As work on the House budget plan continued this week, the state’s chief judicial officer warned that the public’s access to justice could be crippled later this year under Gov. Bevin’s proposed spending cuts.
During testimony before the House Budget Subcommittee on Justice and the Judiciary, Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr., of the Supreme Court of Kentucky cautioned that the administration’s call for a 4.5 percent cut to the state’s court system in this fiscal year would likely close courts for up to three weeks before June 30th.
Our duty in the House over the next few weeks will be to create a spending plan that provides an alternative to the devastating, across-the-board cuts the Bevin budget levels not only on our court system, but to the state’s ability to provide health care for our seniors, human services to the most vulnerable, affordable college tuition, and quality K-12 public education.
We are continuing our job as watchdogs to ensure this administration continues to provide important consumer protections enacted by the legislature in sessions past. House Bill 408, for example, sponsored by Rep. Chris Harris of Forest Hills, seeks to clarify a 2012 law that requires life insurance companies to make a reasonable effort to let beneficiaries know if there was a life insurance policy in their loved one’s name. House Bill 408 makes it clear that the protections for beneficiaries apply to policies sold before and after 2012. The bill was approved overwhelmingly today in an 84-0 vote.
This week, I presented House Bill 194, that would create a POW/MIA special license plate, with extra fees used for the National League of POW/MIA Families in Kentucky. I was honored to have several Vietnam Veterans seated with me during the committee hearing.
In other legislation, individuals convicted of attempted murder of a peace officer or firefighter would be required to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence under House Bill 137, sponsored by state Rep. Gerald Watkins. This measure was reported favorably out of committee this week and are slated for action on the House floor.
We also heard requests this week from county judge-executives representing the Eastern and Western coalfields to increase the amount of coal severance tax money returned to their regions of the state. Since the start of the fiscal year last July, total coal severance revenues have declined by more than 27 percent over the previous fiscal year and, in some coal counties, the amount of coal and mineral revenues are down 80 percent from seven years ago. In the House Appropriations & Revenue Committee, county leaders said an increased return on revenue is necessary to help fund services previously mandated by the state, such as local fire departments, 911 services, senior citizens centers and animal shelters. While the coal industry is on the decline, these regions of the state have made it possible for the entire Commonwealth to benefit from low electrical rates for generations, and it’s imperative we find a way to assist these communities as they work to diversify their economy.
Our pace is quickening here, and your comments and suggestions are as welcome as ever. If you need to reach me while we are in session, please email [email protected] or call the Legislative Message Hotline at 1-800-372-7181. It’s a privilege to represent the people of Breckinridge, Hancock and Hardin counties in the 10th House District and I look forward to hearing from you soon.