State House addressing many issues, working on budget

Published 9:36 am Sunday, February 18, 2018

By DAVID MEADE

State representative

We are halfway through session, and work is continuing on putting together a responsible budget and saving our pension systems — two issues that work hand-in-hand. There are also several other critical pieces of legislation moving through the House, each of which will have a profoundly positive impact on the issues Kentucky is facing.

We passed House Bill 10 this past week, which is a proposed constitutional amendment that allows the General Assembly to approve or disapprove of any administrative regulation proposed by the executive branch. While there is currently a committee that vets rules handed down by the executive branch, it cannot prevent any regulation from going into effect. The idea behind this legislation is to return the regulatory implementation progress to the elected representatives of the people, not unelected bureaucrats.

The measure will now move to the Senate for consideration, and upon their passage, will be placed on the ballot for you to vote on this November. I look forward to making the case for this amendment, which would be a strong step towards preserving the independence of the legislative branch.

One measure that is very important to many of our state’s rural counties is House Bill 141, which seeks to establish an emergency loan account for school districts in dire financial circumstances because of events that are no fault of their own. The decline in coal severance revenues, which has reduced local property tax bases, has left some school districts in Eastern and Western Kentucky without the necessary level of funding to educate our students. However, this legislation will provide a valuable assist to these districts, as those which meet certain criteria could apply for up to $500,000 in loans from the Kentucky Department of Education.

These loans are zero interest, and have the potential to greatly help our coal counties in particular. While this is not a long-term solution to their funding issues, it will help many Kentucky schools remain solvent in the short term, so that they can continue educating our young people.

On another note, I recently filed legislation that will improve our state’s childcare services, aligning them with our workforce development goals in a way that will allow us to strengthen childhood education. House Bill 342 would transfer the administration of state childcare services to the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, under the Office of Early Childhood Education. Research and data shows that children who have access to high quality childcare fare better later in life, and make stronger contributions to our workforce. This reorganization will allow us to use childcare to strengthen our early education efforts, empowering a better workforce for our business owners and improving our economy over the long run.

I have constantly said that the opioid epidemic is a major crisis that must be confronted, and we are continuing to back that up with action. For the second year in a row, the House has taken tough action to limit the supply of prescription drugs, which has the effect of disrupting the cycle of addiction. House Bill 148 seeks to require hospice programs to remove and dispose of all controlled substances left behind in the households of deceased patients, so long as they are given written permission to do so by the family. If they are not granted written permission, the Kentucky State Police would be responsible for removing the drugs.

As it relates to the budget, subcommittees continue to move line-by-line through the governor’s proposal, working long hours to produce a budget that is responsible and fully pays our pension contributions, in addition to other necessary government services like education and transportation. As of now, the goal remains to complete the budget in the House by the end of February, enabling every legislator adequate time to fully review the final document.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your voice in Frankfort. Please reach out to me with your thoughts on the serious issues we are working on by email or phone. I look forward to hearing from you.

Rep. David Meade is the majority caucus chairman in the state House of Representatives. He represents the 80th district, which includes Lincoln as well as part of Pulaski County. Contact him with any questions, concerns, or advice. He can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at (800) 372-7181, or via e-mail at david.meade@lrc.ky.gov.