Senator Ralph Alvarado’s Legislative Update: Week 6

Published 6:06 am Tuesday, February 15, 2022

We are quickly approaching the halfway mark of this year’s 60-day legislative session, and Frankfort enjoyed several days of pleasant weather.

However, there was little time to enjoy the sunshine and warmer temperatures as lawmakers continued to work on policy to move the commonwealth forward.

The state legislature is the representative branch of your state government. I am proud to be your voice in the state Senate in Frankfort. Perhaps no piece of legislation in the 2022 legislative session exemplifies your voice being heard more than Senate Joint Resolution 99, a measure identified by the state Senate to bring motor vehicle tax relief to Kentucky taxpayers. Unlike a bill, a joint resolution does not modify law but carries the force of law.

Not every bill proposal impacts you at your dinner table or directly in your pocketbook, but a potential 40 percent increase in taxes on your car or truck is something many find direction in their mailbox and can understand is an injustice.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the global supply of automobiles, the assessed value on vehicles has been artificially inflated. Since motor vehicle property taxes are connected to the standard value of a car or truck, the tax burden has followed. That burden equates to nearly $70 million.

The good news is existing state law provides the executive branch with authority to right this wrong (KRS 132.485). The bad news is that Governor Andy Beshear has chosen not to utilize that authority and exempt Kentuckians from this pandemic-driven tax burden.

Given the Governor’s enthusiasm for exercising executive authority — in some cases acting unconstitutionally and being admonished by state and federal courts — it is unclear why he would not exercise a statutory authority actually granted to the executive branch. Since his administration has chosen inaction, Senate Joint Resolution 99 would decide for him and require him to order the Department of Revenue to exempt taxpayers from inflated tax burdens. It would also grant immediate refunds to anyone who has already paid their motor vehicle tax this year.

As diligent review of the Governor’s and state House of Representatives’ budget proposals continue, please know my priority is not the state’s bottom line but yours. Because of billions of dollars in federal spending making its way into Kentucky, state revenues are at record levels. I am committed to finding other ways to keep more money in your pocket in the more extensive tax reform discussion. Not a single penny of state funds came from anywhere other than hardworking taxpayers. You do not work for your government; your government works for you.

I was happy to see Senate passage of two additional measures in which I am the primary sponsor. They were Senate Bill 68 and Senate Joint Resolution 80.

Senate Bill 68 establishes efficiencies within taxpayer-funded programs. It requires the Finance and Administration Cabinet to enter into a contract with an independent pharmacy benefit monitoring entity to monitor all pharmacy benefit claims within the state’s Public Employee Health Insurance Program. It also requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to do the same for the Medicaid program.

This is a good bill that had bipartisan support. Any time we can make things more efficient, we know that will benefit consumers.

Senate Joint Resolution 72 results from great work over the interim period. It follows through on a key recommendation from the Severe Mental Illness Task Force, of which I was a member, by directing the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to apply for a Medicaid waiver from the federal government. This can pull down more federal dollars for additional services and support to improve the lives of individuals with severe mental illness.

We often see people struggling with mental illness stuck in a revolving door, in and out of care, and it’s sad to see. We must do everything we can to improve these Kentuckians’ quality of life, and directing the cabinet to apply for a waiver will help us maximize resources.

Here are some additional measures we passed in the state Senate in week six of the session:

• Senate Bill 6 gives collegiate athletes the freedom to earn money off of their name, image and likeness, but also allows colleges and universities to implement reasonable restrictions. The bill will prohibit a collegiate athlete from endorsing illegal products or promoting sports betting.

For decades, the NCAA, universities and broadcast networks, and advertisers have financially benefited off of the talents displayed by collegiate athletes. The NCAA brought in over $800 million in 2019, and when considering the attention sporting events garner, it is not surprising.

Allowing young people the opportunity to reach their full potential and achieve financial security for themselves and their families is the right thing to do, especially since the NCAA and the federal government have failed to act on this issue. University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari joined us to support the bill, calling SB 6 “model legislation” and the next best thing to federal legislation.

• Senate Bill 42 serves to cut food waste and aid in Kentucky’s goal of providing nutritious food to those in areas with little access to food options. It allows local public agencies to contract or purchase through noncompetitive negotiation when the contract is for perishable foods such as meat, fish, poultry, egg products, vegetables, and more if the label specifies sale or consumption by a specific date. Contracts over $30,000 would have to be published in the local paper for bids.

• Senate Bill 101 makes it a misdemeanor for first responders—including coroners, EMTs, firefighters, rescue workers and police—to take a photograph or video of a deceased person at the scene of an accident or crime for any purpose other than those related to their official duties. Penalties would be set for no less than $500 and not more than $2,500. The bill also requires forfeiture of the device used to capture the photographs or videos.

Senate Bill 104 establishes the Employment First Council within the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation of the Education and Workforce Cabinet. The EFC will serve as an advisory council to the Governor and the General Assembly to promote increasing meaningful opportunities for competitive integrated employment for citizens with disabilities.

Please feel free to call me about these issues or any other public policy issue toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Ralph.Alvarado@LRC.ky.gov. Be safe. God bless.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester) represents the 28th Senate District, which following redistricting, includes Bath, Clark, Menifee and Montgomery counties and the eastern portion of Fayette County. He serves as chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. He is also a member of the Senate Standing Committees on State and Local Government and Banking and Insurance. He is a liaison member of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources. Additionally, Sen. Alvarado serves as a member of the Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee and the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee.