, we are off to a busy start. If you have any questions or comments about this session, 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 keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.legislature.ky.gov.