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Harris reflects on week in Senate

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After a pause for President’s Day, the Legislature moved into the second half of the 2012 General Assembly Session. I had visits from groups representing adult day health care providers and developmental disabilities. Many Boy Scout troops came to Frankfort for the annual Boy Scout Day at the Capitol. It was a pleasure to see these civic-minded boys and young men and their dedicated troop leaders and parents.

Of the bills we focused on this week, two were of particularly high profile. Senate Bill 1 would restrict the legislature to appropriating no more than 6 percent of General Fund revenues to bonded indebtedness. This is a level generally accepted as the standard by bond rating agencies, as well as a threshold the legislature has historically attempted to operate within. As long as I have been a member, the Senate has always passed a budget with less debt than either the Governor’s or the House’s proposals. We cannot continue paying off the Visa with the MasterCard.  I voted for the bill because setting the limit in statute will provide an additional safeguard against high debt levels in the future, as well as make it easier to prioritize critical programs and services when determining budget allocations.

The measure excludes debt for universities, the Kentucky Housing Authority, and other agencies using funds outside the General Fund, including the stand-alone Road Fund. It also contains a provision allowing the General Assembly to exceed the cap by a majority vote if the Governor declares a state of emergency that would require additional funds. Senate Bill 1 will now go to the House for their consideration.

Finally this week, a bill that would have placed on the November ballot for voter approval a constitutional amendment authorizing casino gambling in Kentucky was defeated 16-21. I fulfilled my commitment to my district by voting to let the people decide on this issue.

Small group sessions continue studying the budget. We are waiting for the House to take action on the budget as they are constitutionally required to do first. But their apparent delay has not stopped the Senate from looking closely at what the Administration is requesting.

Even though there are less than 30 working days left in this legislative session, there is still plenty of time to get involved and have your voice heard on the issues that matter to you.  I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts and concerns.

To learn more about the Kentucky General Assembly and the work of the 2012 Regular Session, visit our home page, www.lrc.ky.gov. You can also call 1-800-633-9650 for a taped message containing information on legislative committee meetings.  To check the status of a bill, you may call the toll-free Bill Status Line at 1-866-840-2835.  

Ernie Harris represents the 26th District in the Kentucky Senate, which includes Carroll, Henry, Oldham, Trimble and part of Jefferson County. He serves on the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, the Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee, the State and Local Government Committee and the Banking and Insurance Committee. Contact him at (800) 372-7181 or TTY (800) 896-0305.