Legislative Update …

Posted January 10, 2018 at 9:45 am

Budget, pension reform aren’t all the issues General Assembly will address

The first week of the 2018 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly is in the books, and pension reform is still a major priority for all of us in Frankfort. Along with passing a two-year budget and two-year road fund, pension reform must occur in order to put Kentucky’s poorly-funded pension systems on the right path to solvency. We have listened to feedback from our constituents and believe we are close to having another draft of a pension reform bill to release to the public. This is a complex issue and although we would have liked to have resolved this matter earlier in 2017, the process ultimately determines when legislation is ready to be released and voted upon.

This week’s Senate activity was mostly procedural as we adopted Senate rules for the 2018 Session, swore in new Senate leadership, and confirmed new committee chairmen and members. New Senate bills and resolutions were introduced, many of which were assigned to committees for a public hearing. Bills must be presented at a public committee meeting and passed with a majority vote before heading back to the Senate to be voted on by the entire Senate body. Once the Senate approves a Senate bill, it heads to the Kentucky House where the same process occurs. The Senate has to agree to any changes the House makes to the bill before it is submitted to the Governor for his approval and is finally signed into law.

Besides passing a budget and pension reform, the Senate majority has several priority bills that we would like to see passed this session. Three of those bills are constitutional amendments: Senate Bill (SB) 2, tort reform, aims to cut down on frivolous lawsuits; Senate Bill 3, known as Marsy’s Law, outlines a crime victim’s “bill of rights” that ensures equal representation in the judicial system; and Senate Bill 4 would move statewide constitutional office elections to even-numbered years to increase voter participation and save taxpayer dollars. Senate Bill 5, of which I am the primary sponsor, will help independent pharmacists remain competitive by regulating pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).

Adoption and foster care, criminal justice reform, and judicial redistricting will also likely be issues that will once again be examined by the General Assembly, but our main focus and priority will continue to be a budget and pension reform.

All of this is a tall order for any legislative session – even more so with the pension challenge. But we’re committed to rolling up our sleeves and working together to tackle as many of these issues as we can in the limited time we have. It’s a goal we all share.

It’s a goal best achieved when citizens across the state are active and involved. Your input is not only valued and appreciated, it’s genuinely needed. I encourage you to follow the issues and always welcome your comments and questions.

Kentuckians have numerous ways to follow legislative action throughout the session, including seeing legislative action in person in the State Capitol’s legislative chambers and committee meeting rooms, which are open to the public.

The Kentucky Legislature Home Page (www.lrc.ky.gov) is updated daily to provide the latest legislative information. Web surfers can view the issues before lawmakers by browsing through bill summaries, amendments, and resolutions. The website is regularly updated to indicate each bill’s status in the legislative process, as well as the next day’s committee-meeting schedule and agendas.

The Kentucky General Assembly also maintains toll-free phone lines to help citizens follow legislative action and offer their input.

People who want to give lawmakers feedback on issues under consideration can call the Legislative Message Line at (800) 372-7181. Those who prefer to offer their feedback in Spanish can call the General Assembly’s Spanish Line at (866) 840-6574. Citizens with hearing impairments can use the TTY Message Line at (800) 896-0305.

Note: Senator Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) represents the 16th District which encompasses Adair, Clinton, Cumberland, McCreary, Russell, Taylor, and Wayne Counties. He is chairman of the Enrollment Committee and the Government Nonprofit Contracting Task Force; Vice Chair of the Education Committee; co-chair of the Government Contract Review Committee; as well as a member of the Appropriations and Revenue Committee; the Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee; the Health and Welfare Committee; and the Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee. He is the Chair of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation and a member of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Economic Development and Tourism, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection. He is also a member of the Education and Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee, the Tourism Development Subcommittee.