Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
First, if we are in a crisis, why is the Governor giving political cronies a $20,000 raise?
Second, anyone can identify a problem. That is not hard. I would like to help the Governor with a solution:
- Suspend the prevailing wage law for this budget cycle. We would be better off if it was repealed in its entirety. However, maybe it would be more politically palatable by suspending it through June 2010. Estimated savings- $150 million.
- Suspend the water and sewer projects put into the budget at the last minute. Now, this is also going to be hard to do. Heck, I don't want to give up the $1 million in water lines that I got for Campbell County residents. If these projects are suspended, they should sit at the top of the list if the budget turns around, or for the next budget cycle. Off the top of my head, I think those projects were for $250 million, so that is the estimated savings.
- Allow grocery stores to sell wine. First year revenue, $20 million, and $10 million every year after that.
So, I have just come of with the first $420 million of the $456 million projected shortfall. This would tide us over for a least another 10-12 months, where we can then see if the projected deficit gets better or worse. In another year we will be in the beginning of a new budget session, where we can clean up anything else.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
One of the successes of the 2008 session was an overhaul of the mortgage process in Kentucky. That bill set up the Kentucky Homeownership Protection Center. If you or someone you know needs help staying in their home, contact the KHPC.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
This blog will continue and the pace of posts will pick up now that the campaign has ended.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
About $485 million was wagered on charitable gaming.
About $470 million was wagered on horse racing (yes, charitable gaming is larger that horse racing).
About $740 million was wagered on the Kentucky Lottery.
Now, I am putting these figures down from memory, so they are probably off a little here or there. But I do remember adding it all up at the committee meeting, and it was over $1.7 billion in 2007.
I found this very interesting and wanted to share it.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I appreciate Mr. Sherman and the work he does. However, it is difficult to justify a 47% raise for anyone at anytime. It is even more difficult when every state employee is getting a 1% raise. According to media reports (which is where I learned this, just like everyone else), this was done because Mr. Sherman is "indispensable". I don't believe there is anyone who is indispensable. I disagree with this decision and I hope it is revisited.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The tournament went great. The US team had 2 Kentucky players on it, and they were integral to the big US win. Kentucky received a lot of the attention in the international telecasts. The fans were great, everyone commented on the graciousness of the Kentuckians. I had the opportunity to go to the event on Saturday and talked to a French television reporter and he said how well he had been treated here.
Why is this important to Northern Kentucky? Because the more positively Kentucky is viewed by the world, the more people will want to visit the state and spend some money. Tourism is an important part of the Kentucky economy, and whatever can be done to increase it benefits everyone.
Everyone should be proud of their state after last week.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I would like to expand on comments I made in my last post about double dipping. We received a briefing on the pension reform legislation on Monday. In the meeting I asked about allowing double dipping if you become a legislator. Apparently everyone is being treated the same, and here is the explanation:
Under this bill you cannot double dip in the same retirement system. Now there are several different systems, KERS (mostly state employees) CERS (county, city, and classified school employees) KTRS (Kentucky Teacher Retirement System) SPRS ( State Police) and the Judicial retirement system (Judges and Legislators). So future employees cannot double dip in the same retirement system. However, future employees can get multiple retirements from different systems. Here is an example. Joe Smith is a police officer in CERS. Joe retires with a full CERS pension. Joe can go back to work for an agency that is attached to CERS, but cannot collect another pension. However, say Joe then went on to become a teacher. Then Joe can begin working on a second pension with KTRS.
My primary concern was that everyone is being treated the same, and it looks like they are. Just wanted to clarify that issue now that I am more educated on it.
Friday, June 20, 2008
This desperately needs to be done. Overall the plan is a good start. We are taking some steps to stop the bleeding. However, this is akin to putting a band aid on a head wound. This will not fix the problem. It will slow down the rate at which we fall behind. But it must be done. Local Governments and school boards will be beneficiaries of these changes.
The Governor deserves credit for getting the issue moving again. The Senate President David Williams deserves credit for repeatedly saying that more needs to be done. Both the House and Senate leadership deserve credit for getting together and working this out.
That said, there are a couple issues I have with the legislation as I understand it. All I have seen thus far is a summary of the changes. First, it eliminates double dipping for all employees (which is good), except for Legislators (which is bad). Translation: If you are a current public employee, you can retire from your job with your full pension, come back some time later and start working on your second pension. This bill will eliminate that for future employees, and you can only have the first pension, unless you come back as a legislator or a Judge, then you can have that second pension. I think that is wrong and sends the wrong message. Perhaps this was an oversight in the summary, or I missed it. But I don't think so. Update- See above post for more information on this topic. The second issue I have is that there will be a schedule for the state to make the actuarial correct payment amount to the retirement fund. The percent will go up every year until the state makes the proper payment amount in 2025. That is 17 years from now. Not making the necessary payments is part of what has gotten us in this situation of the years. I would rather see this schedule accelerated.
