Legislative update: Week three of the session

Published 2:14 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2024

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By Sen. Donald Douglas

Guest Writer

The Kentucky General Assembly reconvened in Frankfort on Tuesday after observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to start the third week of the 2024 Regular Session.

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This week’s notable development was the unveiling of the biennial budget proposal by the state House of Representatives. The proposed bills, House Bill (HB) 6 and HB 1, are now available for review at Bills – Legislative Research Commission. With these proposals in hand, the Senate will begin its review and formulate recommendations. The Senate will actively seek a balanced relationship with all departments in crafting our budget proposal, and the same is accurate as it relates to policy legislation. Our goal is to serve Kentuckians best. The active efforts of your lawmakers, who I can assure you are all working hard and care about the betterment of our communities and state, will remain dedicated to the goals at hand. We will not allow narratives by the media, advocates, or naysayers to dictate our working relationships. I will keep you updated on the pertinent details of the budget as it progresses.

There was an uptick in floor action this week as we passed several Senate bills (SB), including SB 10. This proposed measure aims to amend the Constitution of Kentucky (Section 95) by shifting elections for state constitutional officers to even-numbered years. The objective is to address voter fatigue, boost participation, enhance cost-efficiencies for local governments, and fortify the stability of government at various levels.

Despite recent bipartisan efforts to expand voting access, the 2023 general election saw an 8.7 percent decrease in turnout compared to four years prior. The amendment is anticipated to save local governments about $20 million annually and the state $1.9 million annually in those years that an election would no longer occur. Perhaps the most convincing argument favoring the measure is that voters would be given an additional year free from political campaign ads, mailers, and road signs. All indications are that voters are tired, as Kentucky holds elections three out of every four years. We are an outlier, with only a few other states holding odd-year elections.

If the Kentucky House of Representatives ultimately passes SB 10 and is backed by the majority of Kentucky voters, the amendment would be made to the Constitution of Kentucky. Elections for statewide offices would still occur every four years, starting after the November 2027 election. An additional year would be added to the term of officers elected that year, with the subsequent election set for 2032.

Other bills receiving approval this week include SB 24, which seeks to refine the landscape of managed care organizations contracted by the Department for Medicaid Services. Under its provisions, the department is now limited to engaging with no more than three such entities, a strategic move aimed at enhancing efficiency and optimizing service delivery. Despite having around 2.5 million more residents, Tennessee utilizes only three MCOs. Kentucky can and should do the same. This change, which has long been advocated for by my friend and colleague, Sen. Steve Meredith, was a measure I was happy to support because it will save the state countless taxpayer dollars and decrease costs for the insured. I am honored to serve alongside Chair Meredith as vice chair of the Senate Health Services Committee.

SB 17 also advanced through the Senate. This bill focuses on easing the regulatory burdens related to death certificates for county coroners and vital statistics. This legislative effort is designed to alleviate workloads and set realistic timelines for forensic studies, contributing to a more streamlined and effective system.

To bolster Kentucky’s bourbon and spirits industry and boost tourism, SB 62 successfully passed, which reduces the passenger capacity for riverboats. The proposed threshold, set at 40 or more passengers, facilitates the legal service of alcoholic beverages on these vessels, supporting economic growth and enhancing the appeal of communities along Kentucky’s riverways.

Lastly, SB 63, having garnered approval, proposes a simple technical change by renaming the current Investments in Information Technology Improvement and Modernization Projects Oversight Board to a more understandable Information Technology Oversight Committee.

In closing, I want to let you know I recently had a productive conversation with our Kentucky Department of Education on general education-related issues. The Kentucky Board of Education is in the process of determining a new education commissioner, and the Senate will play a role in approving a new commissioner. I am proud of the communication I have had with officials with KDE, and I am confident we can continue to make strides to serve our students, families, and those within the education system.

Thank you for your continued engagement in the 2024 Regular Session. It is a privilege to represent you in Frankfort.

It’s genuinely humbling to represent you in our commonwealth’s Capitol, and I want you to know that I will never stop fighting for the best interest of the 22nd Senate District. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if I or my staff can assist you by emailing me at Donald.Douglas@lrc.ky.gov or calling toll-free at 1-800-372-7181.

Senator Donald Douglas, M.D., R-Nicholasville, represents the 22nd Senate District, including Garrard and Jessamine Counties and a southwestern portion of Fayette County. Douglas serves as chair of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources. Additionally, Douglas serves as vice chair of Senate Health Services. Douglas is a member of the Senate standing committees on Appropriations and Revenue; Banking and Insurance; and Licensing and Occupations. Additionally, he is a member of the Government Contract Review Statutory Committee and the Legislative Oversight and Investigations Statutory Committee.