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Senate Week in Review – January 11, 2013

rhoads Jerry1 300FRANKFORT, Ky. (1/11/13) – Lawmakers returned to Frankfort this week to convene the 2013 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
 
As at the beginning of any odd-year, 30-day “short” session, organizational matters were handled first. Leadership was selected, committee memberships and chairs named. New and re-elected legislators were sworn in and work began. By week’s end, more than 200 bills and resolutions had been filed.
 
We will spend the rest of January back in our home districts, studying issues, talking with neighbors, friends and constituents and preparing to return to Frankfort when the legislature reconvenes for the balance of the short session on Feb. 5. That is when we will get down to the nitty-gritty of vetting those bills in committees and hearings.
 
While we determine the State’s biennial budget during longer even-year, 60-day sessions, many bills we consider will address major financial concerns facing the State.
 
As the session continues, we will be tackling a wide range of issues, from veterans and active-duty military, education, public pension, tax reform, Medicaid and Medicare. Much work remains in our fight against the State’s multi-faceted drug-abuse epidemic. Legislative redistricting is still on our to-do list, after last year’s plan was struck down by the courts.
 
As you’ve likely heard, our public pension system is facing a huge unfunded liability – more than $30 billion by some estimates. Last year, we appointed a 14-member task force to study the crisis with state and national experts. The committee recently approved an eight-point proposal aimed at paying down pension debt and creating a new ‘hybrid’ retirement plan for future hires.
 
We will consider the task force’s recommendations and others as we work toward a solution that protects both taxpayers and public employees.
 
Just as pension-funding concerns have risen, calls for overall tax reform have grown increasingly louder too. Our current tax system is nearly identical to what it was more than half a century ago even though our economy and revenue needs have drastically changed.
 
The Governor appointed a Blue Ribbon Tax Commission earlier this year made up of 23 experts in both taxes and governance. After several months of study and consideration, the group proposed a set of recommendations to modernize our current system and generate more than $600 million additional revenue for the state.
 
While most of us agree the system could use some serious updates, some question whether this session will afford us the time needed to devote to thoughtful consideration required of such a complex matter. Some have suggested both tax reform and pension reform be seriously discussed now but taken up later this year in specific bills in a special session or sessions.
 
It is a tall order for any legislative session -- even more so with only 30 working days. But we are committed to rolling up our sleeves and working together to tackle as many of these issues as we can in the limited time we have. It is a goal we all share.
 
It is a goal best achieved when citizens across the State are active and involved. Your input is not only valued and appreciated, it is genuinely needed. I encourage you to follow the issues and always welcome your comments and questions. There are many ways you can stay in touch with the General Assembly.
 
The Kentucky Legislature Home Page, www.lrc.ky.gov, provides information on each of the Commonwealth’s senators and representatives, including our phone numbers, addressees, and committee assignments. The site also provides a bill tracking service, and committee meeting schedules.
 
By going to our eNews page, www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/listserv.htm, you can subscribe to frequent e-mail updates on what is happening at the Capitol. In addition, the General Assembly has its own blog, Capitol Notes, www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/capitol_notes.htm, that will allow you to receive legislative updates at your leisure.
 
You can also follow legislative action in the following ways:
• A taped message containing information on legislative committee meetings is updated daily at 1-800-633-9650.
• To check the status of a bill, you may call the toll-free Bill Status Line at 1-866-840-2835.
• To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. People with hearing difficulties may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the TTY Message Line at 1-800-896-0305.
• You may write any legislator by sending a letter with the lawmaker’s name to: Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601.
• E-mail me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
 
Jerry Rhoads
 


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