Republicans support bills on public pensions, parental concerns in the classroom, hospital access
Published 1:43 pm Saturday, March 25, 2023
With the final week of regular legislative business behind us and the legislature halfway through the 10-day veto recess, I cannot help but feel a sense of pride in what we have accomplished for the Commonwealth this session. We addressed issues like juvenile justice reform, access to healthcare, and continued our efforts to strengthen our state’s future.
While we worked on passing new legislation, I am pleased to share that the state allocated more of the $500 million in funds the legislature set aside to replace aging and inadequate water infrastructure throughout the state. Access to clean water and its infrastructure are fundamental to maintaining a healthy community. This week’s allocation provides $32 million to 19 counties, which will be used to deliver water and sewer line projects to approximately 8,500 households. The bottom line is that these are resources that belong to the people of Kentucky, and they should be invested in ways that benefit them directly.
The water announcement was a great reminder of how what we do during session can have an impact that carries forward for years. With that in mind, here are a few examples of the legislation we sent to the governor’s desk before leaving Frankfort:
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Juvenile Justice Reform and Funding:
To address concerns that the state’s struggling juvenile justice system is placing both juveniles and staff in danger, the legislature acted on HB 3. This measure includes an additional $39 million in funding to support the juvenile justice program, including monies for personnel, transportation, and the renovation of facilities. In addition, the bill also includes language aimed at increasing parental accountability, detaining violent juvenile offenders, providing access to treatment programs, disclosing criminal records, and reopening a youth detention center in Jefferson County. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and both chambers of the legislature worked together throughout January to investigate safety concerns addressed throughout this legislation.
Protecting the Public Pensions:
To maintain the best interest of our public pension system, we passed HB 236. This measure would require all state retirement systems’ investment managers to uphold their fiduciary duty and only make investment decisions based on financial factors. While I know this sounds like a no-brainer, there is indeed a recent trend towards investing in ESG – Environmental, Social, and Governance – companies. While companies have a right to set their own policies, this is a risk we simply cannot afford. Since 2017, the legislature has poured billions into the state employee and teacher’s retirement funds to correct decades of underfunding and mismanagement and the state still faces a multi-billion dollar liability. We have an obligation to the taxpayer and to those who depend on these pensions, we must ensure the funds are invested in the best manner possible.
Preserving Access to Rural and Community Hospitals:
We also passed HB 75, a measure that provide additional resources to rural and community hospitals throughout our state at no cost to state government. This is a major win for hospitals as the majority of the patients they treat rely on either Medicaid or Medicare and reimbursement rates are far less than that of private insurance. The bill expands the Medicaid Hospital Rate Improvement Program (HRIP) to include outpatient and inpatient care. The HRIP allows the state to use federal funds to pay Kentucky hospitals for treating Medicaid patients. With almost four in ten of our hospitals in danger of closing because of financial issues, HB 75 offers a lifeline.
Improving Cancer Treatment:
To create a pathway for better health outcomes, the legislature unanimously approved HB 180 and sent it to the Governor’s desk. This measure requires health benefit plans to cover biomarker and pharmacogenetic screenings for patients diagnosed with cancer, and other diseases that a healthcare provider believes can be remediated with the information collected through biomarker testing. Biomarker and pharmacogenetic testing provide a powerful tool for healthcare providers to screen patients for genes, proteins, and other substances that give them information about an individual’s condition and how the patient will react to certain medications based on their genetic makeup.
Addressing Parental Concerns:
SB 5 requires a clear and commonsense process for parents, teachers, and school administrators when concerns are raised about the content of materials in our schools. We have heard from parents across our Commonwealth and understand from educators as well that guidelines will benefit our children. This legislation would require local boards of education to set up a complaint resolution policy to address parent concerns about materials in the classroom.
The ten day veto period began when lawmakers left Frankfort late Thursday. This part of the session calendar is reserved to give governors an opportunity to consider legislation passed during the session. A governor has ten days from the time he or she receives a bill to sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without a signature. We will return to Frankfort at the end of the veto period to convene the last two legislative days of the session on March 29 and 30. Those two days are set aside to continue overriding any vetoes the governor might issue, but we also have the opportunity to pass additional legislation.
As we wrap up this year’s legislative session, I hope that you will feel free to reach out with any questions or comments you may have about the legislature’s work. As always, I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. I appreciate our local media for providing the valuable opportunity to share news with you and also invite you to sign up for email updates from my office. To do so, email Daniel.Elliott@lrc.ky.gov to be added to the list. For more information on legislation passed this session, please visit the legislature’s website at www.legislature.ky.gov.