The General Assembly may consider many bills during a legislative session, but in even-numbered years, none are more important than the Executive Branch budget.
While preliminary work has been going on for months, it wasn’t until earlier this week – when Governor Beshear presented his first-ever budget proposal – that legislators had something in hand. Now, over the next two-plus months, the House and Senate will review this spending plan line by line and make changes we think are necessary before sending it back to the governor for his review and then responding to his actions.
Passing a budget has always been a legislative function, but for much of Kentucky’s history, the governor all but controlled this process from start to finish. Thankfully, that began to change in the early 1980s, and the result since then is better government and a budget better suited for all of Kentucky.
That work has been fairly tough in the years since 2008’s Great Recession. We’ve had to make a lot of spending cuts since then, and with limited growth projected during the next two years, it will be difficult to do some of the things we would like.
Even so, Governor Beshear said before presenting his budget that he thought it would still accomplish a lot of what Kentucky needs. He promised it would be more education-focused, and that includes teacher raises and keeping our public post-secondary schools from facing further reductions.
I will cover his budget proposal further in next week’s column. In the meantime, the Kentucky House has been busy working on other bills that are important in their own right.
One that I was proud to support late last week would make tuition at our public colleges and universities free for the immediate family of emergency medical services personnel killed in the line of duty. This benefit already is available to family members of firefighters and law enforcement officers who lose their lives while protecting us, and it just makes sense to do the same for our paramedics and EMTs, who often put themselves at risk while caring for others.
The same day the House passed that, it also approved a bill to make the Honor and Remember flag the state’s emblem of the service and sacrifices made by those in the military who die while fighting on our country’s behalf. This legislation also determines when and where the flag will be flown throughout the year.
Another bill now in the Senate’s hands sheds positive light on those dogs and cats that have been adopted from or are being kept by an animal shelter or rescue service. This plan to make them Kentucky’s official pet passed the House easily last week, and will hopefully make more families think about adding a rescue dog or cat to their homes.
A fourth bill clearing the House that deserves attention would establish a new statewide first-aid program people could enroll in to better spot and then respond to those with potential mental health or substance abuse issues. This wouldn’t replace proper medical care, of course, but much like CPR training, the more people in our communities who have some expertise in these types of cases, the better.
This year’s legislative session reached the one-fourth mark this past week, so our work in the Capitol is picking up the pace considerably.
Your input into this process is very important, and I want to make sure your voice is heard as I cast votes in committee and on the House floor.
If you would like to know more, the full text of bills can be read at the General Assembly’s website (Legislature.Ky.Gov), and my email is Angie.Hatton@lrc.ky.gov. The toll-free message line — to reach me or any legislator — is 1-800-372-7181.