February 9, 2015
FRANKFORT – With a large number of issues to address and a relatively short amount of time to do our work, the General Assembly returned to the Capitol on Tuesday last week to complete the remainder of this year’s legislative session.
During odd-numbered years, the House and Senate only meet for 30 days, with the first four set aside in January for organizational matters. The bulk of work takes place in February and March.
Since Kentucky operates under a two-year budget cycle, most of this year’s bills have little impact on state spending. Even so, that does not lessen their importance.
One of the most talked-about issues is finding a way to reduce the growing epidemic of heroin abuse. Just last week, a statewide poll found that 13 percent of Kentuckians say they or someone close to them has struggled with this drug, which is up from 11 percent in 2013.
The House’s proposal, which will offer a mix of increased treatment and tougher penalties for traffickers, is being filed this week and should be ready for a vote in the House by no later than early next week.
There appears to be growing support in the House and Senate for a comprehensive solution to this problem, and the same goes for increasing civil protections for victims of dating violence, stalking and sexual abuse. Current law does not include those groups, but a bill that would change that is also set to be voted on soon. Nearly all states include dating violence victims in their protective orders, while many others include the other two groups as well.
I participated in a press conference in support of House Bill 60, for which I am a co-sponsor, to strength Kentucky’s DUI laws. HB 60 will require mandatory ignition interlock devices be placed in the vehicles of convicted drunk drivers. A positive component that I like on this bill is that it allows offenders to continue to provide for their family and drive to work or job site. The National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) attended the press conference along with several victims and families. Twenty-four states have passed interlock legislation and is proven to save lives the first year it goes into effect.
I filed two resolutions last week in the General Assembly. Joint Resolution 77 urges the Department of the Army to reconsider its proposed cuts to Ft. Knox and Ft. Campbell. When passed, The Clerk of the House of Representatives is directed to send a copy of this Resolution to the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the members of the Kentucky congressional delegation, the commanding general of Fort Campbell, and the commanding general of Fort Knox.
The second is House Joint Resolution 78, dealing with Domtar Paper and the US Steelworkers. The resolution supports Domtar’s and US Steelworkers case against certain countries for illegal trade practices. If this passes then it will be sent to the President of the United States, all members of Congress, and the Department of Commerce.
An important development occurred on Friday. The House Democratic Leadership appointed me to serve as Vice Chairman of the House Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee. This is quite an honor to be an even strong voice of leadership for our veterans and communities.
Since the General Assembly is scheduled to wrap up much of its work by early next month, time is drawing short to let me know your thoughts or concerns about bills.
If you would like to contact me, my address is Room 357A, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at [email protected]
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. To check the status of a bill, you can call 866-840-2835, and if you have Internet access, the General Assembly’s website – www.lrc.ky.gov – is another great resource that features the full text of legislation and House and Senate votes.
I hope to hear from you soon.