FRANKFORT, KY (1/7/11) – The following is an update statement provided by State Representative Jim Gooch.
The sharp crack of the gavel reverberated throughout the Kentucky House of Representatives’ chambers this week as the 2012 Kentucky General Assembly’s legislative session got underway.
Usually the first few days consist of swearing in formalities, locating seat assignments and meeting new members, but because of the many issues we are facing, we got down to task quickly.
This is a 60-day session and our main purpose is to pass a state budget before a new two-year budget cycle begins in July. Over the past three years, Kentucky has relied upon more than $3 billion federal stimulus money to get us through tough economic times, but that money is now gone. And while the state’s revenues are starting to rebound, we are looking at deep cuts to services and programs in order to balance Kentucky’s budget.
Other issues will require a great deal of study and discussion even as we consider hundreds of pieces of legislation.
Every ten years, after the US Census numbers are complete, the Kentucky General Assembly must redraw boundaries of our districts. This is challenging because population changes force the lines to be drawn outside of our current districts. We lose constituents and friends who we have known for many years and that’s never easy. It is our hope to have decisions made on redistricting soon so we can pass the bill and get on to our other business.
The growing prescription drug and illegal methamphetamine abuse in Kentucky has hit a level that requires action. Pill mills and pain clinics have erupted throughout the commonwealth and the demand for pain medication is on the rise. There are several ideas to curb illegal and over the counter drug abuse that will merit much discussion in the weeks to come.
Efforts to provide more protections to Kentucky’s children include proposed legislation to strengthen Kentucky’s systems because of recent child-abuse deaths. Better transparency in finding the facts behind these cases is something my colleagues and I will pursue this session.
In addition, some young children have been the subject of criminal complaints in Kentucky and their offenses range from minor assault to criminal mischief. A proposal to move children younger than 11 out of the criminal courts and into the social services or mental health systems has been filed.
The governor gave his state of the union address this week and focused on expanded gaming. He will propose passing a bill allowing a constitutional amendment be placed on the ballot next November so citizens could vote on allowing casinos at race tracks.
There are many sides to this issue. Revenues from casinos would help strengthen state coffers, boost race purses and allow our signature horse industry to compete with other states. Others argue that casinos increase gambling addictions and bring higher crime into communities. No doubt this discussion will dominate this session.
These kinds of tough issues, problems and debates will require all of us to work together and I am hopeful that we will be able to put our differences aside and reach consensus.
You can stay informed of legislative action on bills of interest to you 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. To find out when a committee meeting is scheduled, you can call the LRC toll-free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650.
It is an honor to represent you in Frankfort.
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