Legislative Update - General Assembly Interim Wrapping Up
Early next week, the General Assembly will wrap up what is known as the interim, a six-and-a-half month period during the summer and fall when House and Senate committees come together to review issues affecting Kentucky.
Although no laws are passed during this time, this work is nonetheless important because of the information it provides leading up to the legislative session that starts each January. This also gives us the chance to review the ongoing work of the Executive and Judicial branches.
There are 14 main committees that meet regularly during the interim, and they range from Agriculture and Education to Public Pensions, Transportation and Veterans, Military Affairs & Public Protection.
This year, as always, they covered a diverse set of topics. In October, for example, the Agriculture Committee heard updates about the popular Farms to Food Banks program and about the steep rise of industrial hemp here in the commonwealth.
The former provides fresh produce for those in need, and over the last year they have received nearly three million pounds of fruits and vegetables from 345 participating farmers. Nearly a thousand farmers, meanwhile, grew 26,000 acres of hemp this past season, a significant jump from the 30 or so acres grown in 2014, the first year the versatile crop was authorized by the General Assembly.
In August, the legislature’s Banking and Insurance Committee focused on the rapid rise of insulin costs and the financial difficulty that’s causing many diabetics.
This chronic disease affects more than a half-million Kentuckians, and those needing the life-saving drug saw its costs nearly double between 2012 and 2016. Nationally, a quarter of diabetics say that price increase has caused them to cut back despite the risk to their own health.
Earlier this year, Colorado became the first state to cap insulin costs at $100 a month, and Illinois jointed them last month. There will be efforts in 2020 to do something similar here in Kentucky.
Another area that’s part of a growing trend nationally is business court, which the legislature’s Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee reviewed last month.
Twenty-four states already have this specialized court to handle often-complex commercial cases, and six others – including Kentucky – have authorized pilot programs. Ours will start next month in Jefferson County, and if it’s successful, other counties will likely follow, much as they did when Kentucky began establishing the highly regarded family courts in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In other committees, legislators learned a lot about positive work being done as part of two ongoing construction projects happening in Kentucky.
First, state officials told the Tourism, Small Business and Information Technology Committee in June about how they’ve spent $88 million to renovate state parks over the past several years and their goals if they receive $100 million more in the next two-year state budget. They call this plan “Refreshing and Restoring the Finest.”
During last month’s Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee meeting, Habitat for Humanity officials highlighted that organization’s work to give veterans in need a permanent home.
They said that more than 40,000 Kentucky veterans have one or more major issues affecting their residences, and nearly 500 more are believed to be homeless. Over the past five years, however, their Hammers for Heroes program has helped more than 100 veterans overcome these issues doing God’s work for us.
In a little less than a month, the General Assembly will return to the Capitol to begin the 2020 legislative session, which will last for 60 working days to end April 15th. This will be a busy time, but because of the work done during the interim, we will have a lot of the information we will need before deciding which ideas should become law.
As always, the legislative process only works when Kentuckians take part. I encourage you to let me know your views on any issue affecting the state. To reach me, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
Debbie and I wish you all a blessed Christmas. Thanks for all you do and holler anytime.