Comprehensive bills like this always have little issues that every legislator can complain about. You have to consider if the bill does more good than bad. This bill is about 99% good. I look forward to voting for it.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
We need more of this sort of action in all levels of government. It is cliche, but this is your money and should shouldn't have to jump through several hoops to see where your money is being spent.
There was a good bill this past year, HB 105, that would have accomplished this goal for all of state government. I was proud to be a co-sponsor of it. Sadly, it went nowhere. Hopefully it will see a better fate next year.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Also I am hearing that the reform will limited in scope and will just stop the bleeding. Frankly, we need more than that, but I suppose we will take what we can get. The wheels of government turn slowly.....
Thursday, May 29, 2008
I certainly hope this happens. We are well past the time to make some changes on this topic. My only complaint is that it may not go far enough. The proposal includes more study of the already most studied issue in Frankfort. But, progress is progress. Below is the release from the Governor:
Gov. Beshear Proposes Pension Reform Measures – Will Save $500 Million Annually in Pension Costs and at Least $50 Million in Immediate Savings to City and County Governments and School Districts
Proposes Special Session Last Week of June; Creates Working Group to Address Remaining Issues
FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 29, 2008)—Gov. Steve Beshear today called on legislators to agree on major pension reform issues in the next three weeks which will save taxpayers $500 million annually and city and county governments and school districts at least $50 million immediately. If such an agreement can be reached, the Governor said he would call a special legislative session to enact the reforms before June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
“Democrats and Republicans, public employees and public employers, we all agree that the state’s public pension problem is a real mess,” said Gov. Beshear. “And, we all agree that the failure to pass meaningful pension reform during the last legislative session has made the problem worse. And, most significantly, we all agree that we must act now to stop the bleeding of taxpayer dollars.”
During the last session, the House and Senate passed separate bills, many provisions of which were strikingly similar. Key issues that remain in dispute are governance of the systems and consideration of new models for future benefits, issues that have not been fully vetted and did not receive any recommendation from former Governor Fletcher’s Blue Ribbon Commission.
Gov. Beshear’s staff compiled all of the provisions of the two pension bills from the 2008 session that used the same language or shared principles.
“The draft language represents issues where there is substantial agreement between both Houses,” said the Governor. “In addition, this draft contains the recommendations of Governor Fletcher’s Blue Ribbon Commission.
Those recommendations include:
Raising retirement ages for future hires;
Lowering the cost of living adjustment to 1.5 percent;
Requiring new employees to contribute 1 percent of their salary to the health insurance fund; and
Reforming the practice of double-dipping.
Gov. Beshear met with House and Senate leaders this morning to provide the draft language and urged them to reach agreement on these core components in the next three weeks. If they agree, he will call a special session the week of June 23 to take up this compromise bill.
“Agreement on these reforms will result in savings of nearly $500 million annually to state and local government obligations to fund the pension system,” said Gov. Beshear. “It will also provide city and county governments and school districts with at least $50 million in immediate savings starting July 1.”
Gov. Beshear also emphasized that the state will realize a record number of retirees this year, and a failure to reform the practice of “double dipping” could impose significant additional costs on the state.
“It’s time to set aside issues that divide us, to identify all of the significant things we agree on, and work together to come up with a partial, but substantial solution to the pension mess we are in,” said Gov. Beshear. “We all agree there is a problem. We agree the problem is getting worse. We agree the time is now. And we agree on the basic changes that need to be made. Let’s get it done, now.”
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Like I said in the last post, nothing is ever for certain in Frankfort.
Monday, April 28, 2008
As I write this, work is being done to improve and widen Industrial Road from US 42 to US 25. That is Phase 1. Phase 2 expands and widens Industrial Road from US 25 to Turkeyfoot Road. Last year, Phase 2 was on the 6 year plan. This is important because a road cannot be funded unless it is on the 6 year plan.
Now in the Governor's first version of the 6 year road plan Phase 2 was removed. I made getting Phase 2 back on the 6 year plan this year a top priority for several reasons. First, I knew the chances of new roads being put on the 6 year plan was next to zero. Second, the cities of Elsmere and Independence and Kenton County each put up $100,000 for a local match to help the project along. Well, that money has been spent on Phase 1 (which is in none of those jurisdictions). It is unfair that their money is spent outside their areas and the part in their area is gone from the list.
