There is a new governor, and it is a new year in Frankfort as members of the Kentucky General Assembly returned to the Capitol to convene for the 2020 Regular Session. Though the first week typically consists of introducing bills and resolutions, it will only be a matter of time before we delve into some daunting tasks that are of great concern to Kentuckians.
At the top of the list is the always challenging job of drafting a two-year budget plan for the Commonwealth. During this 60-day session, the General Assembly will have to work on a budget with limited dollars. As it currently stands, Kentucky does not have adequate funds to operate the basic obligations of state government. Unless we want to continue gutting vital services that Kentuckians rely on, we have to capture new revenue and address the problems our Commonwealth faces, specifically regarding meaningful solutions to the pension systems.
Governor Beshear has indicated that everything is on the table, from casino gaming to medical marijuana. However, Republican leadership in the Senate has stated that any bills related to expanded gaming are “dead on arrival.” We will know more of the Governor’s budgetary plans following his budget address on Jan. 28.
A major focal point for the General Assembly when working on this budget should be the education and training of Kentucky’s future workforce. Education is an investment, and if we want a successful workforce in Kentucky, we must have a knowledgeable one. With Governor Beshear prioritizing education, I am hopeful it will be at the forefront of discussions when we review the budget — from teachers to textbooks.
The budget is a reflection of your values and priorities. As the General Assembly drafts this massive piece of legislation, we need to have everyone seated at the table. With a Democratic Governor and a Republican super-majority in the legislature, this is not the time for partisan politics. We need Democrats and Republicans working together on this, offering input so that we can have a bill that all legislators can proudly stand behind. This way we can structure a budget that will grow the economy and work in the interest of all Kentuckians.
Unfortunately, that goodwill was absent during the first week of the legislative session as the Republican Majority in the Senate filed five politically driven “priority bills.” Many of these do nothing more than provoke gridlock and strip powers granted to the Governor. I remain hopeful that as we dig deeper into the issues, the legislature can make this session about the people of Kentucky and not political theater. I will keep you updated on bills as they are filed and progress through the General Assembly.
Over the next three months, there will be many other issues to arise, and I will keep you updated as we work through the session. I hope you will stay engaged and keep up with legislative action. Along with reading news reports and my column, you can follow the General Assembly by viewing the Kentucky Legislature Home Page, www.legislature.ky.gov.
You can also contact me throughout the 2020 General Assembly in the following ways:
• To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. People with hearing difficulties may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the Kentucky Relay Service at 711.
• You can write any legislator by sending a letter with the lawmaker’s name to Capitol Annex, 702 Capital Avenue, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601-3448.
You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.