A legislative perspective

Rep. Greg Stumbo Speaker of the House

April 29, 2014

At the start of each legislative session, it is impossible to know which proposals will clear the hurdles it takes for a bill to become law.

Some bills never to see the light of day in committee; others fly through the process on their way to the Governor’s desk. Some may fail on the floor due to cost, time constraints, lack of public support or any number of reasons.

Some issues, meanwhile, just take a little longer to make the journey. That happened this year, when the General Assembly approved the creation of an adult-abuse registry, an idea that has been debated for several legislative sessions. Now, people placed on this registry will be barred from being hired to care for our most vulnerable citizens.

Although this year’s session will be remembered for some significant gains – putting much more money toward elementary and secondary education, for example – it can be instructive to take a look at those bills that did not make it to the governor’s desk.

For me, the top issue from this legislative session that will need to be heard again is raising the state’s minimum wage. I filed this legislation – and designated it as this year’s House Bill 1 – because it has been five years since the minimum wage was last increased.

My approach was similar to the legislation that did become law in 2007, which set a series of three, easy-to-plan-for annual raises that did not – and would not – put an undue burden on businesses. If this had passed, hundreds of thousands of families would have benefited, and it would have boosted our economy immediately by putting money in the hands of those who need it most.

If that proposal is relatively new, another has now been through the House eight times and will almost certainly be filed again, although its long-term sponsor, Rep. Jesse Crenshaw of Lexington, is retiring.

I wish we could have approved his bill this year, because it has such strong bipartisan support in the House. It would have given voters an opportunity in November to amend the constitution and restore voting rights to most felons after they completed all aspects of their punishment. Kentucky has some of the toughest requirements among the states; here, each person must petition the governor to restore voting rights.

Other legal proposals that made it through the House this session would have tightened use of electronic devices by drivers in a school or work zone; would have kept websites from posting old mug shots and charging fees to remove them; and would have barred employers from retaliating against employees who may have to take time off to attend court proceedings in which they are a victim.

In education, two of the bills the House approved would have updated some of the requirements for our schools. House Bill 77 sought to have high school students complete a financial literacy program, while House Bill 205 would have done the same for basic CPR training. According to the American Heart Association, our country could have a million newly trained rescuers every few years if all 50 states had this provision.

House Bill 261 would have given our public postsecondary schools more freedom to move ahead with construction projects without legislative approval if they had other funding; and House Joint Resolution 48 would have called for a comprehensive study of civic education and how to get more citizens involved in their government.

As I mentioned, it is likely that most if not all of these proposed bills will return in future legislative sessions. Many will undoubtedly be studied more in the months ahead when the House and Senate committees begin meeting again.

For now, I want to thank everyone who contacted me this year, and want you to know that it is never too late to let me know your thoughts or concerns. You can email me at Greg.Stumbo@lrc.ky.gov, or you can leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.