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In a 30-day “short session” like this year, it’s difficult for both chambers of the general assembly to fully consider all the bills that have been filed. However, over the last two weeks, the Senate has taken early action on major legislation, giving the House more time to act on those bills.
The Senate passed important bills addressing the state’s General Fund debt, economic development, healthcare, and school safety.
As Kentucky continues to add more debt than it pays off, Senate Bill 10 is an effort to rein in the state’s rapidly growing debt by capping it at 6 percent of revenues. Hopefully, this will improve the state’s bond rating, or credit score. The measure excludes debt for the Road Fund, universities, the Kentucky Housing Authority, and other agencies not using the General Fund.
Senate Bill 50, legislation that would establish a framework for industrial hemp farming if the crop is legalized by the federal government, was approved by a 31-6 vote. Since Kentucky’s climate is ideal for hemp, the crop is an alternative for tobacco farmers, with the economic benefit of jobs from the production of goods made from hemp, including cars, clothes and cosmetics.
As the Senate continues to look for ways to boost job growth in the state, legislation was passed that would make it easier for physician’s assistants to work in Kentucky. The measure would change credentialing standards to more closely match those of surrounding states. The Senate hopes this would encourage more physician’s assistants to stay in the Commonwealth to provide much-needed health service to Kentucky’s citizens.
Another healthcare measure passed this week was Senate Bill 3, legislation that would permit religious ministries that allow members to pay one another’s medical bills to operate in Kentucky as an alternative to traditional health insurance. This Christian-based medical needs sharing program has helped hundreds of people in our state afford health insurance.
Lastly, based on recommendations from the Kentucky Center on School Safety, the Senate unanimously passed legislation that would require schools to establish an emergency plan, conduct emergency drills twice per year and share the school diagram with local first-responders. Additionally, schools must submit an annual report to the Kentucky Department of Education. This measure is a low-cost approach that may go far toward keeping our children safe.
All these bills now move to the House for its consideration. If you have any questions or comments about the issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.
(Senator Thayer represents the 17th Senate District, which includes southern Kenton County and all of Grant, Owen, and Scott Counties. He is senate majority floor leader, as well as a member of the agriculture committee, the committee on committees, the legislative research commission, the licensing, occupations and administrative regulations committee, the rules committee and the state and local government committee.)