melinda gibbons prunty CURRENTBELTON, Ky. (4/15/19) — On April 1, I flew to Washington, D.C. at the invitation of Congressman (James) Comer to testify before the federal Coal Caucus. I, along with representatives of the Navajo Nation and Pleasant County, West Virginia, presented to the caucus in the Rayburn House Office Building. Chair McKinley invited each of us to state briefly how our communities were going to be negatively affected by the announcements in each of our districts of the closure of a coal fired power plant. A conversation followed to voice concerns and try to identify potential solutions.

For my part, I emphasized the importance of coal and that my request to the TVA board, since members are politically appointed, was to wait 5-7 months until the new CEO was named and could be a part of the decision. I also thought it was critically important to get the board fully seated (it was lacking two members at the time) and get the results of the ongoing FERC study (that is supposed to be completed this summer) to see how many coal fired units are needed to meet everyday energy needs of our citizens and industries, as well as meet the needs of companies being brought back to the United States from overseas.

I asked if a moratorium on the closing of coal fired plants could be declared for that length of time. I shared questions which I have, including “Are we leaving ourselves vulnerable for a shortage of energy as well as increasing rate costs in case of a natural disaster or other emergency situations?”

No solutions were declared but Congressman Comer affirmed me in that I had brought the exact message that needed to be heard. I will update as I become aware of any developments.

After testifying, I was able to visit with Sen. (Rand) Paul for a few minutes and discuss why I made the trip. I later rejoined Congressman Comer at Sen. (Mitch) McConnell’s Leadership Office in the Capitol. They were both prepared to introduce companion legislation the next day in their respective chambers designating an I-69 Spur between I-69 and the new I-165 interchange in Ohio County. The goal is for the federal designation to assist with economic development in the region, specifically at Paradise Regional Business Park. I am fully supportive and looking forward to assisting them with these efforts.

I then accompanied Congressman Comer back to his office and sat in on meetings with his constituents on various issues. I finished the day spending some time in both chambers of Congress before returning to the airport for my flight home.

On April 8, I met with Brian Hancock, the new Business Community Liaison at the Muhlenberg Job Corps Center. One thing he wanted to discuss was how to assist students who age out of foster care. One such student is Elsa Lucas, a Certified Nurse Assistant student from Russell Springs, a lovely young woman who obviously has great potential. He has been working closely with the Cabinet of Health & Family Services, and I assured him of my support for anything I could do to assist these students.

Another topic of conversation, among others, was the KentuckyWorks Collaborative, of which he and Director LaFleur serve on the committee. It is in its infancy stages but the MJCC is acting as a representative of all Kentucky Job Corps to brainstorm and be innovative on how to get young people trained and into the workforce to fill the many job openings across the state.   https://www.kentuckyworks.org/

I attended the monthly PADD meeting in Hopkinsville as well on the 8th. President Bob Jackson of Murray State University presented his vision for the university and thanked legislators on several occasions for passing HB 358 to assist the state regional universities and quasi-governmental agencies as they make a long-term decision regarding their future participation in the Kentucky Employees Retirement System.   

On April 9, I had the opportunity to meet with representatives from law enforcement who are assisting in the coordination of the training for all first responders in Muhlenberg County as well as for Kentucky State Police regarding autism awareness. Setting up trainings in the district has been ongoing since the passage of HR 131 from the 2017 Regular Session. https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/17rs/HR131.html

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend either the Muhlenberg North Middle STEM Fair on Friday or the White Plains Civil War Tea on Saturday due to family obligations. I appreciate all the prayers and support for my dad following his heart surgery; he is doing well.

I mentioned above that President Jackson of Murray was pleased with about the passage of HB 358. You may have heard about the Governor’s veto of HB 358 on the 9th. As a legislative body, both the House and the Senate were very disappointed that he vetoed it. He had charged us to get together and craft a plan we could both live with because he was not going to call a Special Session. We knew there was more work to do, but it was felt it could be addressed in the 2020 Session, while giving the universities and quasi-governmental agencies (including health departments, mental health clinics, domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers) time to decide their long-term plan of whether to stay in the state system or withdraw from it.

The Free Conference Report plan allowed employers the opportunity to choose to remain in the current plan. If an employer chose to leave the state plan, employees could make their own choice to remain in the plan or move to a defined contribution plan. We felt that giving the employee the choice did not violate the inviolable contract.

Regional universities and the quasi-governmental agencies all appreciated the extension, but due to the veto, they will now be responsible for contributing 83-84 percent versus their current 49 percent contribution rate. Many will be at risk for bankruptcy if a solution is not reached prior to July 1.

If a special session is called, it will be to address the veto of HB 358. At this point in time no dates have been set.

In the following weeks, I will summarize and highlight other bills that were passed in the 2019 Regular Session. There were many important pieces of legislation passed.
  
As always, I welcome your comments and concerns on any issue and can be reached, regardless if in session or not, through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at-1-800-372-7181, at 502-564-8100 Ext. 686, or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please follow me on Facebook @melindagibbonsprunty. You can also keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov
 
Note: Representative Melinda Gibbons Prunty represents the 15th House District serving Muhlenberg and SE Hopkins Counties which includes White Plains, Morton’s Gap, Anton as well as sections of Nortonville, Earlington and SE Madisonville. She is Vice-Chair of the Health & Family Services Committee as well as the Budget Review Sub-Committee on Health & Family Services. She serves as a member on the Appropriations & Revenue, Education, and Natural Resources & Energy Committees as well as the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Advisory Committee. http://chfs.ky.gov/dph/ColonCancer.htm

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