I had the opportunity to share this with the Governor. I believe he interceded on my behalf to get it in the House version of the 6 year road plan because it was in there.
So then of course the budget goes to the Senate. In the Senate, Phase 2 came out, along with every other project the house added in their version. I don't blame the Senate, they treated every new project equally, it got cut out. Later, I was hopeful that Phase 2 would reappear in after the conference committee. That did not happen as again no new projects came out of the conference committee. So I thought it would be out for at least two years.
This is one of the more interesting things about this job, nothing is ever certain. Today the Governor vetoed HB 79, the biannual Highway Plan. Here is his statement:
FRANKFORT, KY (April 28, 2008) – Gov. Steve Beshear today vetoed House Bill 79, the Legislature’s version of a highway construction plan, citing the unprecedented manner in which it would have constrained his administration in the coming biennium.
“This legislation unnecessarily limits the ability of the Transportation Cabinet to make the kind of adjustments that are always necessary when implementing hundreds of road and bridge projects,” the Governor said.
In his veto message, the Governor said HB 79 would have severely limited the Transportation Cabinet’s ability to deal with project cost overruns.
“Without this veto, some critical projects may have to sit idle because the actual costs could exceed the amounts set forth in the bill,” he said. Adding to that untenable position, no change to the highway plan, no matter how badly needed, could be made without new legislation.
The Governor said he had directed Transportation Secretary Joe Prather to publish the Commonwealth’s highway plan combining all the projects he originally recommended with projects the Senate and the House added in their respective budget memorandums. In that way, all such projects can be considered for funding.
The state road plan will “provide maximum flexibility for the maintenance and the construction of the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure and maintain consistency with past practices,” the Governor said.
The plan also will contain a number of needed projects inexplicably omitted in HB 79. A listing of those projects will be made available when the replacement plan is published.
“There will not be enough funds available to move forward with every project included in the substitute plan,” Beshear added. “However, including them in the plan signifies their importance to me and my desire to move forward with them when funds become available.”
The way I read this, it looks like Phase 2 will be back in. I am going to try to confirm this.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The budget we passed was quite lean, due to lower revenues. There was a bill passed to increase taxes by raising the cigarette tax, along with several other taxes. It passed the House 50-45, but never received a hearing in the Senate.
There were mixed feeling in the district about the cigarette tax. Most calls I received were against it. However, the was some real support for it also.
I voted against the tax increase, and here is why. There are many methods of either increasing revenue or saving money that can be implemented. These should be addressed before we look at raising taxes. These options include:
Repealing the prevailing wage law. I have talked length about this issue on this blog. We are looking at savings of $250-500 million per biennium.
Expanded gaming. This need no explanation, as it has been talked about plenty. Estimated revenue: $600 million to 1.2 billion per biennium.
Allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores. Currently, you can't buy wine in grocery stores. I don't understand why. Estimated revenue: $20-25 million per biennium.
You may not agree with all these options. Good people disagree on these issues and that is OK. But I feel that these need to be given the chance to pass before we look at raising taxes. My suggestions would generate between $870 million to $1.725 billion per biennium. The low end would mitigate the cuts in the budget, the high end would provided additional revenue needed for human services, education, and possibly even tax cuts that would spur economic development or eliminating the state portion of the car tax.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
This was a vital item to pass this year. It is a crime that nothing got done. Because when your pension system is $26 billion in the hole, it is probably past time to stop digging and start filling up the hole. Last year then Governor Fletcher put together a "blue-ribbon commission" to come up with solutions to this problem. That commission did an excellent job putting together their suggested plan.
So this session the House passed their version of the plan, the Senate passed their version of the plan. Which of course means that the issues goes to a conference committee. The conference committee was put together before we left for break on April 1st. So there was about 2 weeks to get an agreement. Yet I am not sure that there were any meetings held during the break. Either way, there was no agreement when we returned to Frankfort Monday.
Fast forward to Tuesday, or our last day in Frankfort. At about 3:00pm I am hearing that the issue is dead. At 6:00 it has new life as the committee (as we are told) are meeting on it. About 8:00pm it sounds like there is an agreement. Shortly thereafter some information starts floating around about the details of the agreement. I find out later that the conference committee never met, it was leadership who apparently worked out a deal.
