We passed the half-way point of our 30-day session this week and accrued some historic stats along the way.
A combined total of 793 bills were filed in the House and Senate this year. That’s the second-highest amount for an odd-year regular session and just two bills shy of the 795 bills filed in 2007.
Also, if you combine the number of bills introduced in the House and the Senate this session with the number of this year’s joint resolutions — which have the force of law when approved — then the 2017 Regular Session has produced the highest number ever (847) for an odd-year regular session.
Where there are stats, there’s a score card, and among the bills I would place in the “win” column for the week by virtue of passing the full House, are:
• House Bill 253, sponsored by state Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, a measure that better protects children by requiring social workers to make unannounced visits in cases of reported child abuse or neglect while a case is ongoing;
• House Bill 241, sponsored by state Rep. John Sims, D-Flemingsburg, which prohibits a coach from returning a student to play or practice who has diagnosed with a concussion until a full physician’s evaluation has been completed;
• House Bill 113, sponsored by state Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, which makes it easier for veterans to use their military experience to obtain occupational licenses and certificates;
• Senate Bill 2, which passed the House on a 99-0 vote, provides more transparency in the operation of the state’s retirement systems and mandates increased reporting of all the funds’ investment holdings;
• House Bill 60, which passed the House Friday on a 95-0 vote, increases the training stipend paid to police officers, professional firefighters, and qualified volunteer fire departments from $3,000 to $4,000 and increases the allowances paid to volunteer fire departments from $8,250 to $11,000;
• House Bill 128, which passed the House on an 80-14 vote Thursday, establishes an elective social studies course in Kentucky’s public schools centered on the Bible. It would require that the course provide students with “knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture.”
There are, however, several bills sponsored by the new House Majority that I would place in the “losing” column this week, especially if we consider the long-term health of Kentucky’s working, middle class families and the best use of their tax dollars. For example:
• House Bill HB 296 rolls back permanent partial disability medical benefits to 15 years for workers injured on the job; caps medical benefits for all injured workers at 70 years old, even those with catastrophic injuries, prosthetics and the totally disabled; and limits treatment and prescriptions. So many of the people I represent have suffered through the recession and have still not recovered. The last thing they need is to be slapped down by a cut in workers’ comp benefits;
• House Bill 257 permits the Economic Development Partnership Board to ignore the salary schedules established for hiring state employees, and allows “the sky is the limit” wages for cabinet officials;
• House Bill 281 limits the state Attorney General’s Office ability to go after out-of-state corporate giants that hurt our citizens through their production of harmful, irresponsible products.
While we all prize hard work, there’s a big problem with the brisk pace and record amounts of legislation speeding through the Capitol this time around. Rules established by the new House Majority – rules we were asked to vote on the first day of session without the benefit of reading them – greatly reduce the amount of time required to post and review legislation before it is taken up on the House floor. This is especially troublesome when we are asked to consider major pieces of legislation, with a great impact on the people we represent, without having the chance to vet them properly. More importantly, it keeps you, the citizen, from being fully aware of the details of the legislation and having the ability to communicate your views to us.
Throughout this process, we continue to make our voices heard as we demand a more democratic review of the legislation coming before us. I appreciate all your ideas, information, questions and concerns and encourage you to contact me by calling the Legislative Message Line at 1-800-372-7181 or writing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week, and thanks again for the honor of serving as your state representative.