December 8, 2014

A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand

FRANKFORT – A few weeks from now, the General Assembly will return to the Capitol as it does each January to begin a new legislative session.

Since this will take place in an odd-numbered year, it will only last for 30 working days, and the first four of those will be dedicated to electing House and Senate leaders and establishing most of the chambers’ committees for the next two years. Bills and resolutions will be considered in February and March, but the state’s budget will not be one of them, since that is completed in even-numbered years.

Although it is too soon to say what may become law, we are getting a clearer idea of what issues will likely be debated.

In the House, some of the more high-profile items on the agenda include combating a steep increase in heroin use; giving voters a chance to add Kentucky to the long list of states that automatically restore voting rights to most felons after they complete their punishment; and broadening domestic violence order qualifications to include victims in dating situations.

Legislators have already filed several dozen bills for next year. Those range from requiring law enforcement to junk forfeited vehicles contaminated with methamphetamine to making it possible for businesses to become public benefit corporations. That change in corporate structure has become a growing trend nationally for companies wanting to focus less on profits and more on being socially involved in the work and charity they do.

Other potential topics that may come up are compiled each fall by the Legislative Research Commission, the General Assembly’s administrative arm.

In the most recent report, the staff of the Banking and Insurance Committee highlighted the growing trend of crowdfunding, which allows small investors – often via the internet – to help inventors with their start-up or expansion costs. Congress streamlined this process in 2012, but there is a need for states to do their part as well to help this type of job creation reach its full potential.

Another area where the internet is making a significant impact is ride-sharing. This service is provided by companies like Uber and Lyft, which use a smartphone app to connect riders with drivers under contract. There have been questions whether these companies should be regulated more like taxis, and in the face of uncertainty, places like Louisville International Airport have banned them.

Electronic privacy is another concern that potentially needs more oversight. Some advocate for standardizing what happens with such digital assets as Facebook and email accounts after a person dies, and there is also the question of how much access employers should have regarding their employees’ social media accounts.

One of the issues the General Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee highlighted is the impact a graying population will have on state services in the coming years. The committee pointed out that a fifth of the state’s population will be 65 or older by the year 2030, so we are looking for solutions that benefit our seniors while saving taxpayer dollars as well. It costs Medicaid $48,000 a year to pay for one person in a nursing home, for example, but $15,000 for in-home support programs.

As these and many other examples show, there will be no shortage of topics to review when the House and Senate begin voting on legislation. If you would like to follow this process, the Legislative Research Commission’s website (www.lrc.ky.gov) is a good place to start. There, you can read the full text of bills and resolutions and keep track of their progress.

If you would like to contact me, or any other legislator, you can call 800-372-7181 and leave a message with an operator during normal business hours throughout the year. The line for the hearing impaired is 800-896-0305. To check the status of bills during the legislative session, call 866-840-2835, and to find out the time for legislative meetings, call 800-633-9650.

If you would like to write, my email is [email protected], while my address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort KY 40601.

Please don’t hesitate to let me know your views or concerns, both now and especially when the House and Senate convene. If you have a child or know of one who would like to be a page during the legislative session, meanwhile, let me know that as well. We often have many students stop by for a day to learn more about the work of the General Assembly.

Paid for by Rick Rand for State Representative, Regina Rand, Treasurer