Pace quickens as state budget debates are near

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From the House by Rep. Russell Webber

 FRANKFORT -- We are moving into the final few weeks for the 2014 Regular Session.

Although the winter weather played havoc on the legislative schedule this past week, forcing cancellation of legislative action on Monday, the House still dealt with several bills.

One of the bills that has generated the most attention thus far this session is House Bill 70, which seeks to restore the voting rights for people convicted of some felonies who have completed all other requirements of their sentence.

The House passed the bill a few weeks ago, which also passed the Senate, but with a committee substitute that made various changes including instituting a five-year waiting period.

The House voted to not concur with the Senate changes, meaning HB 70 will go to a conference committee made up of House and Senate members in an attempt to hammer out an agreement.

Legislation that would allow Kentuckians who are prescribed various medications to receive them the same day of each month passed out of a House committee.

House Bill 395 allows for the synchronization of prescriptions so patients who now receive their refills at various times each month could instead get them all on one set day.

This week also marked the end of filing new bills with the deadline in the House passing on Tuesday and in the Senate on Thursday.

In total more than 580 bills were filed in the House, and nearly 200 in the Senate.

The majority of these bills will more than likely not become law before the scheduled end of the session next month, but some of them could be debated in the interim and come back up for consideration for the next session in January.

One bill that is expected to come up next week is the proposed two-year budget for the Commonwealth.

There has been much debate about the next budget, given the continued economic doldrums Kentucky remains in, which equates to less revenue for the Commonwealth.

When the Governor proposed the budget to the General Assembly nearly eight weeks ago, it included nearly $2 billion in new debt and continued budget cuts to state agencies and our public universities.

While it remains to be seen what the budget bill will look like when it reaches the House floor, it is my hope that it does not place a massive amount of debt on you the taxpayer.

We need to examine ways to become more fiscally responsible and explore ways to grow jobs in Kentucky, which is the best way to fund our schools and state services.

I welcome your comments and concerns on any issues impacting our Commonwealth during the 2014 Regular Session.

I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or you can contact me via e-mail at russell.webber@lrc.ky.gov.

You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov, and I also encourage you to follow the House Republican Caucus on Facebook and Twitter.