Source: Press Release
The 2014 legislative session adjourned sine die, or “the end,” at midnight April 15. The session produced measures that will affect economic development, appropriate funds for state government for the next two years, public health, safety and education. Of course, as with every session, there were measures that did not succeed. I am especially disappointed that my bill, Senate Bill 5, did not make it through the House, and so many lives continue to be lost from the deadly scourge of heroin. The bill created a three-prong approach to take immediate action against the growing abuse of heroin in our state. Education, Interdiction and Treatment were clearly prioritized in the legislation that also included stiffer penalties for traffickers of heroin who could be charged with homicide when an addict overdosed and died.
The Senate passed this legislation on January 16, the first week of the session, because it was a top priority. Senate Bill 5 then sat in the House for three months with no action by the full chamber until the last fifteen minutes of the 2014 session. By that time it had 22 amendments placed on it, including one that would place tolling on the Brent Spence Bridge. The House then failed to pass it in time.
Whatever excuse they may offer for this failure to act on such an important issue that affects so many lives, nothing could possibly justify such gross failure to act on this legislation that was bipartisan and developed with input from the Attorney General, the Governor's administration, Senate leadership, the house chairman of judiciary, law enforcement, chambers of commerce, treatment advocates and countless members of the community.
Some of the measures that did pass included a fiscally responsible budget with less debt ratio and structural imbalance than those proposed by the House of Representatives and the Governor. However, in the Senate, we refused to pass the gas tax and Lexington bed taxes that the House passed. At a time when gas costs almost $4 per gallon we felt that to add to that cost with additional tax would hurt Kentuckians and especially our economy. Additionally, we passed important health-related measures that will have positive effects on the well-being and medical needs of our citizens.
We banned e-cigarettes for our minors, and created an adult abuse registry for the safety of our adults in assisted living. We also passed a bill to broaden access to dental care for children who otherwise can’t afford it. The compassion for Kentuckians and the access to needed services was obvious throughout the session and we rose to the occasion on these matters.
Education benefited this session as well, as we expanded preschool, increased per-pupil funding for elementary and secondary schools and authorized capital construction projects on many college campuses across the state. Educators will also received salary increases over the next biennium.
Several bills were approved to protect vulnerable and victimized citizens and expanding medical training for doctors regarding pediatric abusive head trauma with House Bill 157. With the passage of HB 128 anyone granted an emergency protective or domestic violence order can apply for and receive a provisional concealed carry weapons permit in one business day after undergoing a background check so that they can defend themselves.
Near midnight on the 15th, Senate Bill 108 also was passed. The bill terminates parental rights of rapists when a child is conceived from the act of rape.
Legislation will also provide an economic and employment boost to the state through a bourbon barrel tax credit, angel investor tax credit and “new markets” tax credit included in HB 445. With the passage of HB 396, we also expanded eligibility for the Kentucky Jobs Retention Act benefits to include appliance manufacturers.
With the session complete, we’ll head back home now to meet with constituents, keep an eye on the progress of these new laws and study issues throughout the interim. This was my final general session as your senator. It has been a tremendous honor to serve you in Frankfort!
As I finish out my term which ends on December 31, 2014, your input on the issues facing the state, as always, is important to me. Please feel free to contact me with issues or concerns in Frankfort by leaving a message on the toll-free line, 1-800-372-7181.