KENTUCKY (3/24/13) - Thirty seven bills had become law by early Thursday as the governor’s 10-day veto recess wound down and lawmakers prepared to return to Frankfort for the final two days of the 2013 Regular Session on March 25 and 26.
By the time you read this, we will have finished our work and sent whatever bills we were able to agree upon in the session’s final hours to the governor’s desk for his signature. At the time we recessed the 30-day session for the governor’s “veto days” on March 12, the General Assembly had passed 107 bills, not including resolutions. That comes out to about 3.8 bills passed per legislative day—a number that some might say is too many, and others might think is just right, or not enough.
The 37 bills I mentioned are the first of those 107 bills to become law, and many more will follow. I am going to give you a quick run-down of some of the bills that had been signed into law by late last week, but before I do that, let’s spend a few moments recapping work on the public pension reform issue.
Talk around the halls of the Capitol at the beginning of the veto recess was that pension reform would ultimately be hashed out in a special session. The House and Senate were, most folks said, just “too far apart” on the issue to reach any compromise in the short time left before the 2013 Regular Session’s end on March 26. But while disagreements were many, the biggest sticking point was not the difference in pension changes for future public employees proposed by the House and Senate in SB 2 itself, but the issue of whether—and how—to fund the proposed changes.
Optimism sprouted last Wednesday when Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo announced that not only were talks on the basic pension bill alive, but that the Senate—whose leadership had repeatedly said it planned to consider funding for any pension changes in next year’s regular budget session—was drafting legislation to fund SB 2. The House had voted Feb. 27 in favor of its proposal (HB 416) to fund SB 2 with the state’s take from potential new lottery games and instant wagering on previously-run horse races offered at the state’s race tracks, but that bill had been refused by the Senate on procedural grounds.
I remained in solid agreement with House leadership throughout the session, including the final two days this week, that pension reform and funding to pay for that reform are part of the same equation and should be passed in the same legislative session. With over $100 million in additional General Fund dollars likely needed by the pension system next year alone to help reduce over $30 billion in unfunded obligations owed by the Kentucky Retirement Systems, the funding mechanism simply cannot wait.
As the Speaker likes to say, passing SB 2 without passing a funding bill is like trying to make rabbit stew without the rabbit; If you don’t have a rabbit in the stew pot, you don’t have rabbit stew.
I hope to be able to report to you next week that the rabbit didn’t get away and yes, without a doubt, we took care of the pension issue during the 2013 Regular Session. But at this writing, the longest two days of the session were yet to come—along with the many surprises those two days always bring. So, we shall see.
Now, as promised, here are some bills that are among the 37 signed into law as of early last Thursday. They include:
- HB 217, which modifies some onerous portions of the 2012 “pill mill bill” (HB 1);
- HB 7, which authorizes six of the state’s public universities to bond capital construction projects on their individual campuses with agency bonds that the universities will repay from their own revenue streams;
- SB 97 will allow public school districts to raise the dropout age in their schools to age 18 beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. Once 55 percent of all districts in the state have raised their dropout age to 18, all districts in the state will be required to follow suit within four years. Current state law allows public school students in Kentucky to drop out of school at age 16;
- SB 72 creates mandatory training requirements in suicide assessment, management and treatment for professionals who provide counseling services such as social workers, marriage therapists, psychologists and occupational therapists. The first training must be completed by July 2016;
- HB 60 will allow coyotes to be hunted at night, with or without the use of lights to make them visible, under administrative regulation of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. This modifies existing law which prohibits anyone from killing wildlife, except opossum, raccoon, fish and frogs, with lights or other means that make wildlife visible at night; - SB 125 will include critical congenital health disease testing as part of the state’s newborn screening program effective Jan. 1, 2014. The program currently screens for 49 heritable disorders, including 29 recommended for screening by the March of Dimes.
There will be much more to share next time. Please continue to stay informed through my log in this newspaper, and continue to keep track of individual bills via the General Assembly’s administrative agency web site at www.lrc.ky.gov. You may also stay in touch with happenings in Frankfort by calling the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835, and keep up with committee meetings by calling the LRC toll-free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650. To comment on a bill, please call the toll-free Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181. Have a good week.
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