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If legislative sessions start like a marathon, they end like a 100-yard dash, as the House and Senate make a final push to turn their goals into law. Leading the agenda, of course, is the state’s two-year budget and highway plan. Legislative leaders began meeting Wednesday to hammer out a compromise, and the good news is that there is some broad area of agreement.
For example, both sides support shifting significantly more money to elementary and secondary education and strengthening the state’s retirement system, as called for in last year’s pension-reform law.
One of the larger differences is whether we should give our universities the authority to undertake a needed round of construction. The House supports this, and the schools themselves would cover a sizeable portion of the cost.
If all goes well, a budget will be ready for a final vote early this coming week. While we wait for that process to move forward, similar work is being done on several other major issues.
One of those to receive unanimous support March 26 in the House is on track to become law. This would make it possible for families to access cannabidiol medicine that is derived from marijuana or hemp but does not have an intoxicating effect. It has worked wonders on many children with seizures.
Another bill close to becoming law would make improvements to the state’s juvenile justice system. On March 27, the House approved the Senate legislation with some minor changes that would enhance collaboration between the juvenile justice system and schools and improve tracking of data.
Our goal is to make sure that the legal system has more options beyond detention, especially in those cases involving violations, such as truancy, that would not even be a crime if committed by an adult. It makes no sense – morally or financially – to put these juveniles, at a cost of $100,000 a year, in the same environment as others who are there for serious offenses.
Another widely discussed matter that the House finalized on Friday is giving school districts more certainty as they make up missed snow days. Many districts have missed weeks because of the severe winter. Now, they will be allowed to complete their work by June 6 if there is no way they can make up all of their snow days. Education officials say there are 42 districts that have missed at least 20 days; 10 have missed at least 30.
Several other bills have cleared both chambers. One would largely stop the requirement to have paper proof of insurance for motor vehicles. These cards would still be required within 45 days of transferring a vehicle’s title or changing insurance carriers.
Another bill set to become law would have state and education officials pull information together on employment rates and the earnings of degree programs at our public universities. This will give students a realistic look at what they can expect in professions they want to pursue.
Soon, we will have a better idea of what is set to become law and what may have to wait for another year. After a brief veto recess, the legislature will return to complete its work by April 15.
The time to let me know your views this legislative session may be drawing to a close, but you can always contact me throughout the year. To write, my address is Room 329G, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at Terry.Mills@lrc.ky.gov. To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 1-800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 1-800-896-0305. I hope to hear from you soon.