First, the good news.
I am happy to say state government will now be reviewing the burden that Kentucky Power’s energy savings programs has placed on its eastern Kentucky customers. This decision comes on the heels of my co-sponsorship of House Resolution 109, which would require the Public Service Commission to look into Kentucky Power’s electrical rates and surcharges to determine if they are “reasonable and fair.”
I joined a bipartisan team of eastern Kentucky lawmakers in filing this action and am grateful our concerns regarding these burdensome rate increases and surcharges that are being balanced on the backs of people in some of the poorest counties in the state will be addressed.
It’s also good to hear that Kentucky Power is trying to break down barriers in an effort to get coal businesses back to work and return jobs to eastern Kentucky. The company recently announced its Coal Plus program, which seeks to design special contracts with new coal companies or existing coal companies that are expanding their operations and employment. Kentucky Power is seeking authorization from the PSC to move forward with the plan and, if it is approved, the company said it will make the plan available to businesses within 30 days of receiving the PSC’s authorization.
I was also pleased to be part of the passage of HB 156, the eastern Kentucky economic development and tourism bill I wrote about last week that would create the Kentucky Mountain Regional Recreation Authority. The trail system established under HB 156 would make room for all sorts of outdoor sports and hobbies in our region for both tourists and residents alike: fishing, kayaking and rock climbing – the possibilities are nearly endless. By a vote of 90-1 we approved the bill, which would help establish a recreational trail system in up to 20 counties throughout eastern Kentucky. That bill now goes to the Senate for consideration, where I hope it will also pass with flying colors.
Unfortunately, I have some disheartening news to report from Frankfort. Recently, the new House Majority rushed House Bill 520 — the charter school bills — through the state House Education Committee during a morning meeting, and then onto the House floor, where it passed by a 56-39 vote. The extraordinary pace of the process denied Kentucky’s public school teachers and employees the opportunity to let their concerns be known and kept us, as their elected representatives, from being fully informed of all the details in this far-reaching legislation.
While I am still assessing the damaging effects of the legislation, I can tell you for sure that House Bill 520 represents a direct attack on public education. It will mean the transfer of talent, power and money from our parents and local school systems to corporations and political appointees in Frankfort. The burdens placed on our school boards, our administrators, our teachers and school employees by this legislation are overwhelming, and I urge you to contact members of the Senate Majority leadership and your own state senator at 1-800-372-7181 and urge them to vote against this legislation.
Also, this past week, we took a step backward when the House approved Senate Bill 4 by a slim 51-45. This legislation will make the health industry richer by preventing medical malpractice lawsuits from going straight to court. Instead, complaints alleging malpractice will be vetted first by four-person medical review panels, essentially putting peer review over judicial review.
I believe Senate Bill 4 is likely to be found unconstitutional, because it limits direct access to the courts and impedes working families like those in Letcher and Pike counties from seeking redress of injuries caused by irresponsible doctors. I spoke against the bill on the House floor, explaining that it creates roadblocks to victims of malpractice who are seeking relief and compensation for lives lost or injuries suffered. Additionally, while most doctors are dedicated, professional and caring, preventable medical injuries are the third leading cause of death in this country and Senate Bill 4 represents an artificial barrier between victims and their families being able to see the compensation they deserve.
If you need to contact me, please call the Legislative Message Line toll-free at 1-800-372- 7181 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Rep. Angie Hatton represents the state’s 94th House District in Letcher and Pike counties.