The 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly reconvened in Frankfort this week after a nearly month-long break. Highlights from this week’s action include my introduction of House Concurrent Resolution 50, which urges Congress to pass Rep. Hal Rogers’s RECLAIM Act. This is a bipartisan effort that would distribute $1 billion in Abandoned Mine Land fees at $200 million a year to the coalfields of Appalachia. These funds are a vital, much-needed resource that could help revitalize the economy in our region, and I am proud to have received both Democrat and Republican co-sponsors for my resolution. I encourage all of you to contact our representatives in Washington and request passage of this important legislation.
Last Wednesday, I was proud to represent the people of Letcher and Pike counties by being appointed to the “committee to wait upon the governor” as he arrived for his “State of the Commonwealth” address before a joint session of the legislature convened in the Kentucky House of Representatives. It was also an honor to catch up with fellow Letcher County native, the Honorable Supreme Court Justice Samuel T. Wright III.
During action on the House floor this week, I was proud to cast a vote in support of House Bill 38, a bill that will prohibit sex offender registrants from being on the grounds of a publicly owned playground without advance written permission. Also, I voted in support of House Bill 14, a bill that enhances sentencing options for anyone who attacks police and other first responders specifically for the dangerous jobs they perform on behalf of all of us. The new law categorizes such an act against a police officer, firefighter or EMS worker a “hate crime.”
Some other bills I am paying particular attention to include House Bill 182, which would help rural Kentuckians by providing a business tax credit for companies that invest in rural communities. Areas hard hit by the downturn in the coal economy and the lingering effects of the recession would have increased access to capital necessary to grow jobs.
House Bill 176 would reverse action by the Bevin administration to close operations at certain Education and Workforce Cabinet Career Centers (unemployment offices), giving dislocated workers access to the services they need at a time when they need them the most.
House Bill 264 would make the Work Ready program — which provides eligible students with two years of free tuition to Kentucky community and technical college or four-year institutions offering associate degrees — part of Kentucky state law. The program is now being carried out under an executive order of Governor Bevin, although the idea for the program came from legislation that the governor vetoed just last year. HB 264 would also make more students eligible for the program, which was the original bill’s intent.
House Bill 250 would restore state funding for cancer screenings, as well as increase eligibility for the state’s preschool program to families at 200 percent above the federal poverty line. Attempts to expand colon, cervical and breast cancer screenings and preschool eligibility were passed by the 2016 General Assembly but vetoed by the governor.
Much more will be attempted this session as part of this effort to improve Kentucky’s overall well-being, from a proposal to allow the use of high school merit scholarships, or KEES, for apprenticeship programs in the trades to a proposal that targets trafficking of fentanyl—a powerful pain killer that is being used to increase both the potency and, in turn, the deadliness of heroin. You can expect your lawmakers to push hard for all of the proposals in the 21 days that remain this session.
I’d just like to say again what an honor it is to serve as your voice in Frankfort, and to encourage you to contact me if you and your local organization or school group would like to visit our state Capitol. You can reach me by calling the Legislative Message Line toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or emailing me at angie.hatton@lrc. ky.gov.
I love to get messages from home. Please stay informed of legislative action on bills of interest to you by logging onto the Legislative Research Commission website at www.lrc.ky.gov or by calling the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835. To find out when a committee meeting is scheduled, you can call the LRC tollfree Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650. If you would like to share your comments or concerns with me or another legislator about a particular bill under consideration this session, again you can call the tollfree Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181.