FRANKFORT, KY (1/29/12) - My trip to Taiwan in 2010 as Co-Chairman of a national legislative committee helped me build a deeper relationship between our commonwealth and this growing international trading power of the Far East. This is not a new relationship, by any means. It is a relationship that is actually three decades in the making, and one that continues to grow.
It was 30 years ago that then Governor John Y. Brown Jr. signed an agreement linking Kentucky and Taiwan--a province of the Republic of China--as “sister states”. To many, the designation was little more than a formality. But for Kentucky and Taiwan, the sister-state bond was the beginning of a mutually beneficial economic, cultural and social relationship that has lasted as both governments have grown.
My visit to Taiwan two years ago was proof-positive of the importance of Taiwan to Kentucky, and vice versa, in the area of trade. The visit was essentially a trade mission to the province, which has become an active member in the international community since our sister state status was arranged in the early 1980s. Since my visit, however, and probably many times over the decades Taiwan has shown the relationship our two states share is much more than one based on imports and exports. It is also a humanitarian one, proven by the Taiwanese government’s donation of $20,000 to the Louisville Chapter of the American Red Cross after Kentucky was barraged by storms, tornadoes and floods last year.
In recognition of the special 30-year relationship between Kentucky and Taiwan, I introduced House Resolution 91 in the House last Monday which, when adopted by the House last Friday, adjourned the Kentucky House that day in honor of our mutual ties.
A bill that would give Kentucky’s congressional hopefuls another week to file to run in this year’s primary election sped toward the House floor last week when congressional redistricting talks stalled in a joint House and Senate committee.
House Bill 302—which would change the state’s primary election filing deadline for Kentucky congressional candidates from Jan. 31 to Feb. 7 this year only—was introduced in the House last Monday and had received two of three required “readings” on the House floor by last Wednesday. The bill was expected to come to the floor of the House for a vote (which would constitute its third and final reading) by last Friday, although that changed when lawmakers decided to include the extension language in a HB 2 conference committee report and adopt the report to expedite House and Senate passage of the extension via HB 2 early next week.
The deadline extension has become increasingly important as the Jan. 31 deadline nears without a congressional redistricting plan in place. Without a plan, potential candidates cannot know what congressional district lines will be in place by this year’s primary, making it impossible for potential candidates to know the district in which he or she must run. A one-week deadline extension would give lawmakers time to work out a plan for 2012 congressional hopefuls to follow.
It is important to note that Jan. 31 will remain the primary election filing deadline for Kentucky’s new state legislative and state Supreme Court districts found in HB 1, which was signed into law last week (although a House minority party challenge is expected on that legislation). Only filings for this year’s congressional races would be pushed back under the conference committee report in HB 2.
The excitement surrounding this session’s redistricting talks tended to overshadow other legislative action last week. But, in the House, at least, committee and House floor action reached far beyond the discussion of district boundaries for elected state and federal officials.
A bill that would alter the makeup of school-based decision making councils in Kentucky’s 174 local school districts passed the full House by a 62-33 vote last Tuesday. If passed into law, HB 89 would require that at least one of the two parent members on a council live within the bounds of the school district and prohibit non-tenured teachers from serving on a council unless no tenured teachers are willing, or available, to serve. HB 89 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Legislation that would provide state military financial assistance to cover the cost of child adoption by any Kentucky National Guard member cleared the House by a vote of 93-0 on Jan. 20. Any Kentucky National Guard member would be eligible for state military family assistance trust funds of up to $5,000 to cover the adoption of a child with special needs or up to $3,000 to cover the adoption of another child under HB 224, which is now before the Senate for consideration. The legislation would help cover unreimbursed direct costs, such as licensed adoption agency fees, legal fees and medical costs incurred by Kentucky National Guard members, if passed into law.
A growing problem with feral pigs that may be little known in some areas of the Commonwealth received statewide attention last week when the House Agriculture and Small Business Committee passed a concurrent resolution to address the issue. House Concurrent Resolution 76 would encourage the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to study Kentucky’s burgeoning population of feral—or wild—pigs, and the dangers and problems they create for Kentucky’s farmers and other citizens. The resolution now goes to the House for approval. If passed by both chambers, HCR 76 would not go to the governor to be signed into law but rather be considered an “expression of opinion” of the General Assembly that a study be undertaken.
The House often welcomes special guests, including winning sports and academic teams, artists, musicians—even pageant queens like Miss Kentucky Ann-Blair Thornton, who we welcomed to the House chamber last Tuesday. But never before, in my memory at least, has the House welcomed to the chamber an actual penguin as we did last Tuesday afternoon when Paula the Penguin paid us a visit.
One of nine African Penguins at the Newport Aquarium’s “African Penguin Encounters” exhibit, Paula—who waddled up the center aisle of the House chamber into the arms of a waiting Newport Aquarium biologist—charmed lawmakers as we adopted a resolution honoring the aquarium and recognizing Tuesday, Jan. 24 as Penguin Day at the Capitol. The tiny black and white bird brought a lot of smiles and some much needed levity during what would prove to be tough legislative week.
It is hard to believe, but one third of the 2012 Regular Session will be over by the end of legislative business on Wednesday, Feb. 1. That will leave 40 legislative days for the House and Senate to come together and pass a new state budget, plus hundreds of other bills that impact Kentuckians young and old across this state. With redistricting almost behind us, it would appear that we are right on schedule for completion of our session tasks.
Please continue to stay informed of legislative action on bills of interest to you throughout the 2012 Regular Session by logging onto the Legislative Research Commission website at www.lrc.ky.gov or by calling the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835. For committee meeting schedules, please call the LRC toll-free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650. Or, to comment on a bill, please call the toll-free Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181.
State Representative Brent Yonts
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