FRANKFORT UPDATE: As you probably know, the 2015 session of the Kentucky General Assembly ended in the wee hours of last Wednesday morning around 4 a.m. I wanted to give you an update on various agreements that were reached on several key pieces of legislation.
Senate Bill 192, which was signed into law hours after it was approved by the General Assembly, takes a comprehensive approach to the scourge of heroin. It provides for tougher penalties for heroin trafficking, including creating a mandatory 10 year prison sentence for those who import heroin into the Commonwealth. It also contains a ‘Good Samaritan’ provision giving legal immunity to individuals who report an overdose to authorities in a good faith effort to save a life. The bill also provides more access to Naloxone, which can help reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, and Vivitrol for treatment of addicts to help them kick their heroin habit. The proposal also provides for additional treatment options, including the hiring of additional social workers to increase the utilization of alternative sentencing programs, and to increase funding for the Prosecutors Advisory Council to aid in the prosecutions of street level dealers.
Another very major issue that was addressed was the stabilization of Kentucky’s motor fuels tax as it related to decreased money for maintain roads and bridges in our cities and counties. House Bill 299 accomplished this and was a result of a bipartisan agreement between the House and Senate. The bill allows the motor fuels tax to drop to 26 cents for the coming year allowing Kentuckians to see savings at the pump, while ensuring an appropriate level of revenue to continue to patch potholes and build roads. Of that funding, nearly half goes into the rural and secondary road aid fund which is directed to our local governments. House Bill 299 addresses an immediate need. I am hopeful, and will do all that I can, to help come up with a more comprehensive gas stabilization plan in 2016.
We were able to pass legislation allowing local school districts to seek relief from the high number of days missed due to the severe winter weather in February. Like last year, snow and ice have played havoc with the school calendar in many local districts. We also tackled some very important bills to help our state jump start job opportunities and protects citizens’ health.
I was pleased that we passed legislation to modernize Kentucky’s telecommunications system. The bill will allow three telecommunication companies, AT&T, Windstream, and Cincinnati Bell, to focus their future infrastructure development in urban areas on broadband and wireless services, while making sure traditional land line service in rural areas with smaller phone companies remains in place for those who depend on it.
A bill to reopen Kentucky’s budget to allow the University of Kentucky the authority to bond $132.5 million in state bonds for construction of a six-story research facility, with the university paying the other half of the projected $265 million to build the facility. With Kentucky remaining at the top in deaths caused by cancer and strokes, we hope this new research facility at UK will help find solutions to Kentucky’s health problems.
While those bills made it to the Governor’s desk, many others died in the final hours of the 2015 Session. Issues needing addressed by the Legislature like public private partnerships, reforming the teachers’ retirement system, pro-life issues, education, and local government did not make it to the Governor’s desk before the gavel dropped. I hope these will be discussed during our Interim Session which will start in June.
Despite the 2015 Regular Session coming to an end, I’d love to hear any ideas or concerns from you. I encourage you to contact me at Jonathan.firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your voice in Frankfort.