Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pension fix

Today we passed HB 600, a step in the direction of digging out of the pension hole we are in. In case you did not know, the state of Kentucky has a deficit in our pension system of $26 billion.

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


As you probably heard, much has happened with the casino issue. In case you have not been keeping up, here is the short version:

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

what will happen with casinos

Right now, there is a hearing in committee that will determine how the casino amendment will look, if it gets out of committee at all. You can see an analysis of what may happen here.

I am getting plenty of feedback on casinos. If would like to let me know what you think, e-mail me at

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Committee hearing on HB 309

Tuesday at noon, the House Local Governement Committee is supposed to hear HB 309, a bill I introduced.

Sometimes agendas change, but it should come up. I will let you know how it goes.

HB 560

This is something I should have started doing already, but I am going to spotlight the bills I have introduced. I have done this already with HB 309. Now I will talk a little about HB 560.

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

HB 396, the HPV Vaccine bill

Yesterday we voted on HB 396, a bill to require girls 9 and 10 years old to get a vaccine for HPV, human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease. This virus is one cause of cervical cancer. It passed on a mostly party line vote of 56-37, with 6 Representatives not voting.

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

The way things run down here

Just a little glimpse into the way things go here in Frankfort.

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


From what I am hearing, the casino amendment will be simplified and the enabling legislation will wait until the amendment passes, if that ever happens.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

28 days in, 32 to go

This is my first term. So I am always asking others who have been around for a while how this session compares to other sessions. Last year everyone said that it was the "weirdest" session they had ever been a part of. The Speaker of the House was running for Governor, our Republican leader was running on a ticket against the sitting Republican Governor, a member of the Senate was running for Lt. Governor. Therefore, not much happened.

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


Since yesterday morning, the only talk around the halls of the Capitol has been about the Governor's casino plan. A good recap of his plan by the Lexington Herald Leader can be found here.

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

Bipartisianship run amok

Since I posted on this earlier, I thought I would follow up on this issue.

After Day 25, I was able to vote on my first Republican bill in committee.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Honoring A. Lincoln

Today is the 199th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. This is the beginning of a two year celebration of Lincoln's bicentennial birth.

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

23 days down....

and not much is happening. But we are expecting the Governor's plan for casinos next week and pensions the following week.

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

NKY day and night in Frankfort

Had a great time seeing much of Northern Kentucky in Frankfort today for Northern Kentucky day and night in Frankfort. The evening event is always the best party in Frankfort every year, and this was no exception.

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.

Slow going

I am sorry to report that not much is happening. Some people would view that as a plus, but I would rather get things out of the way now so we have more time to digest the big issues at the end of the session, such as the budget, pension reform, gambling, etc.

Many experienced lawmakers tell me that they can't remember a session starting this slowly.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Help for our soldiers

The State Senate approved a bill to exempt active duty military personnel from state income taxes. I hope that we can pass it in the House this year. A similar bill made it through the Senate last year and never got a hearing in the House.

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

I thought we were broke

On the heels of the Governor's budget address where an "austere" budget was proposed, some money was spent on Thursday. $2.6 million was spent by the Governor in Middlesboro in Bell County. Now apparently most road projects are on hold, but we can spend money on helping a telephone company.

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.