With little time remaining in the 2011 Regular Session, we used this week as the opportunity to amend and act on legislation. This was done with the hope that each chamber will have an opportunity to consider and concur upon a great number of bills from the other chamber before we adjourn for the ten-day veto period.
A sense of urgency was evident on some of the committee agendas, with numerous Senate bills slated for consideration. In the House Transportation Committee, Senate Bill 79 was approved to clarify federal regulations regarding small farm trucks and trailers being used by farmers within the Kentucky’s borders. This legislation, which also requires a new registration tag for farm trucks weighing less than 26,000 pounds, would protect farmers with small trucks from incurring fuel tax fines when they travel to other states.
Senate Bill 75 came to the House Banking and Insurance committee as legislation that would permit chiropractors to collect more from insurers for certain procedures. Thanks to a committee amendment, Senate Bill 75 left as a bill that would limit the number of co-payments insurance companies can charge for a chiropractic visit and passed with unanimous approval.
Senate Bill 12 was received by the House Education Committee, amended, and then given passage. Under this measure, a school superintendent would serve as the chairman of the site-based council of the principal selection process and be given a vote in the hiring process. The winning candidate would be selected by a majority vote of this council. The full House approved this measure on Thursday and the full Senate is expected to concur.
In an effort to help small businesses, which are the heart and soul of our communities’ economic viability, members of the House gave their 99-0 seal of approval to Senate Bill 8. This legislation would create a one-stop electronic portal to facilitate interaction among businesses and government agencies in Kentucky.
One of the lone bills originating in the House and approved in our chamber this week was House Bill 333. Should this bill, which passed 92-6, become law, the sale of display fireworks, including Roman candles and bottle rockets, would be legal in Kentucky. The fee to sell novelty fireworks, such as sparklers, would be reduced from $50 to $25; there would be a fee for retailers to sell consumer fireworks seasonally or year-round.
Winning passage on a 98-0 vote, Senate Bill 112 would save money for Kentuckians seeking physical therapy. The provisions contained in this bill would limit a health insurance company from charging a copayment for physical therapy no more than required for an office visit with a family practice doctor.
The House also approved Senate Bill 151. I, along with many other members of the House, have serious concerns with this legislation. The version approved by the House would commission a legislative task force to study alternative ways to select members of the Public Service Commission (PSC). My concern lies with knowing that the majority parties in both the Senate and the House are in favor of an elected PSC. With this task force, they will have the ability to select members who will reach that very conclusion. As our Floor Leader suggested, if they were truly concerned about obtaining a credible study, the proposed task force would include non-partisan business leaders and community advocates. This bill barely passed the House, but did squeeze through by a vote of 48-46.
Late in the week, the Governor signed House Bill 463. Noted as a sweeping reform of the state's justice code, this legislation is expected to save taxpayers $147 million over the next decade. The intent is to protect public safety by reducing the number of repeat offenders. While severe punishments will remain intact for violent criminals and drug traffickers, the punishment for simple drug possession will be lessened in two ways. While remaining a Class D felony, possession of small amounts will result in up to three years in prison, down from the current maximum of five, and repeat offenses will remain Class D felonies rather than being Class C Felonies, punishable by up to ten years behind bars. Additionally, drug addicts would enter into treatment and community supervision rather than prison, reducing the number of inmates in our overly crowded prisons.
This session’s most pressing issue, plugging our Medicaid shortfall, remains unresolved. House Bill 305, as originally approved, would plug the $166.5 million hole by moving money forward from Fiscal Year 2012 with that year’s budget being reduced through anticipated cost savings. Late in the week, the Senate approved their version of House Bill 305, which would make broad-based cuts across state government for the rest of the biennium to make up the Medicaid shortfall. With the House and Senate unable to agree on one version of the bill, a conference committee has been appointed to hammer out a compromised, final version.
As I mentioned, we have only a few days remaining in this session. After the Governor has ten days to veto any measures, we are scheduled to reconvene on for the purpose of either overriding or accepting the Governor's vetoes.
While we continue to complete our work on pending legislation before this session is completed, please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. I am always available to you either at home or in Frankfort. You may leave a message for me on the toll-free line by calling 1-800-372-7181 or contact me via e-mail at email@example.com. I also invite you to visit the LRC website at www.lrc.ky.gov.