Feb. 16 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FROM REPRESENTAITVE DEAN SCHAMORE
FRANKFORT, KY – With no one casting a dissenting vote, the Kentucky House of Representatives put its strong support behind two measures late last week that are among this year’s top priorities for the General Assembly.
At their core, both bills are about making our lives safer. The first of those – House Bill 213, which I am proud to co-sponsor – seeks to do that by increasing treatment options for heroin addicts while cracking down on the high-level traffickers bringing the drug into our communities. The second, House Bill 8, streamlines how people obtain civil protective orders while expanding access to new groups of citizens who have been the victims of dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.
The House also dealt with a number of issues aimed at strengthening Kentucky’s working families and protecting our communities and the Commonwealth as a whole.
It was on Tuesday that a House bill to gradually raise the government-mandated state minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to a rate of $10.10 by 2017 was approved in the House chamber by a vote of 56-43. Proponents of HB 2 say it will provide a more of a living wage for minimum wage workers, a large percentage of which, proponents say, is comprised of working mothers. The House proposal does provide for an exemption for companies with less than half a million in gross sales annually. HB 2 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Lined up for a House floor vote on Thursday were more than a dozen major House proposals, including two proposed changes to the Kentucky Constitution: HB 1, a proposed amendment passing the House on a 62-35 vote Thursday that would give the state authority to allow a local option sales tax vote to fund specific projects, and HB 70, a perennial proposal passing the House 86-12 that would automatically restore voting rights to non-violent felons who have served their time, should the amendment receives statewide voter approval.
Kentucky’s veterans were also on our mind this week as the House Veterans Affairs Committee, in which I was just appointed Vice Chairman, approved an important piece of legislation. House Bill 352 will provide a constistent pathway to college credit for military service by directing Kentucky’s colleges and universities to work together and determine what kinds of academic credit to award honorably discharged service members based on their service and specialities.
Public pensions have been in the news quite a bit as recent General Assemblies have made budget adjustments to increase the required contributions to lagging public retirement funds. This session, a proposal to authorize up to $3.3 billion in bonds to reduce the $14 billion-and-growing unfunded liability of the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System pension fund is before lawmakers, receiving approval of the House budget committee on Tuesday. HB 4 would authorize the Kentucky Asset/Liability Commission to issue up to $3.3 billion in bonds to reduce the unfunded liability and use existing KTRS funds to pay down the debt on the bonds over 30 years. It will now need consideration of the full House, where it was expected to be brought to a vote in a few days.
Every issue facing the Kentucky General Assembly—from minimum wage, to fighting the heroin scourge, to helping our struggling public pension systems—is important to some constituency here in the Commonwealth. Not everyone may be affected by an issue, but everyone is entitled to an opinion on any issue and is invited to share that opinion with their state legislators who represent them in the legislature.
There are several ways to reach me. You can address letters to 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. call the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835.