Legislative Update from Rep. Rick Rand March 25, 2016

Legislative Update from Rep. Rick Rand March 25, 2016

At the end of a legislative session, months of preparation and weeks of debate give way to a handful of days where the General Assembly and governor decide what will become law and what will have to wait.
It’s a predictably busy time, especially when the budget is in the mix during even-numbered years.
That was the scenario last week, as the House and Senate began finding common ground on how to move the commonwealth forward. There was agreement on some major issues, but there was also a fairly wide gulf between the two chambers’ spending plans as legislative leaders sat down Thursday afternoon to begin working out those differences.
The biggest of those center on education, which in the House is a top priority. We believe that nothing helping students – from preschool to postsecondary – should be cut. Reducing education spending is short-sighted when the economy is in recession and hard decisions have to be made, but it is especially wrong when normal growth has returned, as it has for Kentucky.
Although there is disagreement on the best approach, the House and Senate largely agree to cut funding for many state agencies and apply that money to the state employees’ and teachers’ retirement systems, both of which are facing significant liabilities.
It’s important to emphasize that neither system is at risk in the near-term. In addition, the General Assembly has taken several steps over the last decade to keep this liability from growing further.
The House budget, though, is the only one that provides these systems with every dollar they say they need over the next two years without having to continue selling assets to meet monthly expenses. The retirement system for teachers, for example, has had to sell more than it has gotten from the state over the last several years. That’s a trend we have to stop.
That’s also why the House does not agree with the governor’s and Senate’s plans to have hundreds of millions of dollars sitting idle in a bank account, neither helping fund state programs nor paying down the state’s future costs. We need a healthy “Rainy Day” fund for emergencies, but not one as large as they propose.
If all goes as scheduled, the legislative leaders will find a way to overcome these differences and have a budget ready for a final vote early this week.
Included in that will be the state’s two-year highway plan, which in the House version includes nearly 1,240 projects. When you include the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30th, total spending tops $4.5 billion.
As budget talks continued, the House and Senate did agree on two major bills last week. Under the first, Senate Bill 56, we crack down on repeat DUI offenders by doubling the look-back period from five years to 10. Under current law, these offenders aren’t charged with a felony until the fourth offense, and those have to occur within a five-year period.
Two families who lost loved ones because of repeat DUI offenders were in the House chambers to watch us unanimously pass this bill. This measure should take more drunk drivers off the road and will hopefully lead to more getting the treatment they need.
With House Bill 309, the state will soon have another major economic development tool known as public-private partnerships, or P3. In short, this will streamline how the state and local governments team up with the private sector to carry out a public function, from building large bridges to running a utility.
With the federal government providing much less help these days, this has become the only viable way to get some of these projects done. Other states have long used this to do things that would have been all but impossible under traditional government financing.
The goal is to make sure all agencies follow the same guidelines and that the public is more aware and involved along the way. As such, there is considerable oversight built into the bill.
This week, legislators are only scheduled to meet on Monday and Tuesday and then return home for a 10-day veto recess while Governor Bevin decides whether to sign into law the bills we sent him or to veto them. We will return to the Capitol on April 11th and 12th to consider any possible vetoes and finish our work.
If you would like to contact me during this time, or throughout the year, I am easy to reach. You can address letters to Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.
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