Alvarado: Legislators ‘roll up sleeves,’ get to work in early session

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The start of the 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly was historic and the pace unprecedented as the legislature ended the first week late Saturday night after passing seven conservative priority bills that create jobs, expand our economy, and strengthen Kentucky families. Kentucky voters ushered in a new direction for the Commonwealth last November, and the members of the General Assembly will continue to answer that call.

House Bill 1 is a pro-worker freedom bill known as Right-to-Work legislation. With the passage of HB1, Kentucky became the 27th state in the nation to pass Right-to-Work and, most importantly, sends a message to job creators that Kentucky is open for business.

This legislation is not anti-union; in fact, states where Right-to-Work has been passed have seen increases in union enrollment. But no one should be forced to unionize as a condition of employment.

Passing Right-to-Work allows us to compete with neighboring states that witness more rapid economic growth simply because they are already Right-to-Work.

House Bill 3 repeals the prevailing wage statute that drives up the cost of state government operations. Prevailing wage sets an artificial wage rate on public works projects, which then drives up the cost for Kentucky taxpayers and delays (for years) important projects like safe schools for Kentucky students. We deserve better than the wasteful spending that has occurred, and Kentucky needs good stewardship of its tax dollars, especially when such stewardship has not been found to drive down quality of life for workers or quality of construction projects for clients.

With the signing of Senate Bill 6, employees must elect in writing to be enrolled as a member of a labor organization and have union dues withheld from earnings. The legislation was changed to remove the yearly requirement for action, so an employee must make the action only once. It also clarifies the law to ensure that labor organization expenditures for political activities can be made only out of a separate, segregated political fund that does not use union dues or any other fees of membership. Current and past negotiations will not be grandfathered into the requirement.

Senate Bill 3 also passed. It amends the law to require disclosure of the retirement benefit information of current and former members of the General Assembly. This is one of several pension transparency bills we will likely see move forward this session. Again, it is important for taxpayers to know exactly how their dollars are being invested and spent on the largest fiscal problem facing the Commonwealth: the unfunded pension liability.

We also passed two pro-life bills with overwhelming bipartisan support: House Bill 2, the informed consent ultrasound bill, and Senate Bill 5, a ban on abortions beyond 20 weeks gestation.

As a pediatrician and staunch pro-life candidate, I was overjoyed to see Kentucky take such bold action to protect and affirm the rights of the unborn.

Finally this week, I was fortunate to witness history when Speaker Jeff Hoover was officially sworn in as the first Republican Speaker of the House in nearly 100 years, and we welcomed the new House Republican majority as well.

We marked the occasion only briefly before rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.

For the first time in a long time, hope and prosperity are within reach for Kentucky families, and the shroud of darkness has been pulled off of Frankfort. When we return for part two of session, we will introduce, debate, vote on and hopefully pass more legislation which makes it easier for teachers to teach, which clears out courtrooms of frivolous lawsuits and brings the legal system to every Kentuckian, which continues to expand fundamental freedoms to all Kentuckians and makes our Commonwealth a national model for strong conservative values and governance once again.

For those of you who may have more questions regarding these bills or future bills coming before the General Assembly, I will be providing a legislative update at the Montgomery County Extension Office on East Locust Street in Mt. Sterling from 4-6 p.m. on Jan. 23 and at the Cairn Coffee House on Main Street in Winchester from 8-10 a.m. on Feb. 2. You can also review the legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester) represents the 28th District, including Clark and Montgomery Counties and the eastern portion of Fayette County.