While our actions during the annual Regular Sessions receive the most attention, the members of the Kentucky General Assembly are still working – in Frankfort and throughout the Commonwealth – during the spring and summer when our interim joint committees meet to discuss ideas and legislation for the next session.
The interim meetings taking place right now allow us to study issues in-depth and hear from many knowledgeable Kentuckians before those issues are acted on in January 2017. Only after we thoroughly consider the impact of our decisions on people across Kentucky do we act, aiming to make life better here.
During the summer, Interim joint committees hold regular meetings that include both House and Senate members of standing committees on a particular topic. For example, the House Appropriations & Revenue Committee, on which I serve, and the Senate Education Committee become the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations & Revenue after the regular session. During the interim, I’m also a member of the Joint Committees for Agriculture; Economic Development and Tourism; Veterans, Military Affairs & Public Protection; the Economic Development Task Force; Rural Issues; and State Police Safety Measures. Additionally, I serve as co-chair of the Energy Special Subcommittee and am a liaison member on the Budget Review Subcommittee on Economic Development and Tourism.
During our time in Frankfort, we also hear important updates on the Commonwealth’s economic health. Our state budget ended the fiscal year with $52.7 million in surplus revenues over what was expected. Revenue growth through the first 11 months was 3.9 percent, which was above the 3.2 percent growth that state economists had predicted last year.
In addition, our interim meetings provide oversight of the new laws approved during the legislature’s most recent session. While most new laws became effective on July 15 and will take some time to see their impact, others containing emergency clauses become effective upon the governor’s signature. Among the new laws recently taking effect is a public safety measure aimed at getting habitual drunk drivers off the road. During the 2016 session, we increased the “look back” period for DUI offenses from five years to 10 years before the penalties for DUI offenses reset. Drunk driving has cost far too many lives for too many families. This effort combined with our ignition interlock legislation from 2015 promises to make our streets safer for everyone.
During the 2016 session, I sponsored successful legislation that will create a statewide certification program for businesses owned by disabled veterans. Houses Bill 183, which passed both the House and the Senate by a unanimous vote, will require the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Contract Compliance to establish guidelines for the certification program and an application process. The certification program will increase business opportunities for veterans and make the public more aware of their service. The governor signed this legislation into law on April 13, and a ceremonial bill signing will be held soon.
Some new laws will also benefit our children. One makes it possible for child-care centers and certified family child-care homes to store EPI-pens for emergency use, should a child in their care have a severe allergic reaction. Another potential life-saving measure will ensure high students receive life-saving CPR before graduation. We also created a new law that makes permanent the Advisory Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders. These groups will continue to work toward closing gaps in services to individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.
Following the summer work of the Interim committees, we will begin pre-filing legislation that will be taken up during the 2017 session. Whether it’s the interim session or the regular session, your questions and concerns remain my top priority and I encourage you to contact me at [email protected] or by calling the Legislative Message line toll-free at 1-800-372-7181. It is a great honor to serve as your state representative and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
State Rep. Dean Schamore represents the state’s 10th House District in Breckinridge, Hancock and Hardin counties.