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We are now a quarter way through session. Bills are flowing through the committee process and arriving on the Senate floor for consideration before the entire chamber.
Three bills won passage last week and will now head to the House of Representatives. Senate Bill 55 allows for interstate mutual aid agreements among first-responders and other emergency response personnel. That is to say, that if an emergency occurs near local or state borders, emergency personnel can respond regardless of their home base.
We had two education bills. Senate Bill 24 would require children to be 5 years old prior to Aug. 1 of the year they begin kindergarten. The measure would, however, allow parents to petition local school boards for early admission. There is some debate whether children are emotionally mature enough to enter kindergarten when school begins in August. This bill adds structure so that parents will have guidelines but still be able to decide for their own children.
Senate Bill 64 is a bill supported by the School Board Association and other education groups to increase the integrity of the assessment testing process. It would make it unlawful for any school employee to provide any assistance either before or after, in terms of providing or altering answers, to students during the assessment testing process. The vast majority of school employees are dedicated and honest, but unfortunately, we’ve had a few bad actors involved in modifying test scores, which threatens the scores of all of our kids. If passed by the House, both these bills would take effect during the 2017-2018 school year.
Finally, the Senate passed a bill to extend the congressional filing deadline until Feb. 7 in light of ongoing negotiations between the House and Senate.
This week, the governor’s budget director will be appearing in front of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee to discuss the governor’s budget proposal. I have concerns that even though the state faces almost a billion dollar shortfall, the governor proposed $815 million in additional spending, including $372 million in existing debt service. Some of this debt service is from the governor’s restructuring of debt – something both the House and the Senate had directed not to do in the last budget and which he vetoed.
To learn more about the work of the General Assembly and to keep up with the 2012 Regular Session, visit the Kentucky Legislature Home Page, www.lrc.ky.gov. You can also call 1-800-633-9650 for a taped message containing information on legislative committee meetings. To check the status of a bill, you may call the toll-free Bill Status Line at 1-866-840-2835. To leave a message for me, or any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 1-800-372-7181.