If legislators ever needed a reminder of just how important it is to fund public education and health and human services, we got it last week when hundreds of Kentuckians visited the Capitol.
They came for a series of rallies and to discuss matters now before the General Assembly. I was proud to speak with many and to hear their concerns as the House continued reviewing the governor’s proposed two-year budget and the drastic cuts it contains.
The United 874K Coalition has been traveling to Frankfort every legislative session for more than a dozen years. Its very name is a reminder that almost 900,000 Kentuckians have a disability, and that the state plays a significant role in helping them live fuller lives.
The day after their rally, many affiliated with non-profits came to celebrate the good work these organizations do for all of us. They are the ones that feed the hungry, that provide services to help those addicted to drugs or alcohol and that boost the health and well being of every Kentuckian. In a way, our non-profits are in fact very profitable, because they pour billions of dollars into our economy and employ tens of thousands of people.
Other events at the Capitol last week featured United Way and programs benefiting our gifted and talented children, the ones who will do so much to mold our future.
In the House chamber, children were a major focus of several bills that we sent to the Senate last week and another that was just filed but is on track to be one of our biggest legislative accomplishments this year.
One of the bills to pass would set a timetable to begin making financial literacy a requirement for graduating from high school. This would hopefully give the seniors what they need to know to make informed financial decisions as they enter college and the workforce.
Another bill would ensure that suicide-prevention training is part of the professional development requirements for our middle and high school teachers and administrators. We are seeing substantial increases in teen suicide nationally, so this training would help these officials be more aware of potential warning signs.
A related bill to pass the House last week would call on state education and drug-control officials to work together to come up with a more focused drug-prevention program. We want to make sure students better understand the link between prescription drug abuse and addiction to other drugs.
As we wait to see the outcome of these bills in the Senate, another introduced last week would have a positive and substantial impact on children who want nothing more than to grow up as part of a loving family.
House Bill 1 is the result of nearly a year’s worth of work by a bipartisan group of House members. Their goal was to find ways to improve foster care and adoptive laws so that children would spend less time without a permanent home.
The bill would do such things as establish uniform home studies for prospective parents; increase services for relatives providing care; and reduce delays affecting children in abuse, neglect and dependency cases.
With January behind us and the session reaching its halfway point next week, the General Assembly is nearing the stage where significant decisions will begin to be made. While there is no disputing the difficulty of the challenges ahead, especially in passing a budget facing significant cuts, I remain hopeful that we can find a way to continue moving Kentucky forward.
Your input in this process is more important than ever. Many have already reached out to me with their views and concerns, and many more will join them before our work is through later this spring.
You can leave a message by calling, toll-free, 800-372-7181 or, for those with a hearing impairment, 800-896-0305.
E- mail Angie. Hatton@ lrc. ky.gov or write to Room 429I, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.