By 10:30, it was dead again. Why? You can see in this article from the Lexington Herald Leader, apparently the Jefferson County Teachers Association(JCTA) and the Kentucky Education Association (KEA) killed the bill with their opposition. Instead, the House gutted another bill at the final hour and put the House version of the pension bill in it to send to the Senate. Not surprisingly, the Senate did nothing with it as they thought they had a compromise agreement with the House.
Since when did the KEA and the JCTA start running the Democratic Caucus in the House? Why is it that they get to make such vital policy decisions that affect every person in this state?
I have seen the very difficult job leadership has on these issues. It is a demanding, often thankless job. So I am not questioning judgement or motives. That said, I just don't understand how an issue gets this out of control, the need for a solution so obvious, and yet it can't get done.
From what I finally saw on a 2 page outline of the compromise, it barely stopped the bleeding. There was to be more study of the issue. There is no more studied issue in Frankfort. Of course, now that will be done, there is no choice. This should be the most important issue in the 2009 session, assuming there is no special session to take it up.
I will have many thoughts on what happened last night, the budget, and the process in the next few days. For the next day or two I will be decompressing.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Friday, April 4, 2008
First, this is no way to run a government. This is not a reflection on the people who negotiate the budget or the staff who put it together. But when a system exists that drops a 250 page document on your desk and a 30 page summary to digest about 6 hours before you have to vote on it, there is something fundamentally wrong with the system.
The good news is that for the first time in a while the state is doing a better job living within its means. The projects in the original budget document were at a minimum. We lower our overall debt ratio. We make progress toward fulling funding the state portion of the retirement system for this biennium. NKU now has the authority to build their dorm. Plus we have a budget, which is better than leaving without one and have to spend more taxpayer dollars coming back to finish up.
The bad news is that there are many cuts. The is no increase in the SEEK formula, but it holds steady. A 3% cut to higher education. Cuts to other educational services like Safe Schools. Cuts to Human Services. No adolescent treatment center for NKY.
More thought to come.....
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Since we will be here until midnight tonight, I will try to blog on the budget in general tomorrow. I can say that this is an austere budget.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Now there are strong rumors that an alternative budget proposal is being put together right now.
All this needs to be decided on by midnight tomorrow night to be veto proof.
What a mess.
Monday, March 31, 2008
I have to say that having to vote on a budget I haven't seen is not an appetizing one to me.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
In Frankfort, I have learned that you never say never. However, the votes aren't there. The budget conference committee is working on the state budget, and it needs to finish its work this weekend. Obviously, you can't plan a budget without knowing how much revenue you have. The conference committee seems to be going forward without planning on any expanded gaming revenue.
If it does come up, it should be renamed "The Lazarus Bill".
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Myself, Rep. Santoro of Boone Co. and Rep. Dossett of Christian Co. share a suite at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Frankfort this session. President Clinton is in Kentucky campaigning all day. His first stop was here in Frankfort, and he stayed on the same floor as our suite last night. Did not get to see him, but did meet a member of his staff and a secret service agent. Both very nice people.
Can't say I am a big fan of Pres. Clinton, but it was pretty neat to be on the same floor with him.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
First, the Governor submits his suggested budget. That budget is then introduced as a bill. This year that was HB 406. It is used as a starting point. Then House passes their version of the budget, which may or may not look anything like the Governor's budget. Then the budget goes to the Senate, who then passes their version. It may or may not look anything like the House or Governor's version. When the House passes a bill and the Senate passes it with changes made, it comes back to the House for either concurrence or non-concurrence. On budget bills, the House historically has always not concurred. Therefore, the bill goes to a conference committee. This is a committee made up of members of both bodies that try to work out the differences. For budget bills, it is always made up of the leaders of both parties in each chamber. They then will either successfully work out an agreement, it will be passed by both chambers and signed by the Governor, or we will go home without a budget.
So now we get to the question at hand, what happens if we leave without a budget? Well, the budget runs until June 30. So if we leave without a budget, a special session would need to be called between the end of this session and June 30th if we are to have a new one in time. Hopefully, negotiations would continue immediately so we do not get to June 30 without a new budget.
