I was joined in the Capital this week by many friends and advocates from home. It was a pleasure to see Barbara Ledford, of Harlan County, Elsa Spurlock, of Perry County, who came to Frankfort to represent Friends of KET. I also met with Perry County members of Hospice of the Bluegrass, including Paul Sluss, site director of the Hazard office, and Monica Couch, associate vice president of Eastern Kentucky operations, who devoutly advocate for their worthy organization. Betsy Clemons of Hazard/Perry County Chamber of Commerce came this week to Kentucky Arts Council Day to accept a check for the Greater Hazard Area Arts Council for $8,340, which will go to promote their wonderful programs. It was a treat to catch up with Julie Marfell, of Leslie County, associate dean of family nursing, to hear of the impressive advancements at Frontier Nursing University. Lastly, I was honored to be able to speak, at the invitation of Pathfinders of Harlan County, to the Arc of Kentucky Advocates in Action group. It was wonderful to spend some time with old friends, including JoEllen Hale, of Harlan County, who is a tireless advocate for the independent living of individuals with disabilities.
This week the Senate passed important bills addressing the state’s General Fund debt, economic development, healthcare, and school safety.
As we continue to add more debt than we pay off, Senate Bill 10 is an effort to rein in the state’s rapidly growing debt by capping it at 6 percent of revenues. Hopefully, this will improve the state’s bond rating, or credit score. The measure excludes debt for universities, the Kentucky Housing Authority, and other agencies not using the General Fund, as well as the Road Fund.
Improving our state budget and growing jobs are top priorities. The Senate passed legislation that would boost jobs by making it easier for physician’s assistants to work in Kentucky. The measure would change our credentialing standards to more closely match those of surrounding states. We hope this would encourage more physician’s assistants to stay in the commonwealth to provide much-needed health service to our citizens.
As co-sponsor, I was pleased to see the passage of Senate Bill 3, legislation that would permit religious ministry cooperatives that allow members to share one another’s medical bills to operate in Kentucky as an alternative to traditional health insurance. This religious-based medical needs sharing program has helped hundreds of people in our state afford their medical bills.
I took a tough “no” vote against Senate Bill 88, otherwise known as the AT&T bill, this week. This bill would eliminate the requirements of AT&T to provide landline service in rural areas. Many in our district cannot afford the cost of cellular service, and even for those who can, we know signal can be unreliable. Although the intent behind the legislation was genuine, in its form on the Senate floor, I could not in good conscience vote for a bill that might put the people in my district at a disadvantage. I appreciate all of you that reached out to me about your concerns over this legislation, and please know they were taken to heart.
Last, but most importantly, given the recent tragedies in our community and nation, the Senate unanimously passed legislation that would require schools to establish an emergency plan, conduct emergency drills twice per year and share the school diagram with local first-responders. Additionally, schools must submit an annual report to the Kentucky Department of Education. This measure is a low-cost approach that may go far toward keeping our children safe and I believe is an appropriate response toward curbing school violence, while not encroaching on our second amendment rights.
All these bills now move to the House for their consideration. If you have any questions or comments about the issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.