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Most legislation that the General Assembly passes each year falls in one of two categories: It either protects or it promotes.
That was especially evident this past week in the Kentucky House of Represen-tatives, which voted for bills that range from further limiting abuse of our youngest and oldest citizens to helping more students in the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky get their four-year college degree.
Both bills centering on abuse made it through the chamber unanimously. One would create an adult-abuse registry to ensure that those convicted of harming the elderly do not have the opportunity to work in jobs related to the care of older Kentuckians. Both Gov. Steve Beshear and the House recommend that money be set aside in the budget to get this database up and running.
The other bill, meanwhile, would set up an independent review of the state’s child protection system in those tragic cases in which a child either died as a result of abuse or was severely injured. Several high-profile cases in recent months showcase the need to see what more the state can do to stop this from ever happening again.
Another tragedy affecting the state has been the steady rise of synthetic drugs. The General Assembly has adopted model legislation in recent years to combat these poisons, but the underground chemists have found ways to circumvent many of our efforts.
That would hopefully stop under a bill the House approved on March 13. It would extend the definition of these drugs, making it much tougher if not impossible for the chemists to keep up, and it cracks down on those stores that sell them.
In other action last week, the House passed a bill that would use coal severance funds to help students in a 16-county area in Eastern Kentucky complete their bachelor’s degree if they already have at least 60 hours of college credit. The goal is to raise the region’s college attainment rate closer to the state average.
In other major legislation, the House voted to keep our businesses from paying a potentially steep penalty tied to unemployment insurance.
Two years ago, business and labor leaders and the General Assembly came together to formulate a plan to pay off the nearly $1 billion dollars that the state’s unemployment insurance fund had to borrow from the federal government to cover benefits.
There wasn’t a deal at thetime, though, on how to pay for the interest on that federal loan. If no plan to pay this interest is put in place, our businesses could lose a federal tax credit, which could cost them up to $600 million.
The House plan would keep that from happening if it becomes law. It has the support of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky State Building and Trades Council and several other prominent organizations.
In another dose of good news in this area, we learned this month that Kentucky’s unemployment rate has dipped to a level not seen in three years.
A few days later, that was followed up with the news that state revenues were up nearly 4 percent in February when compared to the same time last year, with most of that due to increased consumer spending. So far, this fiscal year’s growth has significantly out-paced what was projected last year, and our Road Fund is doing even better.
The General Assembly will wrap up much of its work at the end of this month, meaning a lot of work remains in the short time we have left. Your contributions to this process are vital.
If you would like to let me know what you would like to see us accomplish, please don’t hesitate to write to me at Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.
You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
Rick Rand, D-Bedford, represents the 47th House District in the Kentucky General Assembly.