What happens if June 30th comes and goes and there is no new budget? As I understand a recent judicial ruling, the Governor could operate only "essential" government services. Everything else would have to be cut. Now the definition of essential may be in question. You have to imagine that the state prisons and state police are essential. We have to keep the court system going. You would imagine that the state parks, new roads, filling pot holes would not be essential. The question becomes from a purely legal perspective, is education essential? How about medicaid? I truly hope it does not come down to that, and I don't think it will.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I was also successful in attaching amendments to 2 pieces of legislation today, HB 603 and HB 683. Thanks to the sponsors of both those bills for working with me on their legislation.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The Republicans in the House have begun using discharge petitions to try to get some bills up for a vote this session. The first time was on Friday, attempting to dislodge SB 40 from the House Judiciary Committee. The motion to approve requires 51 votes. The vote was 40-16. Obviously, many people chose to not vote either way. So SB 40 remains in committee.
There was a discharge petition filed for HB 43, a bill to exempt military pay from income taxes. These petitions must come during a portion of the agenda called "Motions Petitions and Communications" and can only last 30 minutes. So yesterday we were educated for about 30 minutes about women's history. An interesting lesson, but obviously one designed by its length to thwart any opportunity for us to call up a discharge petition.
But good things to come from these petitions. Today in the House Appropriations and Revenue committee HB 43 was heard and passed. It is very unlikely that it would have been heard otherwise. So we are making progress.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
HB 262 raised taxes on cigarettes, janitorial services, chartered flights (including hot air ballons), and other services. It passed 50-45. I voted no. There are plenty of things we can do first before we raise taxes, like repeal the prevailing wage.
Then we approved the House version of the budget. I got my copy in the morning Wednesday, and read it all morning. All 312 pages. There is a lot not to like in it. However, there is plenty to like also. Therefore I voted for it to keep the process going. The final vote will come later after the conference committee.
Tuesday we passed HB 560 out of the House Education Committee. The sophomore class from Lloyd High School came down to check it out. Two students, Dezmen Ritchie and Andy Bard testified and did a great job. They received a terrific lesson in the way the legislative Branch works. I would also like to thank Pat Crowley from the Enquirer and Tom McKee from WCPO channel 9 news for coming down very early to report on it and give the kids a lot of attention. You can watch the video from WCPO at the link below.
Next step is getting it called up on the floor.
In addition, we got HB 423 passed through the Elections Committee that morning also. It is the bill I ran for the sophmores last year.
Monday, March 10, 2008
First, I generally like to read bills before they come up for a vote. Given that the Governor's proposed budget is 120 pages, and I expect the committee substitute to be longer, it may be difficult to accomplish this. Therefore I may vote against it just based on the fact that I don't have time to read it. I assume we (by we I mean House Republicans) will get briefed on it before we have to vote on it.
Next, this is just the end of the second quarter, if you will. The Governor's proposal was the first quarter, the House budget is the second. The Senate will then produce their version, which is the third. Then a conference committee will work out the differences, the final quarter.
Lastly, Wednesday will be day 44 of a 60 day session. This means that the Senate will have 14 legislative days to put together their budget, and then have a conference committee, come to an agreement, and get it passed by both houses. Translation - don't be surprised if we get to the end of the session with no budget. Hopefully that does not happen. But given the time situation, I would not be surprised. Usually, the Senate would have had the budget by last week, from what I am told.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Now all I have to do is get it through committee and the Senate, in the next 18 legislative days. Anyone who thinks it is a good idea, please let your State Senator know.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Then later in the day there was expected to be a vote in Appropriations and Revenue Committee on the "Stream Saver" bill. It would basically eliminate a certain type of coal mining called mountain top removal. Now, some people would view passage of this bill as a good thing. But there is no argument that it would cost hundreds if not thousands of jobs in.............yep, Eastern Kentucky. Right where we need all the jobs.
Only in Frankfort.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Also, we passed a good bill out of the House, HB 534, of which I was a primary co-sponsor. It will protect general contractors and employees from unscrupulous subcontractors who drop their workers comp coverage while working on a job. Hopefully it finds favor in the Senate.
Finally, my bill that passed out of committee, HB 309, has made the orders of the day. This means that it can be called up on the floor at any time at the discretion of the Majority Leader of the House.
Monday, March 3, 2008
This is a bill that I submitted last year for the then sophomores at Lloyd HS. The chairman, Daryl Owens, was nice enough to give us a hearing last year with no vote. apparently they liked it enough to give us a hearing this year.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
No, that is not a misprint.
So we took a step forward in eliminating some of that. Mostly, it changed benefits for future employees. Currently we have either the most generous or second most generous retirement system in the country, depending on who you listen to. Either way, we can't afford it.
