FRANKFORT — As we welcome March at the capitol, we will see some of the legislature’s biggest issues – like the state’s biennial budget – brought to the forefront. For us, March brings late nights and hard decisions as we work to reach a consensus on the most fiscally-responsible way to keep our state moving forward.
Senate members have been following the House’s work on the budget closely, meeting with state budget officials and preparing for when budget legislation is delivered to our chamber.
We also considered several bills this week that would tweak, update and improve policies, laws and services in the Commonwealth. Legislation that would make government more efficient and more effective in common-sense, measured steps.
This is routine work that is not likely to be heard on the nightly news or headlined in the papers. But it is essential to keep our state up and running, and a principal function of the legislature.
Measures like Senate Bill 65, passed unanimously this week, would bring the state in compliance with new federal regulations and allow the same exchange of information for mental health providers as is currently available to other health practitioners.
Senate Bill 91, also passed unanimously, would allow the Public Service Commission to send e-mail notifications (instead of mailed paper copies) to parties involved in certain case proceedings. The measure would still allow participants to request and receive paper notifications. The bill’s sponsor says this measure will help expedite proceedings and save the PSC $20,000 to $30,000.
Senate Bill 142, passed 35-2, would make some minor changes to last year’s pension reform measure, Senate Bill 2. Some of the pension spiking provisions of that legislation had some unintended consequences of capping overtime and secondary employment hours worked by police officers, fire fighters and other state employees. Under this measure, an employee’s annual salary increase above 10% in the last five years of employment will not be used to calculate pension benefits. Additional contributions by the employee as a result of this increase will be refunded with interest. The additional employer’s contribution will be used to pay down the retirement systems unfunded liability. SB 142 applies to legislative and judicial pensions. SB 2 did not.
Like SB 2, SB 142 would allow wage increases due to promotions and a return to work after authorized unpaid medical leave to be used in calculating retirement benefits. Supporters of the measure say this change will allow the state to continue to receive federal funding of certain overtime wages, and will allow state employees to choose to work additional overtime hours.
These bills and others now go to the House of Representatives for further action.
Several bills also received committee hearings this week. Some of these issues included banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors; allowing honorably discharged service members to waive training requirements for a concealed deadly weapon license with certain documentation, and legalizing limited medical use of cannabis oils.
These bills now go to the full Senate for further consideration.
On Thursday, in a break from my legislative obligations, I was honored to welcome students from across the state, especially from my district, to the State Capitol for the 13th annual Posters-at-the-Capitol. Undergraduates from public universities of Kentucky and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System were in Frankfort to show off their research. This program exemplifies the high quality of the students in the commonwealth and I enjoyed meeting with our future leaders as they explained their research and findings. To recognize the importance of this event, Gov. Steve Beshear proclaimed the day as Undergraduate Research Day.
The work of the legislative session will only intensify in the weeks ahead as we address our toughest issues. I welcome your input especially during the final leg of the legislative session. To leave a message for me, or any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. You can also e-mail me at email@example.com.