Legislative update: First week back

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Sen. Greg Elkins

Guest Writer

As we convene the 2024 regular session, I would like first to wish you a happy new year. I hope your holidays were filled with joy and laughter while spending quality time with family and friends.

Email newsletter signup

The Senate convened for day one of the 2024 Legislative Session on Tuesday, January 2, with incredible renditions of our national anthem and “My Old Kentucky Home” by the 100th Army Band, Fort Knox. This was my first official day of session as your state Senator. It’s been an incredible experience, and I remain grateful for your trust in me to serve as your voice for the 28th District.

I will always cherish having my wife Kim alongside me as I entered the Senate chamber for the first time. I very much appreciated the warm welcome my colleagues offered Kim and me. Kim has been by my side long before my day in the Senate chamber, but she remains my rock and source of unwavering support.

While I am still learning about processes and other things, it is already clear that an incredibly well-staffed and experienced Senate body is there to support and guide me. I continue to be astounded by the commitment and attention to detail I have witnessed from the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) and my colleagues since I was sworn into office. It is a true honor to be among dedicated citizens and legislators.

While I continue my learning curve as a freshman senator, I want to offer some insight on information necessary to help understand the ongoing legislative session and, most importantly, how it impacts Kentucky residents’ daily lives.

Legislative sessions in even-numbered years are budget sessions, consisting of 60 legislative days, unlike the shorter 30-day session in odd-numbered years. Short session years are intended to evaluate previously enacted policies and address any necessary legislative clean-up. As the Constitution of Kentucky outlines, the General Assembly must gavel into session on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in January and requires lawmakers to conclude legislative business on April 15. You can view the legislative calendar online at Legislature.ky.gov.

The primary focus in the Senate on Week 1 was to pass this year’s Senate rules, officially confirm committee assignments, and introduce initial legislation.

I was officially appointed to the Senate Standing Committees on Families and Children, Health Services, and State and Local Government. I also filed two bills this week. One is related to railroad safety and another is a straightforward measure that would increase the allowable tint on a windshield.

The only two items constitutionally required by the General Assembly in this year’s legislative session are to enact a new two-year state budget and road plan.

The Kentucky Constitution vests the exclusive power and duty to tax and spend the public’s money to the General Assembly. Our state constitution requires balanced spending with available financial resources, which is good. While the federal government can borrow and incur trillions of dollars in debt, this is not an option for our state government. The precious tax dollars you entrust to your government must be spent with care and discipline, which is my intent as your state senator.

The total amount of taxpayer funding for the next two-year budget and road plan will be based on what was recently set by the Consensus Forecasting Group. According to this group of economic experts’ best estimates, total general fund revenues—which result from sales, income and other taxes—are approximately $31.6 billion over the 2025-2026 biennium, with road fund revenues resulting from gas and motor vehicle taxes are roughly $3.7 billion. The state budget provides for state government operations and essential government services, and the road plans provide for investments in our roads, bridges, and highways.

The state Senate will have the final crack at proposing a state budget and road plan. Our fingerprint will not be applied to the document until a proposal is passed out of the state House of Representatives. I will keep you updated throughout this critical process and will remain an advocate for our district.

On January 1, the second automatic reduction of our state income tax went into effect. House Bill (HB) 8 from the 2022 Legislative Session established the framework by which working Kentuckians’ income tax could be decreased responsibly. During the 2023 Legislative Session, the General Assembly passed HB 1 and codified the first two tax reductions after HB 8’s criteria were met. The January 1 income tax reduction lowers your income tax rate from 4.5 percent to 4 percent. By the end of 2024, HB 8 and the resulting individual income tax reductions will have resulted in approximately $1.8 billion left in the pockets of taxpayers and consumers, providing you more of your own money to spend as you wish.

While the state budget and road plan will be our primary responsibility this session, there are many vital policy items to take care of. Whether mundane or headline-worthy, each proposed measure will receive the debate and deliberation required by the legislative process.

As week one wound down, I participated in an insightful meeting led by Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, director of Chabad of the Bluegrass and the University of Kentucky Jewish Student Center. The focus was on anti-Semitism awareness. As our allies in Israel continue to face unimaginable attacks from Hamas extremists—which resulted in 1,200 dead on October 7—we must come alongside our Jewish brothers and sisters to support one of America’s most trusted allies. Feel free to share your thoughts throughout the session. Find the status of legislation by calling 866-840-2835, legislative meeting information at 800-633-9650, or leaving a message for lawmakers at 800-372-7181. You can watch and follow legislative activity at KET/org/legislature and Legislature.ky.gov.

Senator Greg Elkins, R-Winchester, represents the 28th Senate District, including Bath, Clark, Menifee, and Montgomery Counties and an eastern portion of Fayette County. Elkins is a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Local Government, State Government, Families and Children, and Health Services. He is a liaison member of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Services. Elkins is also an Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee member.

I want to remind you my 2024 Legislative Survey is still available online and will be until Tuesday, February 13. That date is the official mid-point of the session, day 30, and it leaves a week or so for other legislation to be filed if necessary. If you visit my LRC profile page, you will find a survey link below showing our Senate District number. I encourage you to take the time to complete that survey.

You can learn more about these bills and others by visiting legislature.ky.gov and following legislative coverage at KET.org/legislature or on the LRC YouTube Channel. Thank you for staying engaged in the legislative process. You can reach my office by calling 502-564-8100 or by emailing me at Greg.Elkins@lrc.ky.gov. It is an honor to serve you in Frankfort.