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Legislative update from Rep. Linda Belcher

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By Rep. Linda Belcher

 Over the course of the last week, the Kentucky House of Representatives honored fallen military members and their families in a solemn, moving ceremony in the House chamber.  This tradition began in 2004 and the service has become one of the most significant experiences of the session. 

Thirteen Kentucky families were invited to the House this year to hear a citation about their loved one’s service as it was read to the entire body.  It is a fitting and important tribute to Kentuckians who have made the ultimate sacrifice so we can remain in a free and safe world.  We are forever indebted to these heroes and their families.

As we head into the final days of the regular session the House has passed several bills with the hope that the Senate will give them full consideration.

Over the years, complaints about for profit colleges have increased with the charges ranging from inadequate curriculum to exorbitant tuition rates which are forcing students into difficult financial situations.  House Bill 125, which passed by a vote of 57-38, would increase state regulation and oversight.  Seven Kentucky for-profit colleges offering associate’s degrees or higher would be placed under the state Council on Postsecondary Education.  House Bill 125 would also restructure the state Board for Proprietary Education that oversees these institutions and would require more school disclosure and transparency.

Abuse comes in all forms but elder abuse seems to be on the rise in Kentucky. The House has addressed this disturbing trend through House Bill 54 which would ban anyone with a felony adult abuse conviction from serving or acting in a legal capacity for an adult, elder abuse victim or the victim’s estate.  The bill would disqualify anyone with a felony adult abuse conviction from acting as a  victim’s executor, financial, medical care surrogate or other court-appointed positions that allow one person to act on another’s behalf.   House Bill 54 passed by a vote of 95-0.

Last year, the governor imposed furloughs on state employees to help with Kentucky’s budget shortfall.  Unfortunately, this has had terribly negative consequences for Kentucky’s lowest paid employees who are struggling with shorter work hours and shrinking paychecks.  Parks and road workers, who are historically some of the lowest paid state employees, have been the hardest hit, especially those road crews who have cleared miles of snow from Kentucky highways and streets without being paid overtime.  House Resolution 97, which passed the House by a vote of 89-0, urges the governor to cease further furloughs of Executive Branch.

Other bills that passed the House include:

·         House Bill 227, which would provide more efficient and business friendly criminal history record checks, passed 97-1

·         House Bill 453, which would allow trained pharmacists or pharmacy employees to fit customers with therapeutic diabetic shoes, passed 100-0

·         House Bill HB 353, which would require the state Fish and Wildlife Department to get approval of a county’s Fiscal Court before releasing animals in any county weighing 500 pounds or more, passed 93-5

An event held in the Capitol Rotunda by several legislators, Kentucky’s First Lady, and our State Auditor reminded Kentuckians of the opportunity to support breast cancer research by checking line 38 on their individual income tax forms. 

In 2005, theKentucky General Assembly established the creation of the Breast Cancer Research and Education Trust Fund to support and advance breast cancer research, education, treatment, screening and awareness efforts in the state. House Bill 7 also earmarked proceeds from a state income tax check-off to help finance the work of the trust fund.  Since 2005, 26,681 taxpayers have participated in the program contributing $268,578 to the fund through the state income tax check-off.  

According to the Kentucky Revenue Cabinet, approximately 1.8 Kentuckians file their income tax returns each year.  If just one half of those taxpayers donated $10 to the fund, $9.1 million could be raised in one year.  Your donation will be deducted from what is owed to the state not from your refund.   If you have not completed your tax returns, I urge you to consider checking box 38 and making a contribution to this worthy and important cause. 

Only eight legislative days remain in the 2012 session.  March 4 and 7 are scheduled for concurrence which are days set aside for each chamber to consider bills and resolutions that originated in the other chamber during the session.  We then recess from March 8 to March 18 so the governor may consider vetoes to legislation. After that, my colleagues and I return to Frankfort for two days on March 21 and 22 to consider overriding any vetoes and then adjourn the session.

From now until the session concludes, 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.govor by calling the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835. For committee meeting schedules, please call the LRC toll-free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650. Or, to comment on a bill, please call the toll-free Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181.

As always, thank you for the privilege of serving as your state representative.