A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand March 11th

A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand March 11th

FRANKFORT – As other Kentucky House leaders and I were putting the final touches on a proposed two-year state budget last week, legislators received not one but two reports of good economic news.
On Thursday, state officials said that revenues have grown 4.3 percent so far this current fiscal year, all but guaranteeing a surplus with less than four months to go. The sales tax – one of the state’s major revenue sources and a strong indicator of consumer confidence – has now increased in 24 of the past 26 months.
A few days before that news arrived, the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet said the commonwealth’s annual unemployment rate in 2015 was 5.4 percent, the lowest the commonwealth has seen in seven years. Notably, it was a better rate than could be found in 29 other states.
Several industries here in Kentucky saw their job numbers grow by 5,000 or more last year, including manufacturing; professional and business services; and leisure and hospitality. Educational and health services saw its industry growth top 4,000 jobs.
All of those positive indicators bode well as the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee readies to vote on the state budget early this week, with the full chamber soon to follow. Although final details weren’t public last week, House leaders have said Governor Bevin’s proposed 9 percent cuts will be scaled back when it comes to education.
Hundreds of those who work at and depend on our schools’ family resource and youth services centers cheered that good news last week during a rally in the Capitol Rotunda. There are now more than 800 of these centers, which are celebrating their 25th anniversary, and if Governor Bevin’s proposed cuts are enacted, it would drop their funding to levels not seen in 14 years. We can’t let that happen.
With about a dozen work days remaining in this year’s legislative session, the pace of bills moving through the House is understandably quickening.
Early last week, for example, two bills designed to help hundreds of thousands of families cleared committee with strong support and should be voted on this week by the House. The first would increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour, which has not changed in seven years, to $8.20, starting in August; the other bill would make it possible for high school seniors to attend a KCTCS school tuition-free after factoring in state, local and private aid they receive.
Several other noteworthy bills making it through the House last week are ready to be considered by the Senate.
House Bill 2 and House Bill 374, for example, would work together to allow voters to decide if cities and counties should have the authority to implement a temporary local-option sales tax of no more than one penny for projects the community decides. Many other states have taken this step, and the concept has wide support from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and our local governments.
With House Bill 217, we would toughen the rules coaches must follow if a player receives a concussion. The student would be barred from returning to play, and if no physician or similar healthcare worker is there to make a diagnosis, the student would be barred from playing or practicing until given written clearance by his or her doctor.
House Bill 413 would crack down on those who sell wireless phone numbers to telemarketers without the subscriber’s written consent, and House Bill 314 would better guarantee that off-duty and retired law enforcement officers can carry concealed firearms anywhere that on-duty officers can.
Fireworks sales would last longer in July and around the New Year’s holiday if House Bill 393 becomes law; and with House Bill 388, social workers would be called upon to make unannounced visits where child abuse or neglect or human trafficking has been reported and an investigation is determined to be necessary.
House Joint Resolution 164 would build on the current success of the state’s Bourbon Trail by calling on the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet to establish one highlighting the state’s covered bridges. According to the resolution, the hundreds that once existed have dwindled down to 13, all of which are officially marked by the Kentucky Historical Society. They are certainly worth promoting even more.
As I mentioned, this week’s highlight will be the House’s passing a budget to run state government, something I will cover more in-depth in my next column. For now, please keep calling, visiting and emailing, because it really helps when it comes to casting votes. To reach me, you can write to 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.

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