Sen. Steve Meredith: Ky. Senate reviewing state budget proposal; committee hearings begin on pension reform measure

Receiving the Commonwealth’s two-year, multi-billion dollar budget plan from our colleagues in the House highlighted one of our busiest weeks yet in the Senate as we reached the two-thirds point of the 2018 Session of the Kentucky General Assembly. Hundreds of visitors from all corners of Kentucky packed committee hearings and rallied for important causes in a week that saw no shortage of legislative activity.

We in the Senate will be working hard to review the House’s version of the state budget, House Bill 200, which aimed to restore several cuts made to Education, Veteran’s Affairs, and to Kentucky State Police that were recommended by Governor Matt Bevin. Balancing the fiscal health and future of the Commonwealth while funding vital state programs is no easy task. It will be an intensive review process from this point that will lead to many late nights and weekends for us in the Senate.

We also had the first committee hearing for our proposed pension reform bill, Senate Bill (SB) 1. Senate Bill 1 is the culmination of months of research with input from teachers, public employees, and taxpayers from across the Commonwealth. The committee hosted a hearing-only meeting on SB 1, and a committee substitute was proposed for the bill. The committee substitute looks to fix technical errors and make additional changes that reflect input from various stakeholders. I look forward to continuing the pension conversation as the bill moves through the legislative process.

We passed a number of bills through the Senate this week, including SB 90, which updates laws and financial appropriations relating to the law enforcement and firefighters foundation programs (KLEFPF). Other bills of note passing the Senate were SB 122, related to motorcycle safety education, and SB 104, which would update laws pertaining to natural gas pipeline safety in accordance with the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act.

Senate Bill 112 establishes laws pertaining to telehealth, which allows health care providers to deliver medical and health services via electronic means. Telehealth is essential in our modern world and is especially crucial for our more rural communities where there is not always easy access to face-to-face health care services. A pro-life amendment to SB 112 that also passed prohibits the use of telehealth for abortion in hopes of preventing deadly side effects from oral abortifacients from occurring without the physical presence of a doctor.

House Bill (HB) 4 protects peer review activities in health care to ensure the integrity of the peer review process and will also encourage much-needed health care providers to establish practices in the Commonwealth. House Bill 116 removes the words “nonreligous sponsored” from the definition of “community-service-related project” for prison inmates, allowing them to participate in church-sponsored projects. Senate Bill 130 conforms Kentucky’s campus crime reporting requirements to those in federal statute, streamlining the reporting process while cutting back on redundant paperwork.

House Bill 5 clarifies laws pertaining to guardianship and conservatorship of partially disabled or disabled adults. House Bill 64, known as the Colonel Ron Ray Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment Act, establishes terms permitting eligible veterans to use hyperbaric oxygen treatment for treatment of traumatic brain injury.

House Bill 136 helps Kentucky’s growing microbrewery industry by allowing these small businesses to sell a larger amount of their own products. Senate Bill 5 helps Kentucky’s independent pharmacies by leveling the playing field with national corporate pharmacies, while Senate Bill 110 codifies state alcohol quotas.

Thank you for your calls, emails, and visits. With only a few weeks left in the session, we still have much work to do with the passage of SB 1 and the state budget. It is an honor to represent you in Frankfort, and I look forward to continued dialogue on a number issues during these last days of the 2018 Session.

If you have any questions or comments about public policy issues, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Stephen.Meredith@LRC.ky.gov.  You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.

By Sen. Steve Meredith