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Harris reviews State of Commonwealth address by Beshear

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The first week of the 2012 Session was a combination of the ceremonial and the new. We gaveled in on Tuesday with the traditional establishment of the membership of the Senate and approval of our chamber’s rules. Over 200 bills have already been filed in the General Assembly and will start making their way through the committee process beginning in earnest next week.

On Wednesday, the Governor gave his State of the Common-wealth address. He spoke of the challenges facing the Common-wealth but, unfortunately, I didn’t hear any concrete proposals to solve them.

For example, he brought up tax reform and expanded gambling with no details to what these two complex policy positions would mean to the tax-payer. While it is good that he is acknowledging the weakness of our job climate at the beginning of his second term, his proposal to bring together a task force to offer recommendations is not constructive. We have had numerous studies done already. I have no idea who will be on the tax force or what their qualifications will be. Last year, the Senate proposed that a group of independent tax experts and economists, not just study the issue, but rewrite the entire tax code. Kentucky has the highest effective personal income tax rate of our surrounding states. That is a fact. What we need is a code that will create wealth through more jobs, not the redistribution of wealth.

The Governor also focused on the expansion of gambling. Again, there was no proposal although I understand that he is looking at a possibility of nine casinos around the state. The details remain elusive. The people need to be informed of all the pros and cons of any proposal in an open and transparent way.

The Senate has offered bipartisan solutions for the above challenges. But we are only one chamber in one branch of state government. We stand ready to work with the Governor where we can. I certainly hope that I will be able to look back four years from now and reflect that he was a governor who had a productive vision for Kentucky and I was able to partner with him to achieve a better home for our children and grandchildren.

Next week, the Senate will be looking at redistricting as we work toward the goal of cohesive and balanced voter districts that meet all the legal requirements of equal representation in Frankfort and Washington, D.C.

This is a very brief overview of how things look in the opening days of this session. It is much too early to predict all of the more than 1000 bills we will consider before the final gavel falls in April.

I will continue to write each week about the work we’re doing in the Senate.  But there are many other ways to stay informed about the legislature, as well.

The Kentucky Legislature Home Page, www.lrc.ky.gov<http://www.lrc.ky.gov>, provides information on each of the Commonwealth’s senators and representatives, including our phone numbers, addressees, and committee assignments.  The site also provides a bill tracking service, and committee meeting schedules.

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.