by Representative Michael Lee Meredith:
The first full week of February saw several key pieces of legislation deliberated in committee and on the House Floor. At the same time, members of the Appropriations and Revenue Committee and budget review subcommittees continue to work on the House version of the state budget. The budget must reflect our commitment to spend taxpayer money wisely, lay the groundwork for a solid financial future, and provide necessary services. We are working now to keep that commitment.
While the budget is a work in progress, we continue to send legislation from our committees to the full House, and from the full House to the Senate for consideration. I joined fellow legislators in voting for legislation aimed at protecting line-of-duty death benefits for surviving spouses. The measure, HB 271, preserves the death benefits of a widow or widower if he or she chooses to get remarried. Current law mandates that if a surviving spouse remarries, the death benefit they receive is reduced to 25 percent. Under the proposed legislation, the surviving spouse will receive 75 percent of the deceased spouse’s retirement if they choose to remarry. It is estimated that this legislation will only affect 14 people today, but it sends a strong message that we stand by the folks who serve and protect us.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee approved HB 327, which would automatically expunge the criminal records of anyone who was acquitted or had criminal charges dismissed. Those eligible for expungement under the bill would be able to request that the acquittal or dismissal not remain on their record, while individuals with past acquittals and dismissals would be allowed to petition the court for expungement at no cost to them. It seems to make sense that someone who was not found guilty of a crime should not have that crime on their criminal record.
This week we also passed a resolution urging Congress to allow Kentucky and other states to permanently adopt daylight savings time, or DST. Several other states have already approved legislation to make DST permanent, including Florida, Washington, and Tennessee. Whether or not a change is made is ultimately up to the federal government which sets the dates for daylight saving time—also referred to as “daylight time.” Those changes must be approved by Congress, which is where HCR 53 sponsors hope the legislation will shed some light.
Before I finish, I would like to share some information about the General Assembly's Legislative Page Program. This is a great educational opportunity to experience democracy in action by serving a day on the House Floor during the session. They work on the floor, delivering messages, running errands, and copying materials. Page supervisors oversee the program, ensuring that pages are safe and behaving appropriately. Children must be ten and older, and a parent or guardian must also be present. We all enjoy having the children in the chamber and, frankly, they serve as a fitting reminder that the work we do will impact our state for generations.
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 legislature.ky.gov.