In Frankfort, diligent work continues on a pension reform proposal and a responsible budget. As those two issues consume much time and effort, there are also several other critical bills moving through the House.
One measure that is very important to many of our state’s rural counties is House Bill 141, which seeks to establish an emergency loan account for school districts struggling financially to finish the school year, because of extraordinary circumstances that are no fault of their own. Unfortunately, the decline in coal severance revenues and ensuing erosion in local property tax bases have left some school districts in Eastern and Western Kentucky without the funds necessary to educate our students. To help remedy this situation, school districts that meet certain criteria could apply for up to $500,000 in loans from the Kentucky Department of Education.
The loans, which are zero-interest, have the potential to greatly assist coal counties in particular. While this is not a long-term fix, it will help school districts remain solvent in the short-term so they can continue to properly educate students.
With an emphasis on urban areas, House Bill 169 is the first effort in decades to crack down on troublesome gang violence. The bill provides for enhanced penalties for committing gang crimes while also creating a pathway for victims of gang crime to seek civil damages. Cracking down on violent gangs, which often recruit young teenagers, is a vital anti-crime measure that gives our justice system greater ability to protect families and communities.
In Kentucky, the opioid battle rages on, and on. For the second year in a row, I am proud to say the Legislature continues to take tough action to limit the supply of prescription drugs and end the cycle of addiction. House Bill 148 is the latest in the effort, and seeks to require hospice programs to dispose of or remove all controlled substances left behind in the households of deceased patients, if they are given written permission to do so. If they are not granted written permission, the Kentucky State Police would be responsible for removing the drugs.
House Budget Review Subcommittees continue to move line-by-line through the Governor’s proposal, working long hours to produce a budget that is responsible and fully pays our pension contributions, in addition to other necessary government services like education, health care, and transportation. As of now, the goal remains to complete the budget in the House by the end of February, enabling every legislator adequate time to fully review the final document.
Springtime and summer are just around the corner and that means Kentucky kids will knock the dust off their bicycles. However, this year they may have to make sure they pull out their helmets too, based on a bill that received passage in the House this week that would require kids under the age of 12 to wear one when riding a bicycle. House Bill 52, known as “TJ’s Bill,” is the result of seven year old TJ Floyd who suffered a traumatic brain injury at just seven years old when he fell off his bicycle. If passed, the bill would not fine anybody if a child doesn’t wear a helmet, but could prevent more injuries like TJ’s as research suggests helmets are more than 84 percent effective at preventing brain injuries.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your voice in Frankfort. Please reach out to me with your thoughts on the serious issues we are working on, by email or phone. You can reach me through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or you can contact me via e-mail at Scott.Wells@lrc.ky.gov. You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.