FRANKFORT — The Kentucky General Assembly convened Jan. 5 for the 2016 legislative session, with more than 200 bills already filed and ready to start working their way through the legislative process.
The session began with a new Governor – Matt Bevin. The Governor will lay out his plans for the session – specifically his two-year budget proposal – at a joint meeting with the House of Representatives and the Senate on January 26. In the meantime, we are already at work on the daunting challenge of writing the state’s biennial spending plan. Constitutionally, we have to pass a budget before the end of session, which is scheduled for April 12.
Even though the state continues to claw its way out of the recession, the current forecast is that there will be between $250 and $300 million in new revenue. However, those silver linings come with some dark clouds. Coal severance tax receipts continue to plummet, revenues from the gasoline tax have declined and state pension shortfalls remain unresolved.
As we roll up our sleeves and work together to adopt a fiscally responsible spending plan that addresses Kentucky’s most pressing needs, we will also explore legislation to improve our children’s educational outcomes.
Supporters of Senate Bill 1, which was filed this week, said it would return to the original intent of education reform passed in 2009. Moreover, that intent is to set out to produce college and career-ready Kentucky graduates and to promote less burden and more benefits for educators while limiting federal overreach.
Before it is passed to the House for consideration, the 84-page bill will be heard in committee and debated on the Senate floor. During that process, we will have to carefully examine the document and any amendments that may be attached later to ensure that there are no unforeseen consequences in the reform legislation.
This week in an early example of bipartisan support, leaders from both parties came together on the Senate floor to condemn Virginia’s recent decision to stop recognizing Kentucky concealed carry permits. Senate Joint Resolution 36 urges Virginia to restore reciprocal recognition of concealed carry weapons licenses issued by Kentucky.
Details of SB 1 and SJR 36, and other legislation, will be vigorously debated when the Senate’s regular session standing committees begin to meet next week. Each day’s committee-meeting schedule and agendas can be found at the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.
For those who prefer the more traditional form of communication, a taped message containing information on the daily schedule for legislative committee meetings is available by calling the Legislative Calendar Line at 800-633-9650.
As committee meetings progress, the pace in the Senate Chambers will pick up. Senators could begin voting bills off the floor by late next week. I encourage you to give your input about these bills. It is not only valued and appreciated, it is genuinely needed.
Kentuckians have numerous ways to follow legislative action throughout the session, including seeing it in person in the Capitol’s legislative chambers and committee meeting rooms, which are open to the public.
For those who cannot make it to Frankfort this winter, the General Assembly also maintains toll-free phone lines to help citizens follow legislative action and offer their input. The number is 800-372-7181. Citizens with hearing impairments can use the TTY Message Line at 800-896-0305.
Citizens can write to any legislator by sending a letter with a lawmaker’s name on it to: Legislative Offices, 702 Capitol Ave., Frankfort, KY 40601.
You can also e-mail me directly at email@example.com.
Johnny Ray Turner is a Democratic member of the Kentucky Senate, representing the 29th District since 2000.