A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand
FRANKFORT – If the state’s budget is the most important legislation that the General Assembly approves every two years, enacting the state’s road plan is a close second.
As with the budget, the goal is to find the best use for a limited amount of resources. This is an area where Kentucky generally gets high marks, however, based on an annual national study by the Reason Foundation that ranks the quality of each state’s highway system. We came in 14th overall last year, with no state having a better quality of rural interstates.
The study did highlight some challenges for us as well, with two of the biggest being narrow rural roads and a relatively high percentage of bridges no longer adequate for today’s traffic.
On Tuesday last week, the House voted for a two-year highway plan – and a recommended one for the four years that follow – that would go a long way in tackling these areas.
It proposes $4.5 billion in spending, which includes state and federal sources as well as previous bonding from earlier road plans. In fact, there is enough bonding available that the state will not have to borrow any additional money during the next two years.
Statewide, the plan’s larger projects include work tied to the two new Louisville bridges, which are currently under construction; widening and extending the Mountain Parkway; six-laning more of I-65; and improving the I-69 corridor in Western Kentucky.
The day before the House sent its road plan to the Senate, my colleagues and I voted for legislation that could have a major impact on how major highway projects – and other infrastructure as well – is built in the years ahead.
This public-private partnership, as it is commonly called, would include Kentucky among the estimated two-thirds of the states, including the seven surrounding us, that already allow this type of arrangement. The leaders of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spoke in favor of this concept as well when it was still in committee.
Our goal is to make it easier for private enterprise to help improve the public good. This could lower government costs while moving projects forward that otherwise might see long delays. The Chamber of Commerce noted that there are a variety of relationships possible with this type of arrangement, depending how much involvement state and/or local officials want.
Some of the other bills the House voted for last week would so such things as call on child-care centers to do more radon testing; allow greater expungement of misdemeanors and traffic violations after a proper length of time; and encourage schools to be closed on Veterans Day or at least spend time commemorating the holiday.
The last full week of March is also the last full week of this year’s legislative session, so we are nearing the end of our work. After a 10-day interim early next month, the length of time a governor has to act on legislation, the General Assembly will return briefly before concluding the session on April 15th.
There is still plenty of time to let me know your thoughts on the issues before the House and Senate. You can always write to me at 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.