Broadband, workforce shortages, juvenile justice, veteran suicide prevention headline busy week
Published 4:00 am Saturday, July 1, 2023
BY DANIEL ELLIOTT
District 54 Representative
It is hard to believe that there are less than 200 days left before we convene the 2024 Regular Session, but in the meantime, we busy attending interim meetings and making progress on the issues we must tackle in January. In this week’s column, I will share a little about the interim joint committee (IJC) meetings we had in Frankfort last week. These are just a few highlights:
Email newsletter signup
IJC on Tourism, Small Business, and Information Technology: The committee met to discuss the future of broadband development throughout the commonwealth. Kentucky Rural Broadband Association (KYRBA) member companies have invested more than $1.78 billion in property, plant, and equipment, with another $111 million in their fiber networks over the past year. Additionally, KYRBA plans to invest an additional $291 million in its fiber networks over the next two years. These funds will help serve 12,537 small businesses and 217 schools while bringing over 1,100 jobs and more than $40 million in property, sales, payroll, and telecom taxes in the past year. The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program will allocate estimated funding of more than $1 billion to Kentucky.
IJC on Economic Development and Workforce Investment: Lawmakers heard from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce about programming they have created to address issues in Kentucky’s workforce. With more than 140,000 available jobs in our commonwealth, it is startling to consider that the state still ranks 44th in workforce participation, with less than 60% of those who could be working doing so. According to chamber officials, they have created several programs to help connect the unemployed with employers, one program is Talent Pipeline Management (TPM). TPM is employer and demand driven and aims to address skills gap by organizing employers around their most critical workforce shortages. So far, 5,000 Kentuckians have been connected to jobs, training, and work-based learning opportunities. The Kentucky Transformational Employment Program, which was a result of SB 191 in 2020, allows employers to have legal protection to refer an employee to a treatment program for a positive drug screening. Also, the Fair Chance Academy allows employers to meet with individuals in recovery and previously incarcerated populations. This allows employers better access, training, and resources to hire those in recovery or previously incarcerated. Over 100 individuals have been hired as a result of the academy.
IJC on Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations: Lawmakers discussed three pieces of potential legislation for the 2024 Regular Session. They discussed universal occupational licensing and would expand on an existing law already in place. Military spouses already receive universal licensing, so that the legislation would expand to the general public. The committee also heard about licensing for music therapists. Without licensure, consumers are at risk of using services from those who are unqualified. Last, they heard about legislation that would keep lottery winners of over $1 million anonymous for up to one year.
IJC on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection: The committee met to discuss prevention of veteran suicide. They heard from many organizations, including the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs (KDVA), USA Cares, Project Diehard, and Check a Vet. The KDVA brought attention to the higher proportion of suicide amongst National Guard members compared to Active Duty and Reserve members; committee members were informed of the constant cycle of switching between military orders and civilian life that some National Guard members face—and the toll that can take on them. Committee members also heard many passionate testimonies advocating for efforts toward veteran suicide prevention.
Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity: The commission met jointly with the Juvenile Justice Oversight Council to hear from ONE Lexington and Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA) representatives. ONE Lexington is an organization with the goal of reducing gun violence among children and young adults (ages 13-29). They testified about their PIER (Prevention, Intervention, Enforcement, and Re-entry) approach to reaching kids impacted by gun violence; through mentorships, trauma-informed care, building relationships, and many more programs, ONE Lexington is helping to care for those impacted by gun violence and addressing root causes that can lead to gun violence. KYA recommended the expansion of diversion programs for youth in the Department of Juvenile Justice, specifically those with lower-level offenses.
Remember that even though we are not in a legislative session, I am still your voice here at home and back in Frankfort. I want to hear from you regarding your concerns or issues. I can be reached through the toll-free message line at 800-372-7181 or here at home. You can also contact me via e-mail at Daniel.Elliott@lrc.ky.gov. Also, please feel free to visit the legislature’s website at legislature.ky.gov.
Daniel Elliott is the representative for Kentucky House District 54.