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The first week of the 2012 session was a combination of the ceremonial and the new. We gaveled in on Tuesday of last week with the traditional establishment of the membership of the Senate and approval of our chamber’s rules.
Over 200 bills have already been filed in the General Assembly and will start making their way through the committee process beginning in earnest this week.
On Wednesday, the governor gave his State of the Commonwealth address. He spoke of the challenges facing the commonwealth but, unfortunately, I didn’t hear any concrete proposals to solve them. For example, he brought up tax reform and expanded gambling with no details to what these two complex policy positions would mean to the taxpayer.
While it is good that he is acknowledging the weakness of our job climate at the beginning of his second term, his proposal to bring together a task force to offer recommendations is not constructive. We have had numerous studies done already. I have no idea who will be on the tax force or what their qualifications will be.
Last year, the Senate proposed that a group of independent tax experts and economists, not just study the issue, but rewrite the entire tax code. Kentucky has the highest effective personal income tax rate of our surrounding states. That is a fact. What we need is a code that will create wealth through more jobs, not the redistribution of wealth.
The governor also focused on the expansion of gambling. Again, there was no proposal although I understand that he is looking at a possibility of nine casinos around the state. The details remain elusive. The people need to be informed of all the pros and cons of any proposal in an open and transparent way.
The Senate has offered bipartisan solutions for the above challenges. But we are only one chamber in one branch of state government. We stand ready to work with the governor where we can. I certainly hope that I will be able to look back four years from now and reflect that he was a governor who had a productive vision for Kentucky and I was able to partner with him to achieve a better home for our children and grandchildren.
This week, the Senate will look at redistricting as we work toward the goal of cohesive and balanced voter districts that meet all the legal requirements of equal representation in Frankfort and Washington, D.C.
This is a very brief overview of how things look in the opening days of this session. It is much too early to predict all of the more than 1,000 bills we will consider before the final gavel falls in April. I will continue to write each week about the work we’re doing in the Senate. But there are many other ways to stay informed about the legislature, as well.
The Kentucky Legislature Home Page, www.lrc.ky.gov, provides information on each of the commonwealth’s senators and representatives, including our phone numbers, addressees, and committee assignments. The site also provides a bill tracking service, and committee meeting schedules.
By going to our eNews page, www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/listserv.htm, you can subscribe to frequent e-mail updates on what’s happening at the Capitol.
In addition, the General Assembly has its own blog, Capitol Notes, www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/capitol_notes.htm, that will allow you to receive legislative updates at your leisure.
You can also stay in touch with General Assembly action in the following ways:
·A taped message containing information on legislative committee meetings is updated daily at 1-800-633-9650.
·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 any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. People with hearing difficulties may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the TTY message line at 1-800-896-0305.
·You may write any legislator by sending a letter with the lawmaker’s name to: Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, Ky. 40601.