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The pace has picked up significantly as we worked through the second week of the 2011 session. Hot topic legislation was discussed and passed through the House of Representatives, rallies advocating causes were held on the Capitol steps and in the Rotunda, and my colleagues and I hurried from committee obligations and meetings with constituents, staff and individuals, students and groups from my district.
The House passed several bills that have been at the top of our agenda for this session.
I was proud to see the House pass House Bill 225, “the Graduation Bill”, by a vote of 91-8. I have worked on this legislation for two years in conjunction with First Lady Jane Beshear, the Department of Education and educators across our Commonwealth.
Studies show that dropping out of high school at the age of 16 produces negative consequences in our students, economy and workforce. Dropouts earn about $6,800 less annually than high school graduates which also translates into lost revenue dollars for our state. Nearly 6,000 Kentucky students dropped out in 2009 and nearly 26 percent of adults statewide do not have a high school diploma. Those are dismal and discouraging statistics.
House Bill 225 would reverse those trends by gradually increasing the state's dropout age from 16 to 18 by the year 2016. House Bill 225 is an important initiative and one of the most significant pieces of legislation I have sponsored in my tenure as your state representative.
House Bill 305 is considered our budget adjustment bill that will help address the state's Medicaid shortfall. Specifically it would move $166.6 million from next year's Medicaid budget to this year's budget. The budget hole was caused in part because the two-year budget was built on the assumption that Kentucky would receive a higher federal match for Medicaid.
However, Congress only provided part of the assumed funding so we had to take action. If not, Kentucky would have to cut about $600 million from the federal and state health plan for the poor and disabled this fiscal year. That could mean up to a 30 percent cut in Medicaid payments to doctors, hospitals and other providers. House Bill 305 passed by a vote of 80-19 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.
In an effort to curb repeat drunk driving offenders, we passed House Bill 58 which would require the use of an ignition lock to prevent people convicted of drunk driving from being able to start their cars if they have been drinking. In 2009, 203 people in Kentucky were killed in alcohol related crashes. This bill will help keep Kentucky’s roads safer and save lives. House Bill 58 passed by a vote of 95-0.
The House also passed HB 35 to allow domestic violence victims in dating relationships to seek protective orders from a court. The law currently allows only married couples, couples who have lived together or couples who have a child in common to seek such protections. House Bill 35 cleared the House by a vote of 93-3.
Other legislation that cleared the House this week includes:
· House Bill 3, the immigration bill, which would require employers who get public money to use the federal government’s E-Verify system when hiring to ensure that workers are authorized to work in the United States. It also would require public agencies to use E-Verify. House Bill 3 passed by a vote of 90-6.
· House Bill 70, proposed constitutional amendment , which passed by a vote of 77-21, would restore voting rights after felons complete their sentences and probation. Virginia and Kentucky are the only two states that do not allow felon voting rights and currently Kentucky has 128,000 former felons who cannot vote.
· House Bill 310 would allow university research parks and military bases to apply to receive tax increment financing, commonly called TIF, for development projects. House Bill 310 would also allow state universities to use their own money to finance building projects. It passed by a vote of 99-0.
We are more than halfway through the 30-day session and I expect things will continue along in a swift and steady rate.
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.gov or 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 1-800-372-7181.