CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about this week. Normally I have pieces of info or partial thoughts or ideas set aside to revisit when I finally do sit down to write. Not so this week. I had not a clue. Not a clue, that is, until our Caucus meeting yesterday.
For the past 3 weeks, there’s been a sort of détente around here. Members have seen a horrible swath of natural disasters cross districts lines from one end of the state to the other. We came together and raised over $25K just from our staff and House members for relief efforts. We collected over seventeen hundred t-shirts for the kids of Scholar House students. A growing number of Senate bills have been flowing through House committees and even some House bills have come out of the Senate. The weather’s been warm and beautiful — so what’s the problem? As I said….
I didn’t know what to write until our Caucus met. There, we learned the Senate was going to pass their version of the budget bill. We were warned while there may not be a great deal of movement of dollars [there’s just only so much marrow in a bone to move around] THERE COULD BE LANGUAGE CHANGES that could have significant impacts… If you can’t mess with the dollars, mess with how those dollars can be spent! I knew I had my fodder.
So here’s what happening. Next week should be interesting. Budget sub-committee chairs, members and staff will be pouring over the Senate budget with fine toothed combs this weekend. We’ll be looking for any language that changes how we believe your tax dollars should be spent. This is work that one simply has to grind your way through. It’s not pretty, and the budget document is long, but this is absolutely necessary. It could also spell the end of this warm and fuzzy period between the members, and the chambers.
A Conference Committee is already appointed and ready to start resolving any conflicts found between the House and Senate versions. Any compromise between the two versions of the budget must be agreed upon within the next few days and returned to both chambers for approval. Our 2012 session will come to a close on April 12th after the Governor has exercised a 10 day period that allows him to either sign bills into law or veto them. The end of our session could go out like a lamb – or a lion. With the weather we’ve been having, who knows? We’ll just have to keep our eyes open, watch carefully and read every detail.
SO, HERE’S WHERE YOUR BUTTER GETS CHURNED:
A very decent proposal to aid our immigrant communities was passed this week. HB 183 cleared the full House by a vote of 84-8 on Monday and will allow —but not require—local school districts to enroll refugees and legal resident aliens in their high schools, even if the students would be over 21 years of age by the time they receive their diploma. Current law allows students to attend public school until they reach age 21. This will help place more immigrees in better positions to be contributing taxpayers with access to higher paying jobs.
SB 89 was sent to the governor after passing the House on Tuesday. It was filed in response to a 2010 crash on I-65 near Munfordville that killed 10 members of a Mennonite family who were riding in a 15-seat van when it collided with a tractor trailer. Reports indicated that most of the van’s passengers were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash. Current state law only requires seat belt use in vans designed to carry 10 or fewer people. This is expanded to include 15-seat vans.
HB 165 cleared the House and is sent to the Senate. It will offer a refund on sales and use tax paid on materials used to rebuild in storm-ravaged counties that are declared to be federal disaster areas. And it reaches out to school districts and their staff in those disaster areas by allowing the state’s education commissioner to waive up to 10 instructional days missed as a result of the storms. The “disaster” declaration would preserve schools’ state funding, while ensuring that all school personnel receive salary, wages and benefits for those days.
A statewide “Blue Alert” system to help law enforcement apprehend someone suspected of killing, wounding or abducting a law enforcement officer cleared the House Transportation Committee this week. The system will broadcast identifying information similar to that sent out under the Amber Alert system now in place for missing children. Blue Alerts would be issued only upon request of a law enforcement agency after it is determined that an officer has been killed, injured, or is missing.
An important ABA study from 1976 – 2010 found a nearly 60% error rate in death penalty cases! Of the 98 death penalty cases examined, 50 were overturned. HCR 173 calls for the creation of the Kentucky Death Penalty Reform Implementation Task Force to develop a strategy to implement recommended reforms in these cases.
Protection from domestic abuse was extended to include people who are dating. The bill would only apply to those dating couples who are 18 years of age or older.
Question of the Week – What issue have we not addressed that you feel the General Assembly should address during this legislative session?
CONTACT ME: Call me directly at 502.564.8100 or write me at Rm. 329C, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601. I’m also on FACEBOOK so hit me up there or online at Reginald.Meeks@lrc.ky.gov or at http://reginaldmeeks.com. To reach any particular legislator, contact our toll – free number at 800.372.7181. For the deaf or hard-of-hearing, that number is 800.896.0305