LEGISLATIVE COLUMN-Representative Myron Dossett: Some Issues Remain Unresolved, Others are Dead for
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 19, 2015) – The gavel dropped shortly before midnight on Wednesday of this week, recessing us until March 23rd for the veto period of the 2015 Regular Session. And with only two days left to go until the session ends, several major issues remain unresolved. First and foremost comprehensive legislation dealing with the heroin issue has yet to receive final passage in the General Assembly. At the 11th hour a bill was passed in a House committee and sent to the Senate in order to officially establish a conference committee in an attempt to reach an agreement. What is so troubling about how the heroin issue has been handled in the House is why we couldn’t have begun discussions much earlier in the session. The Senate passed out their comprehensive heroin legislation, Senate Bill 5, during the first week of the session back in January, yet the House Majority Leadership chooses to do nothing in an effort to set up a conference committee until the last minute. House Majority Leadership pulled the same last minute partisan tactics with heroin legislation during the 2014 Regular Session, and we failed to pass a bill. Their political gamesmanship could have prevented the more than 100 heroin related deaths in 2014, not including the scores of heroin related overdoses in Kentucky. Every day the headlines are filled with stories about the impact heroin is having on Kentucky, as families deal with the scourge of addition impacting loved ones. While it is my sincere hope the conference committee will work over the next few days on a compromise bill, it shouldn’t have gotten to this point and instead could have been addressed much earlier in the session. Another remaining issue left unresolved is how to address the impact on local and state road funds due to the fluctuation in the gas tax. The House Majority Leadership kept passing the buck onto the Senate to begin discussions. We attempted to address the issue with House Bill 513, which sought to allow the state portion of the gas tax to decrease while protecting those funds made available to local governments for road and bridge projects. It is essential that the dollars remain for our counties and cities to provide safe highways and bridges, but at the same time allow Kentuckians to keep more money in their pockets due to lower gas prices. Hopefully we can reach a resolution on this issue before midnight on March 24th. Among the bills that are dead for this session, which means there is not enough time remaining to take them up, includes the local option sales tax bill, public-private partnerships, or P3 legislation, and a push for a statewide smoking ban in Kentucky. We were able to get some bills passed this past week before adjourning for the veto session, including an amendment to a House bill that will once again allow local school districts to seek relief from the number of days missed due to the severe winter weather over the past four weeks. Like last year, snow and ice have played havoc with the school calendar in many local districts, which is why we once again approved legislation that allows those districts to seek relief from the Kentucky Department of Education. As I mentioned we will gather back in Frankfort on Monday, March 23rd to take up remaining legislation, and address any bills vetoed by the Governor. We will have until midnight on March 24th to accomplish that goal. In addition to the issues I mentioned, there could be ideas and concerns important to you that need to be addressed in the final days of the 2015 Regular Session. I encourage you to contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our toll free number at 1-800-372-7181.
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