This is not a perfect bill. No 200 page bill will be perfect. We could have gone farther in some things and that would be fine with me. But to make as many changes as we did, to get the unanimous support it did, was a great accomplishment for all involved.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
After 3 votes and several parliamentary maneuvers yesterday morning in committee, the casino bill could not get passed. So I thought it might actually be dead. Freshman mistake. The Democratic leadership just removed one member that voted against it and put 2 new members on that favored a certain version. After session today, the committee had a special meeting and voted a casino bill out very quickly.
This issue is all the talk in the hallways of the Capitol.
Rumor is that the Speaker committed to the Governor that he would get it out of committee, and it was then the Governor's responsibility to get the votes to pass it on the floor. But that may be just a rumor. The bill needs 60 votes to pass out of the House. Of course, the President of the Senate has said publicly that it is not going anywhere in the Senate, so this may all be an exercise in futility.
Also, I got my bill, HB 309, out of committee yesterday. I want to thank the Chairman, Steve Riggs, for hearing my bill, and the members of the committee for voting it out. I also want to thank the gentlemen from the Louisville FOP who went out of their way to come to the meeting to support me, even though I did not ask and were not aware they were coming.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I am getting plenty of feedback on casinos. If would like to let me know what you think, e-mail me at email@example.com.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
HB 560 was developed by a student at Lloyd High School. This was done as part of class assignment for the Sophmore classes of Jonathan Davis and Beth Fields. Last year we did the same thing, had a hearing before a committee, and the kids from Lloyd were able to testify on the bill. I have introduced the same bill from last year again this year, Hb 423.
Anyway, the goal of HB 560 is to teach seniors in high school how to register to vote, how to actually vote, and fill out an absentee ballot. We teach kids in school how important it is to be engaged and vote, but leave out the part about how to actually vote.
We hope to have the chance to have a hearing again this year before a committee. If it happens, I will let you know about it here first!
Thursday, February 21, 2008
This has been a contentious bill for the last 2 years. Last year the bill mandated recieving the vaccine before going to school, this years version allowed a parent to opt in or out. Therefore this years version was better, in my mind. But not good enough to vote for.
There was a good, and mostly respectful, debate on the topic. There is much to learn and many different opinions on this bill. If you are interested in the issue, I encourage you to go to the KET web site and watch the debate for yourself.
Here is my main problem with the bill. The first sentence of the bill is as follows:
"All parents, guardians, and other persons having care, custody, or control of any child shall have the child immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, pertussis, measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis B,[ and] haemophilis influenzae disease, and human papillomavirus in accordance with testing and immunization schedules established by regulations of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. "
I have put the change in bold. The reason we require students to be immunized for these diseases before they are allowed in school is that we don't need them spreading these diseases to others. This requirement is meant to lessen the risk of communicating these diseases in the close confines of schools. Schools should be a place of learning, and not having to worry about whether or not the other students have measles. HPV is not easily communicable, it requires sexual contact for the transmission. Therefore this requirement is outside the bounds of why we originally began requiring students to be immunized; not just for their own good but the good of others around them. This sets a dangerous precedent of the government telling you what medical treatments you have to take for your own good. There is also the issue of the $1.3 million dollar cost to the state when we are cutting many other services.
Now, if you have a daughter between 9 and 25 years old, I encourage you to look into getting her this vaccine. It may be the difference between life and death. But I want it to be an individual choice, not the government's.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Today at lunch I invited myself to sit with a couple Democratic lawmakers, who will remain nameless. One was a State Rep., the other a State Senator. Conversation quickly turned to SB 7, commonly known in NKY as the toll bill. I expressed my reservations about the bill, and then commented that my main problem was that NKY gets the short end of the stick in most everything, including roads, and how now that it is our turn at the front of the line for some big projects, now there is no state money for us.
They both literally laughed at me. Not chuckled, didn't ask for some facts to back it up, just literally laughed at me.
Then one said "Well, you did alright with Fletcher" and they got up and left.
I tell this story to illustrate the mindset of too many down here. NKY generates the money that they take to their districts, and have no interest in learning or caring about how we get it or making sure it continues. It is very dissapointing.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Now this year, everyone tells me they can't remember a "slower" session. We have a new Governor who just released his casino plan. There is no money to spend, so that slows up the process and eliminates many bills from consideration. The House is about to change the Governors casino plan. There is talk of increased taxes. Hopefully there will be a pension plan from the Governor this week. But this leaves about 30 days to put together a budget, decide on casinos, fix the pension system, and do any number of other things. I look forward to seeing whether or not this continues to be a slow session.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Part of my weekend will be going through the plan and familiarizing myself with it. I really don't care for the way the Governor recommended wording the Constitutional Amendment. Also, what I have heard about the enabling legislation I don't really care for either. But I will be looking at it to make an informed decision.
