FRANKFORT — As we near the halfway mark of the 2017 Legislative Session, the days have become more intense. We are debating issues in committee and on the floor and sending bills on to the House of Representatives for further consideration. As we are going through the necessary legislative process, people from across the state fill the hallways, offices and chambers adding to the flurry of activity at the Capitol. From labor to education to religion to many other issues, our citizens were making their voices heard.
Unfortunately, a bill that cleared the Senate this week may keep some voices from being heard. Despite strong opposition from me and other members of my caucus, Senate Bill 75, which doubles the amount that can be contributed to a political campaign, passed out of the Senate. In my opinion, this measure will silence many of Kentucky’s voters and be harmful to our political system.
The bill would allow individuals and political action committees to donate $2,000 in the primary and general elections – up from the current $1,000 limit. The bill also allows corporations to make unlimited donations to a political party’s building fund.
Kentucky families are struggling to put food on the table. They do not have extra money to donate to political parties. This legislation appears to be a rush to make Frankfort just like Washington by allowing the rich and wealthy to control everything.
There were a large number of people in the Capitol this week. They carried signs, marched, chanted, and talked to legislators – their voices were loud and clear. I do not ever want our state – our legislators – to hear only the voices of those who have money to donate to a political campaign. Every voice is important and I will continue to fight to have every voice heard.
As our focus moved to reforming education, we seemed to be on the same page. Senate Bill 1 addressed some of our concerns in education – perhaps not everything that everyone wanted to address, but many of the high points. SB 1 was designed to cut down on paperwork and to let teachers’ teach. The bill:
– Aligns school tests to the curriculum taught to students.
– Gives more control to local school districts.
– Revises common core to allow Kentucky teachers to keep the best part of the standards.
– Provides a structure for reviewing and updating standards for language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.
– Allows local districts to develop their own evaluation for teachers, principals and certified staff using guides from a Kentucky Department of Education framework
– Gives the superintendent the authority to intervene quickly if a school needs improvement.
SB 1 passed unanimously.
A few of the other bills that cleared the Senate this week and are now in the House for additional consideration are:
– Senate Bill 14 would stiffen the penalties for trafficking any amount of heroin or fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent. We must find an effective tool to reduce the number of opioid-related deaths that are destroying our families.
– Senate Bill 78 would make all school campuses in Kentucky smoke-free by the next schoolyear. All the schools where I taught and coached were smoke-free. I never allowed my players to smoke, dip or use tobacco products in any way. However, I have concerns with the unintended consequences of this bill. Family and community members who smoke may not come to school sporting events or other activities if there is no place on campus for them to smoke. That would hurt the revenue for cash-strapped districts. I support the intent of the bill, but passed with the hope that my concerns will be addressed when the bill is considered in the House.
– Senate Bill 56 would make roadways safer for bicyclists and vehicular traffic and would promote bicycle tourism. The measure calls for drivers to respect the three-foot passing distance when encountering a bicycle on the road.
– Senate Bill 19 would give parents the right to place a “security freeze” on their child’s credit report if they felt the need and would allow guardians of vulnerable citizens to place freezes on those citizens’ credit reports.
– Senate Bill 61 would crack down on able-bodied drivers who use parking placards intended for those with disabilities by strengthening our issuance policy.
– Senate Bill 117 is a teacher certificate-related measure that would allow military veterans to receive a provisional teaching certificate after meeting certain criteria.
On Tuesday, February 21, we reached the halfway mark in this session. As the time trickles down, it is more important than ever that I hear from you. You can offer feedback through our Legislative Message Line at (800) 372-7181. You can also e-mail me directly at [email protected]
Senator Johnny Ray Turner represents Kentucky’s 29th District.