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Mayfield: Ky. General Assembly wraps up most productive session in modern history

The 2017 regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly ended a week ago today shortly before midnight after months of work that led to passage of numerous bills that will impact many areas of Kentucky life.

In the last few days of the session, the House and Senate worked together on a multitude of bills that address serious issues in Kentucky.

The bills passed last week were just a fraction of the bills that passed the General Assembly during its 30-legislative day “short” session between January and the end of March, making the session one of the most productive in the state’s history.

One of the most closely-watched measures was Senate Bill 1, which makes sweeping changes to public education in Kentucky by changing how students, teachers and schools are evaluated and held accountable. The bill is designed to return more control to local school districts, giving them a stronger voice in measuring and improving performance, including that of schools that are struggling.

Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, Kentucky schools will review and revise academic standards with recommendations from educators and suggestions from the public. Local school boards will also be responsible for evaluating teachers, the amount of paperwork required of teachers and administrators will be reduced and new locally-controlled accountability measures will be enacted such as graduation rates and college admissions.

The bill had widespread support from education groups and easily passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The drug epidemic, and specifically the rise of opioid prescription painkiller abuse across Kentucky, has been the subject of much legislation. We closed out this session by passing a modified version of House Bill 333, which limits the amount of schedule II controlled substances prescribed in Kentucky to a three-day limit.

This measure provides numerous exemptions for patients in cases where a prescription lasting longer than three days is medically necessary.

HB 333 also increases penalties for those who traffic Fentanyl and heroin in our communities. Drug dealers have been put on notice that they are not welcome in our Commonwealth.

Other important measures seek to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. House Bill 524, a measure to prevent and reduce human trafficking, including sexual and labor exploitation, in Kentucky, requires public schools and highway rest areas to post hotline phone numbers for reporting human trafficking.

House Bill 253 requires unannounced welfare checks on children who have been the subject of reported child abuse or neglect. Such visits would continue until the child’s safety has been ascertained and schools would be unable to deny access to a child who is the subject of an investigation.

In keeping with our focus all session on increasing economic opportunity and jobs for Kentuckians, we passed legislation on the final day of session to approve $15 million in bonding for a potential $1 billion economic development project in eastern Kentucky. This amendment to House Bill 482 is the direct result of an opportunity that opened up as a result of Gov. Matt Bevin and the Economic Development Cabinet seeking out new businesses to come to Kentucky and employ our citizens, many of whom are struggling just to get by.

According to the Bevin Administration, Kentucky is competing with one other state for this opportunity, and our passage of this bonding will give the company assurances as to our ability to help finance this project.

If Kentucky is chosen, it would provide 1,000 construction jobs, including 500 permanent positions, with an average annual salary of $75,000. This is exactly the type of economic opportunity for our rural areas that we have been working towards, and is a direct result of the legislature’s and the governor’s shared goal to make Kentucky more business-friendly.

It is my hope that this sort of positive economic news can spread all over the Commonwealth so all of our rural areas can prosper again.

When you take into consideration the important work we did earlier this session to protect innocent life, create jobs and save taxpayer dollars, it is easy to see how significant this session was.

We accomplished a great deal on behalf of the citizens of Kentucky and I look forward to doing the same in sessions to come.

Rep. Donna Mayfield (R-Winchester) represents the 73rd district, which includes Clark and Madison counties. She can be reached at Donna.Mayfield@lrc.ky.gov.  This column was produced by House Majority Communications, and made available for House Republican Members to distribute.