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Opinion: Legislative session mostly successful

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courtesy of Bowling Green Daily

The 2014 General Assembly session has officially ended, and overall, we believe our legislators did a good job for the people of this state during their time in Frankfort.
One lawmaker, state Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Ky., gave their performance an “A”. We would agree with DeCesare’s assessment.
This year’s legislature was different from past sessions when infighting and partisan games came before the people’s business. Perhaps part of the reason for the smoother session is because this is an election year.
Regardless of the reason, legislators accomplished some of the most important tasks they faced this session.
They approved a two-year, $20 billion General Fund budget and the road plan, both of which will be very beneficial to Bowling Green, surrounding areas and our state. Support Education Excellence in Kentucky will increase in fiscal year 2015 from $3,827 per student to $3,911, then jump to $3,981 in fiscal year 2016. Salary increases for public education employees also were approved – 1 percent the first year and 2 percent the second year. The budget contains $189 million in new money for public education.
The road plan, which is yet to be signed by Gov. Steve Beshear, is a big deal for Bowling Green. Warren County would get $28.15 million in fiscal year 2015 and about $41.6 million in fiscal year 2016. The plan includes funding to reconstruct Ky. 185 to the Butler County Line, widen U.S. 31-W By-Pass and continue widening Three Springs Road.
These are all projects that are desperately needed, which is all the more reason we urge Beshear to approve this road plan.
Another major accomplishment of this session was for Western Kentucky University, which secured funding for the Central Wing renovation of the Kelly Thompson Science Complex.
Securing this funding for WKU is a huge accomplishment considering officials have been trying to obtain it for a decade.
Local lawmakers should be commended for helping push this important project through for WKU, passing a budget and promoting the road plan.
While we commend legislators on 95 percent of their work, it was a shame to see a 1.5 percent cut to higher education. Universities were facing a 2.5 percent cut, so we believe legislators did their best to keep the cuts shallow.
It was disappointing to see DeCesare’s right-to-work legislation killed in a union-friendly House committee.
As we have said before, right-to-work will become a reality in this state, especially if the Republicans take over the house in November, which some political strategists have said is quite possible.
The fact that House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonburg, has repeatedly prevented this measure from getting out of committee for a vote is a disservice to the citizens of this state.
It also was a shame that the issue of charter schools wasn’t advanced in the House. Charter schools are a no-brainer, but because House Democrats are so beholden to the teachers’ union, mainly in Jefferson County, they won’t let this legislation go anywhere.
One could infer they would rather have kids in failing schools, as many are in Jefferson County and elsewhere in the state, to please the teachers’ union.
Parents should have the option of taking their kids out of failing schools and putting them in charter schools, which have proven time and time again to work.
Finally, as we have stated before, Beshear needs to give up on his gambling push. He has pushed this issue for seven years now and it is obvious his proposal will never clear the legislature.
We advise Beshear, who will be in his last year of office next year, to move on to important legislation that actually has a chance of passing the legislature.
Overall, we are proud of our legislature and once again commend them for working across the aisle and getting the people’s work accomplished.