Here are some things that I have overheard at the Capitol the last few days on the casino topic:
The proposed Constitutional Amendment language may not ever be heard, but a different version may get voted on in committee.
Concern that there is no local option for casinos at race tracks, but there is for the other free standing casinos. If the local option does not pass at any free standing locations, then we have just handed a monopoly to the race tracks.
There are questions as to whether or not the proposed language for the Constitutional Amendment is even in itself constitutional.
The Governor proposed 5 areas for free standing casinos. Two of those areas were Christian County (Hopkinsville), and Boyd/Greenup Counties (Ashland). The State Representatives from thsoe two areas apparently were not even given a heads up that this would be in the proposal.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
We had the honor of having our session today in the Old Capitol, which was in use when Lincoln was President. It is hard to describe how neat it was to hold session where they did 150 years ago.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Just to give you a glimpse of the way things work, we have 23 days behind us, and I have yet to have the opportunity to vote on a Republican bill either in committee or on the floor of the House.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
I was my honor to be able to speak before the Northern Kentucky Leadership Class of 2008. As a 2006 graduate of that program, I enjoyed the opportunity to share my thoughts with them on being a State Representative.
Many experienced lawmakers tell me that they can't remember a session starting this slowly.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Why is this important? Besides helping our soldiers, we have Ft. Campbell that stradles both Kentucky and Tennessee. Tennessee has no income tax. Therefore, about 90% of the soldiers that are stationed at Ft. Campbell live in Tennessee. If we can get those soliders to live in Kentucky, economic growth will follow in building of new homes, property taxes, just spending more money in Kentucky.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Now first, I don't begrudge the people of Bell County their opportunity to improve their lot in life. They are very nice people and live in a beautiful part of the world. Second, maybe this money must be spent in a certain way. But even if that is true, spening it right now in a county that has a special election in 5 days, after pleading poverty 2 days prior, is a little suspect and sends the wrong message in my view.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
The Governor indicated that there would be no money taken away from the SEEK formula for K-12. That is something I can support. However, according to Mark Hebert from WHAS 11, that is not entirely true.
Regarding postsecondary education, the Governor cut higher ed about 9%. He said need based scholarship money would stay the same, but KEES money would be cut back.
On health care, said that this would have the largest amount of new funding. Also supported bonds for the Glasgow Nursing Home. I suppose this means that the state is in the nursing home business. That should not surprise me. But it does beg the question, why are we in that business. Maybe in these tight times we should examine the possiblity of getting out of it.
No cuts in Agriculture and Coal Severance programs.
He uses most of the rainy day fund.
My favorite part, he cut in half the reliance on one time money, something the state needs to get away from.
But in the end, this just a starting point. The House will now create their version, and the Senate will do the same.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I am looking forward to seeing what the Governor recommends regarding getting out of the deficit that is looming. Rumor is that everyone is going to get the ax.
One disappointment is that all House Republicans were supposed to get briefed on the speech at 3:00 today, but the "rank and file" have been essentially kicked out, and only our leadership will be briefed. Sad, but the way things run down here.
Friday, January 25, 2008
The issue was brought up by my friend, Rep. Tim Moore of Elizabethtown. He brought up how we could save money on these university projects by repealing the prevailing wage law. Well, I got a good glimpse of the fervent support the issue has in the House. The supporters of prevailing wage could not jump up fast enough to defend this policy.
I applaud my friend for starting the conversation. My guess is that it is not over.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
1. Should the General Assembly pass legislation that would modify Kentucky's partial birth abortion law to mirror the provisions of federal law?
No opinion: 19%
2. Do you agree or disagree that writing portfolios should be removed from the statewide CATS testing for elementary schools providing that these schools use writing portfolios as part of the continuous assessment process?
No opinion: 26%
3. Would you favor legislation that eliminates the runoff primary election for gubernatorial slates?
No Opinion: 22%
4. Do you agree or disagree that state agencies, including public colleges and universities, should be prohibited from offering health insurance to domestic partners of employees?
No opinion: 4%
5. Do you agree or disagree that the CATS assessment should be restructured for all students K-12?
No Opinion: 29%
6. Do you agree or disagree that there should be a constitutional amendment that limits punitive damages awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit?
No opinion: 4%
7. Do you think the General Assembly should pass legislation to legalize the sale of raw milk?
No opinion: 35%
8. Do you think the General Assembly should appropriate funds to the Blue Grass Airport for relocation of the shorter runway?
