We have just completed the 2017 legislative session of the General Assembly and I have mixed reviews to report. With a new majority and new leadership in the Kentucky House of Representatives, we found ourselves unable to prevent legislation that in my opinion will weaken the middle class. Right-to-work legislation and prevailing wage repeal was passed hurriedly during the first days of the session, and charter schools passed which allows for-profit organizations to siphon money directly from our local schools districts. It was a busy session, with 793 bills introduced overall, and 203 approved by both chambers. Already signed into law by the governor are 146 bills.
Still, not all was lost, and when we had opportunities to work in a bipartisan manner for the betterment of Kentucky, we did.
I was proud to vote in favor of Senate Bill 1, a sweeping education reform act dubbed the ‘let the teacher teach act,’ which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both legislative chambers. SB 1 aligns Kentucky with national reform efforts and improves how students are tested. It also lifts burdensome paperwork on teachers, but keeps accountability in place. Additionally, it places more power in local school districts to intervene in low-performing schools.
In addition, a bill I sponsored to allow high school seniors who maintain a 2.5 or better grade point average to use KEES (lottery) scholarship funds not only for college, but for apprenticeships in skilled trades, such as electricians and plumbers passed the House and Senate. I worked with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle and with bipartisan support, we passed House Bill 206.
Another bipartisan measure we approved will allow a judge to order outpatient treatment for up to a year for a narrowly-defined group of individuals with serious mental illness who have been involuntarily committed to a state psychiatric hospital at least twice in the previous 12 months. The governor vetoed Senate Bill 91, known as “Tim’s Law,” but both the Senate and the House came together this week to override the veto with almost unanimous approval.
I was also proud to support House Bill 333, a new effort to address Kentucky’s drug epidemic by creating stronger penalties for trafficking any amount of the addictive opioid drug fentanyl and its derivatives. Fentanyl is responsible for contributing to almost 34 percent of the fatal drug overdoses in Kentucky, and can be up to 50 times more potent than heroin according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. House Bill 333 passed in both the House and Senate and now goes to the governor for his consideration.
We also authorized funding to bring jobs back to Kentucky’s coal regions, and we ensured payment of coal miners’ black lung claims going forward.
I appreciate the opportunity to serve the citizens of Breckinridge, Hancock and Hardin Counties in the General Assembly. Your calls and feedback during the session were of great help to me in guiding my efforts.
If you would like to explore more details of the legislation passed this session, I encourage you to visit the Legislative Research Commission website at www.lrc.ky.gov.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about any public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the toll-free number is 1-800-896-0305. My address is Room 429E, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at [email protected].
I hope to you hear from you soon!