The 2013 legislative session of the Kentucky House of Representatives convened on Tuesday, January 8th to begin the 30-day, odd year “short” session which will extend through late March. The purpose of our first week was to elect House Leadership and organize standing committees. We will not vote on any legislation until we return on February 5th.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark and Majority Whip Tommy Thompson retained their posts. The House elected its first female member of Leadership with Rep. Sannie Overly as Caucus Chair. This team brings a broad spectrum of experience to our Leadership team and I look forward to working with them over the next two years.
Another important task that was completed this week was committee chair appointments and assignments. I requested Leadership to place me on committees I thought would best serve Logan and Todd Counties.
I am proud to have been appointed to the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, which oversees matters and policies regarding the executive budget and appropriations of state funds. The committee also oversees revenue bond projects, audits, payments and collections of taxes. This is one of the most important committees in the Kentucky General Assembly and I am grateful to Leadership for their confidence in my ability to contribute and serve on it.
I will also serve on these committees: Agriculture and Small Business; State Government; Tourism, Development and Energy; Veterans, Military Affairs & Safety.
We also began this legislative session with a bipartisan announcement of an innovative financing proposal to allow our public universities to invest in their schools. The governor, with the support of the Senate and House Leadership and university presidents, announced the issuance of bonds by Kentucky’s public universities for campus improvements to be paid with the school’s money. No money from the state’s General Fund will be used.
More than 5,100 construction jobs will be created from the 11 projects which will have an economic impact of $623 million. The cost of the projects which range from classroom, dormitory and academic building construction and upgrades, new student centers and sprinkler system improvements is $393 million. Dorm fees, dining hall revenue, athletic funds and private donations will pay for the projects.
As we wrapped up our first week of the session, we heard reports from House committee chairs that met during the interim summarizing the issues that we will have before us this session. Those include the state’s tax codes, state pension system, redistricting, special taxing districts and Medicaid.
Specifics about two of those issues:
Pension Reform A legislative task force approved an eight point proposal last year that advises paying down the state’s approximately $13.8 billion in the unfunded public pension obligation. Key points in the proposal include the creation of a new hybrid “cash balance” pension for future hires, required payment of the state’s full actuarially required contribution by fiscal year 2015, and a prohibition against rehiring public employees for up to two years after their retirement
I am working with other lawmakers on legislation to be considered that would demonstrate that members of the House are willing to accept changes that would improve overall system’s health and the Commonwealth’s fiscal condition.
House Bill 1, “pill mill bill.” Common sense revisions to the bill that was passed in last year’s session are also in the works. Several medical professionals and consumers across the state have expressed dissatisfaction with the effect the law had on controlled substance prescribing standards. A special task force spent the entire interim working to encourage the Kentucky Medical Licensing Board to simplify the regulations and bring them in line with the intent and plain language of House Bill 1, which was to stop the abuse of prescription pain pills and to close disreputable pill mill clinics. The proposed changes include exemptions for certain prescriptions, treatment for pediatric patients, and controlled substances that are non-pain medication, such as some attention-deficit and anxiety drugs.
We have a great deal of work to do here in Frankfort before this short session ends on March 26th, but I am advocating that legislators’ differences be put aside and consensus be reached to best serve Logan and Todd Counties and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Your input has been invaluable to me and I encourage you to continue contacting me with your concerns and comments. You may call 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 800-372-7181.
Martha Jane King is the state representative for Logan and Todd counties.