FRANKFORT – As the General Assembly enters the final stretch of the 2012 Regular Session, the Kentucky House of Representatives is nearing the end of putting forward its major priorities before it turns its focus to Senate legislation.
Last week, several high-profile House bills made it through our chamber, with two of the bigger ones targeting abuse and neglect cases.
The first of those would create an adult-abuse registry, which would contain the names of those convicted of harming our elderly. This database would make sure that such places as nursing homes never hire these people to take care of our loved ones. The House includes funding in its proposed budget to get this up and running quickly.
The other bill, meanwhile, would call for an independent review of our child protection system. In light of several tragic deaths of children in recent months caused by abuse, we believe it’s important to see if the state can do more to keep this from happening again.
On Tuesday last week, the House voted for another bill with safety in mind. In this case, we propose broadening the definition of synthetic drugs, which would make it harder for the criminals to come up with new variations of these poisons and evade the law. This bill also calls for cracking down on those stores that sell them.
In other action last week, the House passed a bill that would help our businesses avoid a potentially large penalty tied to unemployment insurance. This would build on our work two years ago, when business and labor groups came together in support of a plan to pay off the nearly $1 billion that the unemployment insurance fund had to borrow from the federal government to pay for the increase in benefits tied to the nation’s recession.
The current legislation would come up with a plan to pay for the interest on that loan. If nothing is put in place, businesses could lose a crucial federal tax credit, which would cost them up to $600 million. Understandably, we cannot afford to let that happen.
With jobs in mind, we received a measure of good news earlier this month when it was reported that our unemployment rate had dropped to the lowest level seen in three years. That news, coupled with the fact that state revenues are coming in at a higher rate than forecast, indicate that our economy is starting to see reliably steady growth.
Further proof can be seen in our Road Fund, which is doing remarkably well. That is making it much easier for us to keep improvements of our highways and bridges on schedule with the Six Year Road Plan. The House approved its version on Friday, and if it becomes law, there are several projects in our community that would benefit. I’ll discuss those further once they are finalized later this month.
In agricultural matters, tobacco farmers should be pleased to hear that the House has again ratified the Tobacco Task Force, which I have served on throughout my time as a legislator. Though this committee does not deal directly with bills, it plays a vital role in educating legislators on what is happening with this crop and how the state can help it succeed.
We now have less than two weeks remaining before the General Assembly effectively wraps up its work. If all goes as scheduled, all bills supported by the House and Senate, including the budget, will be on Governor Beshear’s desk by the end of the month. After a brief veto recess, my colleagues and I will return to the Capitol in mid-April to consider any bills the governor might have rejected.
I truly appreciate those who have contacted me this legislative session. If you haven’t but would like to, my address is Room 332B, 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.