This week the Senate passed important bills addressing the state’s General Fund debt, economic development, healthcare, and school safety.
As we continue to add more debt than we pay off, Senate Bill 10 is an effort to rein in the state’s rapidly growing debt by capping it at 6% of revenues. Hopefully, this will improve the state’s bond rating, or credit score. The measure excludes debt for universities, the Kentucky Housing Authority, and other agencies not using the General Fund, as well as the Road Fund.
Senate Bill 50, legislation that would establish a framework for industrial hemp farming if the crop is legalized by the federal government, was approved by a 31-6 vote. If the bill becomes law, we would still need to wait for federal legislation to enable hemp production. As a farmer, I have built my life and made my living in rural Kentucky, so I know Kentucky’s climate is ideal for growing hemp. As we look to the future, Kentucky would be positioned to reap the economic benefits of the potential jobs from the production of goods made with hemp, including cars, ropes, clothes and cosmetics. Some expressed concerns that the regulation would put an undue burden on law enforcement and other agencies enforcing marijuana laws since hemp is similar to marijuana in appearance. Under the bill, state and local law enforcement would receive notification of licenses, with exact GPS coordinates of hemp crop locations, and would be allowed to inspect fields. Crops not used for research purposes would be at least ten acres in size. The bill also requires documentation from a licensed hemp grower when transporting hemp from a field or other production site.
Improving our state budget and growing jobs are top priorities. The Senate passed legislation that would boost jobs by making it easier for physician’s assistants to work in Kentucky. The measure would change our credentialing standards to more closely match those of surrounding states. We hope this would encourage more physician’s assistants to stay in the Commonwealth to provide much-needed health service to our citizens. Quality healthcare and a healthy workforce are essential to economic development.
Another healthcare measure passed this week was Senate Bill 3, legislation that would permit religious ministry cooperatives that allow members to share one another’s medical bills to operate in Kentucky as an alternative to traditional health insurance. This religious-based medical needs sharing program has helped hundreds of people in our state afford their medical bills.
Lastly, based on recommendations from the Kentucky Center on School Safety, the Senate unanimously passed legislation that would require schools to establish an emergency plan, conduct emergency drills twice per year and share the school diagram with local first-responders. Additionally, school superintendents would be required to certify their schools and have their emergency plans in place and updated annually. This low-cost common sense approach will go far toward keeping our children safe.
All these bills now move to the House for their consideration. If you have any questions or comments about the issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.
Senator Stan Humphries (R-Cadiz) represents the 1st District including representing Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Lyon and Trigg counties. He is the Chairman of the Capital Planning Advisory Board and the Budget Review Subcommittee on Education, as well as the Vice-Chair of both the Education Committee and the State and Local Government Committee. He is a member of the Appropriations and Revenue Committee and the Agriculture Committee.