The Capitol becomes a gathering place each day for thousands of Kentuckians who want to be heard. Teachers, veterans, farmers and students alike all come to share their hopes and dreams for a better Kentucky. For Kentuckians the problems are many, the solutions complicated and the financial resources scarce. Like you, I understand that government can’t solve every problem but we can and must do certain things.
The House acted quickly this week to move legislation that would eliminate the latest influx of synthetic drugs which are being made available to our children on the store shelves of retail outlets across Kentucky. House Bill 481 expands upon previous legislation by banning entire classes of synthetic drugs and strengthening penalties for those convicted of selling it. Businesses found guilty could face forfeiture of their property and also lose their liquor licenses. HB 481 passed 96-0 and is now before the Senate for consideration.
The death of a young girl last year brought to light many problems that exist in the state’s child protection system. To address these concerns the House approved HB 200 which would establish an independent office to investigate the child-protection system in Kentucky. The bill would also create an external review panel to investigate deaths and near-deaths of Kentucky’s abused and neglected children. HB 200 passed 96-0 and will now be taken up by the Senate.
Legislators reached a compromise on HB 260 which intended to help the University of Pikeville provide more educational opportunities for the Eastern Kentucky region. The bill as amended would now help students in this region obtain a college education by the creation of the Kentucky Appalachian College Completion Program using multi-county coal severance funds. The bill offers more flexibility to students in the region by providing them the option of attending any regional nonprofit, independent college or university. Eligible students would be entitled to grants totaling up to $6,000 per academic year. Students attending a regional public university extension campus or region education center would be eligible for grants totaling up to $2,000 per academic year. HB 260 now moves to the Senate after passing the House 89-7.
A source of good news has been the state road fund. A report released this week shows that revenue for the road fund was up 5.4 percent in February and has grown by 7.5 percent so far this fiscal year. The continued growth of the road fund allows us to fund the many needed road projects and repairs needed in Kentucky. The House voted to approve HB 266 which is the Transportation Budget.
I am proud to report that House members joined together to help those who remain in need due the terrible tornadoes. The House and employees of the Legislative Research Commission were able to exceed their goal of raising $10,000 for the Kentucky Cares disaster relief effort. To date, this effort in the House has raised over $25,000 and will be presented to the American Red Cross.
In another volunteer effort House members have donated and collected over 500 college T-shirts to promote Kentucky Scholar Houses. The T-shirts will be distributed to the children of single parents who reside in Kentucky’s Scholar houses while they work towards a college degree. Legislators hope to instill the importance of a college education in the children by providing them a college T-shirt.
With just a few weeks remaining in this legislative session there is still much work to be done. There are still many bills to be considered that will help us make Kentucky a better place to live, work and raise a family.
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. To find out when a committee meeting is scheduled, you can call the LRC toll- free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650.