A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand
FRANKFORT – Toward the end of each fall, the General Assembly’s administrative staff takes a closer look at some of the issues it thinks could be debated during the upcoming legislative session, which in 2014 begins on January 7th and runs through mid-April.
While it is too soon to say how many of the nearly four dozen topics in this year’s publication will be on the House and Senate’s agenda, this early preview nonetheless serves as a handy reference for legislators and the public alike.
Some of the topics are familiar ones, including an ongoing effort to add Kentucky to the more than 40 other states that allow domestic violence victims in dating situations to obtain a Domestic Violence Order (DVO). Currently, this is only available here if the victim and abuser have been married, have lived together, or have a child in common.
The House has passed this legislation several times, and the hope is that next year’s session is when it will become law.
Another well-known area is the fight against drug abuse. Kentucky has seen a lot of success in recent years, but a key area of concern that needs to be addressed is the recent spike in heroin overdoses, which have grown from about five annually before 2010 to an estimated 174 this year.
Another unfortunate trend needing review is the sky-rocketing number of babies being born addicted. According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, this figure rose 2,400 percent between 2000 and 2011, growing from 29 to 730.
In educational matters, there is a question whether the state’s public postsecondary schools should be required to award college credit for military service, something mandated in at least 26 other states. According to the legislative report, all state-funded colleges and universities already have individual policies in place regarding military service and college credit, but there is no consistency.
As we decide whether to mandate this credit, the House and Senate may also consider loosening the requirements attached to the lottery-funded college scholarships that high school students earn and that is known by the acronym KEES.
Of the nearly 39,000 students who made up the class of 2012, about 3,000 had to forfeit their KEES money because they went to college outside of the commonwealth and were not part of a small group authorized to use this money at select out-of-state schools because their degree program is not offered in Kentucky.
Some argue that all students should be able to take their KEES money with them anywhere, while others say this violates the KEES’ goal of ensuring that state tax dollars remain here.
Although there are too many topics in the publication to cover in this space, some of the others include:
· Whether there should be tighter control of eminent domain laws, an issue that has recently cropped up because of the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline, which would ship liquefied natural gas from such states as Ohio and Pennsylvania through Kentucky to states along the Gulf of Mexico.
· Whether to let individuals qualify for tax credits for angel investing, which helps start-up companies get off the ground. Credits are already available for investment funds, and proponents say letting individuals take part would increase economic development. Opponents, meanwhile, say it could cost the state without any guarantees.
· Whether bed and breakfasts should be allowed to sell alcohol in communities that are already “wet” or “moist.” In a related matter, there is also a question whether local option elections should be held on normal election days, which is not permitted under current law. Some say a change would save money by consolidating elections, while others say it could skew voting for other candidates.
If you would like a copy of this report, it can be found on the General Assembly’s website at http://www.lrc.ky.gov/lrcpubs/info_bulletins.htm.
And if you would like to let me know your views about any of these issues, I can be reached by writing to Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.
You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.