Senate considers several bills in 2011

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Commonwealth Senate – Sen. Ernie Harris

Usually, the first week of the short legislative session is an organizational week, when the two parties elect their leadership.  This year was different. When we announced the Senate Majority legislative agenda in December, we committed to move aggressively on passing legislation regarding job creation, education, and transparent and responsive government.  With the passage of these bills, the “Agenda for Prosperity,” very few can say we didn’t deliver on that promise this first week.
Jobs and the economy are on the minds of many. Kentucky needs a clear and fair tax code that encourages current businesses to hire more Kentuckians and draws new employers to relocate in the commonwealth. Senate Bill 1 creates an independent commission of tax experts, including economists and accountants who, with assistance from other interested parties, will review, revise, and most importantly, draft a new state and local tax system. If passed during the session, the proposal would be considered by the 2012 General Assembly. An independent panel without a political agenda has the best chance to overhaul an antiquated system.
SB 8 consolidates everything businesses need to file taxes or apply for licenses on one website, enabling employers to cut through government red tape.
Education continues to be a long-standing focus of the Senate. 
We passed SB 13, which will offer financial incentives to teachers whose students do well in math and science advanced-placement exams, and SB 3, which allows voluntary charter schools authorized by the local school district. These bills prepare students for the work needs of the future and provide parents with a choice on the education of their children.
Five bills addressed the need for transparent and responsive government. SB 4 increases accountability of public officials by demanding more frequent reporting of campaign contributions, restricting contributions from lobbyists, and perhaps most significantly, moves the filing deadline to file as a candidate from late January to after the legislative session. This allows the public to review a legislator’s full record before casting a vote.
SB 7 put the financial data from all three branches of government and state-funded universities online. 
SB 5 requires any bill that deals with appropriations to be posted at least 48 hours prior to legislative voting.
SB 11 gives Kentucky officials another tool to aggressively prosecute those who attempt to defraud the state’s Medicaid program.
The Senate also moved forward with protecting our traditional values. SB 10 is a constitutional amendment similar to what we passed last year.  The legislation protects Kentuckians’ sovereignty under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by banning federal mandates forcing the purchase of health insurance on individuals, prohibiting expanded gambling without a vote of the people, affirming the free practice of religion, promoting coal over environmental extremists, and guaranteeing the right to hunt and fish. SB 9 enhances the informed-consent statutes on the books by ensuring a face-to-face meeting between a woman considering an abortion and her doctor – as opposed to a recorded message. It also requires doctors to make available ultrasound images of the unborn baby to the mothers. Finally, SB 6 will help local governments uphold federal immigration laws.
While I remain the chairman of the Transportation Committee, I am also serving on the Appropriations and Revenue; the Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor; and the Natural Resources and Energy committees. 
The General Assembly will now take a three-week break and then come back in February to consider any further bills as well as any bills that the House may pass. 

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.