No opinion: 18%
9. Do you favor offering a tax exemption for active duty military and reserve pay?
No opinion: 6%
10. Do you agree or disagree that the benefits for future state employees should be scaled back in order to help avoid a looming pension crisis?
No opinion: 10%
Thanks to all who participated!
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Representative Koenig Files Legislation to Aid Active Duty Police Officers
Frankfort, KY- When city and county police officers who are members of the National Guard are called to duty, they lose a stipend that is received yearly after completing police academy training. State Representative Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) has filed legislation to remedy this misstep.
House Bill 309 would allow police officers activated for service to continue receiving payments from the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund (KLEFPF) without counting the payments against retirement benefits.
"Numerous police officers across the Commonwealth perform double duty by also serving in the National Guard," said Representative Koenig. "Unfortunately, instead of rewarding and honoring them, we penalize them. I realize what a disservice this is and I am committed to correcting the problem."
Any police officer, city or county, who completes 840 hours of police academy training and 100 hours of yearly continuing training, qualifies to receive a stipend from KLEFPF totaling approximately $3,100 a year. When an officer fails to meet the required hours for continued training, they lose the stipend. This creates an obvious problem for active duty officers who are deployed and, therefore, unable to complete the training.
Representative Koenig added, "In no way is this legislation intended to relieve our police officers from the rigorous training that is required of them. Instead, it is a way to thank those individuals who place themselves in harm's way everyday. Whether deployed to foreign soil or protecting our communities, police officers deserve our gratitude."
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
My favorite part of the speech was when the Governor said that the status quo is no longer acceptable. I could not agree more with that statement. Of course, my vision of what needs to change and the Governor's vision may be completely different. But I am glad that he is open to change.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
There are two issues, first the current Fiscal Year situation, and next years budget problem.
First, the current year. We are told that there is a $434 million shortfall for this Fiscal Year. That is broken down as follows:
$130 million less than budgeted,
$138 million in higher authorized spending
$166 million in "additional spending needs."
Now, as far as the $130 million less than budgeted, that I take at face value. However, for the entire 2 year budget, we are projected to take in $70 million more than anticipated. So for the overall budget revenue is not a problem. In fact, money remaining from the last Fiscal Year is being used to make up some of this years deficit.
My concern is with the categorization of $166 million in additional spending needs as part of a deficit. My example is, if I request $1 million dollars for something, does that push the deficit up another million? Just because something is identified as additional spending needs, doesn't make it part of a deficit. Now, the $166 million request includes $112 million for Medicaid spending and $22 million for Corrections. No one wants people to go without health care or see prisoners let out. However, requests should not just be added to a deficit automatically.
The next issue is the budget for future years. I have written about this previously, that next years projected revenue is $500 million less than this years budgeted spending. This is a problem, but can be solved in large part, if not completely, by repealing the prevailing wage law.
Monday night is the State of the Commonwealth address. I look forward to hearing the Governors plan.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Also, I would like to congratulate Alecia Webb-Edgington, the newest member of the Northern Kentucky delegation. Alecia will be a great member of the delegation, and should be sworn in Friday afternoon.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
One sight to see was the employees of the Legislative Research Commission walking around with these large manila envelops, filled with copies of proposed bills that other State Representatives asked to be drawn up. Mine was relatively small. Others were not, meaning they intended to either file many bills, or some very voluminous bills.
Tonight there is a reception being hosted by the Governor at the Mansion for the members of the legislature.
Please feel free to let me know your opinions. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to share an opinion on a piece of legislation or an issue, you can call toll free 800-372-7181. If you would like to get a tour or see the legislature in action, please call 502-564-8100 and ask for Capella McFarland who is my assistant.
Monday, January 7, 2008
But what else can be done. As I stated in an earlier post, repealing the prevailing wage law would help. Take NKU for instance. NKU has to cut $1.6 million in this budget year. This on the heels of building the Bank of Kentucky Center, a $64 million project. Because of the prevailing wage law, the project cost about $4-6 million more than it would have otherwise. That is our tax money being spent on inflated salaries.
So what could we do with $4-6 million dollars? Well, that would cover the shortfall for NKU, as well as Morehead State University, and possibly Western Kentucky University. All from one project. Imagine the money that could be saved if we eliminated prevailing wage from all public projects.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Sen. Roeding has been very helpful to me over the years, and has always been generous with his time. I would also like to recognize his wife Nancy, who has had to put up with a lot over the years, as every politicians spouse must. She is a wonderful person and I wish them many years of good health and happiness in retirement.