Legislative committees examine child abuse, workforce participation

Published 4:32 pm Monday, September 23, 2019


Guest columnist

Interim committees met Sept. 9 through 13 for their monthly meetings, bringing together members of the House and Senate to hear from state government officials and members of the public about the issues we will be looking at during the next session.

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I believe I have shared that this year’s committee meeting schedule has been reorganized, so now almost all of the meetings take place during one week each month.

This month, members of the Education Committee met and discussed two important topics facing education today: child abuse and neglect; and a shortage in teachers. The presentation on child abuse and neglect came from a group of students from here in Boyle County. They are requesting that the General Assembly consider requiring age-appropriate education on child abuse to our public school curriculum.

According to the presentation, 28 states have already passed similar requirements and comparable measures have been filed in previous sessions. Child abuse and neglect have been a priority for the General Assembly over the past few years, with Kentucky leading the nation in child abuse and neglect cases.

While the next step for this proposal requires a great deal of review and consideration, I was quite impressed by how this group of young people handled a difficult topic.

A legislative working group created to review opportunities for Kentuckians who want to pursue a career in one of the skilled trades or technical fields also met this week.

The Kentucky Career and Technical Education Task Force received a report on how Kentucky stacks up with neighboring states. According to the Southern Regional Education Board, our career and technical education system is far less centralized. Instead of one system, we have several on the secondary and postsecondary levels that plug into existing resources.

Also, and this was particularly interesting to me, some states fund at different levels based on the demand for specific skills. For example, Ohio allocates per-pupil funding of up to $5,100 for information technology, manufacturing, health sciences, but only $1,300 for family and consumer sciences education.

The Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Workforce Investment also met last week. Representatives from the drug abuse treatment, business and health insurance communities were on the agenda to discuss how the opioid crisis is hurting our efforts to improve Kentucky’s workforce. This is a hot topic because, despite record economic investment and thousands of new jobs, we still rank 47th in the nation in workforce participation.

That means that too many Kentuckians who could be working are not. The information we get paints a pretty clear picture — drug addiction is preventing people from becoming productive, healthy members of society.

On another note, the Interim Joint Committee on State Government heard testimony on two proposals that seek to prevent cities from adopting any policy that forbids or discourages the enforcement of immigration laws. Both proposals seek to prohibit local authorities from establishing “sanctuary cities” for those who are here illegally. While supporters and those opposed to the measures discussed both at great length, the overwhelming message was clear – our federal government has to move to fix our broken immigration system.

As you can see, interim committees cover a wide array of topics. They represent the opportunities and challenges we face as a state, and highlight what we need to work on when we come back in session in January. The committees will meet again the week of Sept. 30 through Oct. 4 and I hope to report back after those meetings as well.

As always, I can be reached at home anytime or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at (800) 372-7181. You can also contact me via email at daniel.elliott@lrc.ky.gov. You can also keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.

Rep. Daniel Elliott (R-Danville) is the legislator representing Boyle and Casey counties in the Kentucky House.