A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand
FRANKFORT – Each legislative session, the public understandably focuses most of its attention on the biggest issues facing the General Assembly, which this year range from addressing a heroin epidemic to modernizing rules for the telecommunications industry.
There are always other measures, however, that also deserve recognition because of the positive impact they will have on the state. With the House and Senate returning to the Capitol early this week for the session’s final two days, it is worth noting many of those bills that are set to become law.
Several, for example, will help spur economic development across the state. One will make it easier for Kentucky’s inventors to use the internet to raise money locally to turn their ideas into reality, while two others will use tax incentives to make the commonwealth a more inviting place for the film and television industry and for the Breeders Cup as it readies for this year’s races at Keeneland in the fall and is considering future sites in the years ahead. This event, which began in the mid-1980s, is called the richest two days in sports and has been a frequent visitor here during that time.
Some of the new laws will help our non-profits and charitable organizations. One will add Kentucky to the 15 or so other states adopting model legislation that streamlines how non-profits operate, which will help local sporting groups and others while better protecting individuals from the debt non-profits may acquire.
Our charitable organizations will soon be able to host more fundraising events, and their raffles are poised to be sold beyond the county an organization is based in. We also updated the law to allow electronic pull tab devices to be used in charitable gaming, which may help raise interest.
Some of the healthcare-related legislation to pass this year will increase insurance coverage for colorectal cancer screenings and make the public more aware of stroke-ready facilities across the state. We also updated the law for families making difficult end-of-life decisions for loved ones.
In an effort to reduce illegal drug use, the General Assembly has passed legislation that will encourage more people to become alcohol/drug counselors. With broader license requirements now in place, those with graduate degrees will have more opportunities within this profession, and so will former addicts who want to help others escape this deadly cycle. These front-line workers play a critical role in our efforts to stop addiction.
One new law this year will help school districts that have accumulated a large number of snow days this winter, and another will, for the first time in more than a generation, update the state’s laws for the oil and gas industry. This measure has the backing of business and environmental groups alike and sets reasonable standards for the growing practice of fracking, which taps these fuels deep underground. In another industry overhaul, legislators also standardized rules for internet-based ride-sharing programs being offered through such services as Lyft and Uber.
For farmers and other programs that benefit from the major settlement that Kentucky and many other states reached with tobacco companies in the late 1990s, a new law this year will make sure the terms of that agreement are more strictly enforced. Last summer, Kentucky reached a deal with these companies that claimed we did not do enough, but this law should alleviate any doubt going forward.
Our work passing legislation is over this week, as I mentioned earlier, and the hope as of this writing is that the House and Senate found common ground on several unresolved issues. That includes heroin legislation and bills affecting the long-term financial liability in teacher retirement and a plan to expand civil protective orders to victims of dating violence, stalking and sexual assault.
I will report on what more we are able to accomplish this week in a future column. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me throughout the year if you have any concerns about any aspect of state government. My address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at [email protected].
To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.