Mayfield, Alvarado brief locals on 2017 session
Published 11:56 am Friday, February 3, 2017
With only a few days before the General Assembly resumes, Clark County’s legislators updated local residents on pending legislation for the rest of the 30-day session.
With a new Republican majority and leadership in the House of Representatives, legislators already made news by approving several major bills in the first five days of the session, which are usually used for organizational matters. That pace may continue for the rest of this year’s short session.
“This year, for the first time ever, we actually passed legislation,” state Rep. Donna Mayfield said. “I think after passing seven major pieces of legislation in five days, that counts as getting things done.”
Email newsletter signup
The pace may continue through the rest of the session.
Mayfield said Gov. Matt Bevin has already talked about calling a special session in September or October to tackle the issue of tax reform, since there won’t be enough time to discuss it in the regular session.
That fall session may come at the expense of the current session. State Sen. Ralph Alvarado said there’s a rumor the session may end five days early, which could be used in the fall and avoid the cost of calling a special session. Alvarado said it could save the state about $300,000.
“We can’t get it done in a 30-day session,” Mayfield said, adding the special session would be a great time to get rid of outdated taxes.
“I think we’re going to see more of that pace if we’re going to save five days at the end,” Alvarado said.
The legislature has already tackled issues like right-to-work, prevailing wage and a right-to-life bill requiring doctors to make ultrasounds available to expecting women.
Some of the pending bills include plans to increase transparency for the pension program, including for legislators and the processes used for investing. The state still has a $35 billion deficit in its employee pension program, Alvarado said.
“It’s still an albatross hanging around our neck,” Alvarado said. “Until we get that taken care of, we can’t do a lot of the fun things we want to do.”
Another bill would move Kentucky’s gubernatorial elections to years with presidential election. Alvarado said doing so would increase participation in the election and more interest in the governor’s race. Currently, Kentucky’s governors are elected a year before the president. If the bill is approved, it would require a constituent vote in 2018 to amend the constitution, he said.
Several Clark County road projects are still at the top of the list, but a while from being completed. Mayfield said finishing the Bypass still leads Clark County’s list of projects, but the costs haven’t been finalized.
“As far as finishing it, they said it’ll be another two or three years before anything happens,” Mayfield said.
“The entire system is over programmed,” Alvarado said. There were about $1 billion in proposed road projects, but the state only had $100 million budgeted, he said. Finishing the Bypass would be about $30 million, he said.
As a doctor, Alvarado said he’d love to see Kentucky approve a state-wide smoking ban, but he couldn’t get enough senators to support such a move. Instead, Alvarado is pushing a bill to ban smoking on all school campuses. About 70 percent of Kentucky school districts already have similar bans in place, he said. If the bill passes, the districts would set their own rules and enforcement, he said.