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ALVARADO: Reflections on the week

The reflection on this past week has made me proud to be a Kentuckian and an American.

I have witnessed a true community effort in the 28th Senate district and throughout Kentucky of people helping people. I have so appreciated the response of local citizens, volunteers, teachers, government officials, first-responders, health care workers, churches and servant leaders who have helped our most vulnerable.

There is a renewed sense of supporting local small business and sharing between neighbors.

The American response to trying times is what makes us strong and unique in the world.

COVID-19 will pass from our lives soon and our communities will return to a normal lifestyle. But, let us not forget or abandon the sense of community we feel right now. We will likely need it again at some point in the future.

As many of you read this week’s update, I realize there is quite a bit of consternation and worry regarding COVID-19, the chance of someone in your family contracting the virus, our country’s economy, your personal checkbook and job, the ability to acquire or shop for necessary supplies or even how to put food on your table this week.

With these concerns come many questions from constituents in my district. We have been inundated with calls and emails regarding a variety of questions and uncertainties.

My office is doing its very best to help answer those questions or direct you to the proper resource to help.

I pledge to continue to do my best to provide leadership during these uncertain times. I cherish your prayers.

I appreciate our president and his cabinet for the work they have done so far. Our governor has also been thrust into an unenviable situation. I share the concerns that I have heard from many of our citizens regarding some of the heavy-handed executive orders that Gov. Andy Beshear has issued; many of which are sure to hurt small businesses and severely dampen our economy.

Many of our medical professionals also find themselves confused as to what they can and cannot treat as his directives have been confusing at times.

While I agree with all of the medical precautions that have been recommended (good hand washing, social distancing, cover cough/sneeze with elbow, no handshaking), I feel we need to use common sense and strike a better balance between workplace accommodations and public health.

The Kentucky General Assembly remained committed to fulfilling its constitutional obligation to pass a two-year state budget during week 11 of the 2020 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

Because of the ongoing concerns surrounding COVID-19, the General Assembly along with the assistance of an incredible legislative staff, moved expeditiously to ensure our constitutional responsibilities were met while also ensuring the safety of all whom were involved.

On Thursday, the Senate passed its version of House Bill (HB) 352, the biennial budget bill.

Efforts that have led to getting to this point in the budget process have required intensive reviews, substantive discussions and very late nights.

However, I want to make it abundantly clear the budget process is not over. Though the bill has passed both the House and the Senate, there are still conversations to be had between the two chambers, as well as the Governor’s Office.

HB 352 in its current form will not be the final budget. A conference committee between the House and Senate has been set for Monday, March 23.

My promise is to continue to advocate for the 28th State Senate District. I do not take my responsibility to you for granted.

Out of an abundance of caution, the House and Senate leaders announced we will be adjourning until Thursday, March 26, at which time we would be able to gavel back into session.

In making this decision, we have fulfilled our obligation to people of the state and our oath to the Constitution.

This also protects the legislature’s constitutional ability to override any vetoes of the governor of which the constitution grants him the authority.

Countless individuals have worked extensively on this legislative session to pass high-quality bills and effective public policy.

I am most proud of bills such as Senate Bill 9, the born alive infant protection act, and other pro-life bills that have passed this session.

I am also proud to have supported several bills to benefit military personnel, protect students and benefit the overall wellbeing of Kentuckians. I find it unimaginable to walk away and allow a potential veto from the governor on any of the consequential legislation we have passed without retaining our ability to override that decision.

Kentucky’s citizens deserve to have their voices heard by those of us they have entrusted to represent them, and I will not abdicate the authority of the Republican majority or the legislative branch.

This was the most unique week I have experienced in my time serving you in Frankfort, and I would assume most feel the same.

Each of us is grappling with the effects of COVID-19 differently, but I am pleased we were able to have a legislatively productive week while adhering to the health and safety guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health authorities.

I want to share with you some of the bills that we were able to pass this week as we worked through the budget process. A few included:

— House Bill 135 sets out the educational requirements, procedures and standards allowing physician assistants to prescribe, issue and administer Schedule II through V controlled substances.

— House Bill 284 establishes probation program credits by providing that a supervised person on probation shall receive credit on his or her probation sentence for completing certain educational programs, completing a drug treatment program, evidence based program or any other promising practice of life skills program, work-for-time credit.

— Senate Bill 177 allows our Kentucky schools to use unlimited remote learning days while they are closed for the coronavirus. Without this legislation, schools are only permitted 10 per year.

This provides much-needed flexibility to our schools, frees our wonderful teachers to do what they do best and provides a way that our students can continue receiving and education despite the inability to be in the school classroom.

Numerous other beneficial bills passed the Senate. You can find those bills by visiting legislature.ky.gov.

Welcoming visitors to my office over the course of this legislative session has been enjoyable for me. However, given the safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the governor’s closing of the capitol campus to visitors, those visits are not possible at this time. Your health and safety is our top priority.

I, nonetheless, welcome your thoughts on any public policy issue of importance to you as we work diligently to finalize the state budget and road plan. You can contact my at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Ralph.Alvarado@LRC.ky.gov. I am grateful for the opportunity to represent the 28th District and serve as your voice in Frankfort. God bless you and be safe.

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