The General Assembly is beginning to pick up steam in Frankfort. Over the past couple of weeks, several bills have worked their way through various committees and some have already passed the House and the Senate.
Surprisingly, one bill caused significant debate in the House last week. A bill increasing training for school board members appeared to the minority caucus to represent an “unfunded mandate” since it would essentially add a day to mandatory annual training. When the majority caucus insisted that a “fiscal note” analyzing the impact of this requirement would be unnecessary, an hour-long debate ensued. It was even argued that this bill requiring additional financial training is so important that it could not wait the 2-3 days necessary to do that analysis - even though it was pointed out that like all regular bills this one would not take effect until July regardless of when it passes.
This trend of “pass it now and analyze it later” is not limited to Washington, D.C. A couple of weeks ago, the House Health and Welfare committee voted on a bill that had been completely revamped just prior to the committee meeting. After the vote was taken (over my protest that we should at least be given time to read the substitute), a majority caucus member timidly asked the sponsor to explain what was in the bill she had just voted for. Incredibly, the sponsor was not completely sure himself! When asked to vote for final passage of this bill out of committee, I voted “Pass” instead of Yes or No - and registered my disapproval of the careless and irresponsible manner of passing bills that have not even been read.
As I’ve done the past several years, I have filed a bill guaranteeing Kentuckians the right to refuse coverage under Obamacare - or the Governor’s state-level KYNECT version. To this date, the Legislature has never consented to the executive order that has swelled our Medicaid roles and committed us to hundreds of millions of dollars in administering healthcare at the state government level. Regardless of the national outcome of this debate, this promises to be a major strain on our budget in the very near future. Another bill I filed proposes to let Kentucky businesses seek insurance options outside Kentucky - something that would immediately introduce competition and lower costs. Together, my two bills have been called a workable, private-sector solution to spiraling health care costs. Stay tuned to see if the majority caucus allows these bills to even get a hearing.
Over the next several weeks, the House will work through the biennial state budget. I am hopeful that the process will be more transparent and encourage more responsibility than was evident in those two bills. Undoubtedly, we will find that the choices are limited when it comes to apportioning Kentucky’s limited dollars - but that is exactly the situation Kentucky families find themselves in right now. They have to set priorities and eliminate wasteful spending, while still investing in their children and their future.
This promises to be a dynamic and exciting Session. I haven’t even touched on casinos or an increase in the minimum wage. Over the next few weeks, I’ll introduce you to ideas that will actually produce jobs and grow our economy. And, I’ll keep you updated on our progress with the budget.
Until then, know that you are always welcome to visit your Kentucky Capitol. If you do, please let me know you are coming. I’d love to host you as my special guest.