House Goals for the 2016 Session

House Goals for the 2016 Session

FRANKFORT – If the final days of a legislative session are spent deciding what laws the General Assembly will pass, then the first few days are focused on what the House and Senate hope will be on that list.
Setting those priorities was the main theme last week as other legislators and I returned to the Capitol and began filing legislation to kick off the 2016 Regular Session.
In the House, we will again work toward strengthening the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS), which is facing a multi-billion dollar liability and needs a plan to adequately address it.
I want to stress that this is not a short-term problem for our teachers and their retirees, but it is a potentially huge one for the state in the next decade or two if we don’t take steps now. We need to make sure this system regains its financial footing, because investment income makes up more than half of each benefit dollar. KTRS is already having to sell assets to meet monthly payments, reducing the money it can invest.
Under House Bill 1, we would use bonding to stop that drain and give the state time to ramp up to the much-higher annual payments now needed. KTRS’ long-term investment rate is higher than the cost of the bonds, but that window of opportunity is narrowing, given the recent interest-rate increase authorized by the Federal Reserve.
Another high-profile bill unveiled last week – and that has also been approved by the House before – would give many of those with a Class “D” felony on their record a chance to have it expunged five years after they complete all aspects of their punishment. This is something already done for many misdemeanors.
Prosecutors and victims alike would be made aware of the request, and expungement would be barred if the crime was a sex offense or involved abuse or neglect.
Supporters of this legislation, which include the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Governor Bevin, say this is needed because nearly 100,000 Kentuckians are finding it difficult to work, obtain housing or even volunteer at their children’s school because of a crime they committed years if not decades earlier.
There is hope that a related measure – a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights to most felons after they complete their sentence – will have a better chance to pass the General Assembly this year as well. This, too, has bipartisan support in the House, and if it is approved, voters will decide the matter in November. Under current law, only the governor can restore these voting rights, one of the strictest requirements among the states.
Recognizing the very real problem of hunger in the commonwealth, the House voted last week to dedicate Thursday as Kentucky Food Bank Day. More than 600,000 Kentuckians rely on food banks, which last year distributed more than 52 million meals to Kentuckians.
Several years ago, the General Assembly began setting aside money each year for the Farms to Food Banks program, which has given more than 500 farmers a secondary market for their products and families in need better access to fruits and vegetables.
With tax season now upon us, it is worth noting that the state income tax form includes a check-off for this program for those interested in donating a portion of their refund.
One of the chief highlights of the legislative session last week had nothing to do with bills and resolutions but the chambers themselves, which underwent major renovations last year. That included completely restoring all 138 House and Senate desks, something that had never been done since the Capitol first opened in 1910. That work alone took 7,000 man-hours.
This week, the legislature’s committees will begin moving bills toward full votes in each chamber, so the pace promises to quicken in the days ahead. On January 26th, we will receive the governor’s proposed two-year budget, which the House and Senate will review and then tweak through the end of March.
The public’s role in this process is critical, so I encourage you to let me know your views in the days and weeks ahead. You can write to me at 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, call toll-free at 800-372-7181. The bill-status line is 1-866-840-2835, and the number to check on committee meeting times is 1-800-633-9650. If you have a difficult time hearing, the TTY message line is 1-800-896-0305. All of this information and more can also be found on the General Assembly’s website: www.lrc.ky.gov.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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