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In one key way, legislative sessions are a lot like March Madness: The intensity picks up as the number of days winds down. That makes this week, then, the General Assembly’s version of the Final Four.
By Friday, the House and Senate will wrap up 59 of the 60 days set aside for considering bills. If all goes as scheduled in the next few days, we will finalize a budget to run state government for the next two years; approve landmark legislation to tackle the twin epidemic of dangerous synthetic drugs and prescription drug abuse; and finalize numerous other initiatives designed to move Kentucky forward. After that, only one day – April 12th – will remain, which will be used to consider any vetoes Gov. Beshear might issue.
Already, several noteworthy bills have already been sent to him this month. If signed into law as expected, they will do such things as create an adoption assistance program for those in the Kentucky National Guard and let counties operate just one polling place in special elections for an open General Assembly seat if only one candidate is on the ballot.
Another bill tied to a specific event in 2010 will also be sent to the governor after the House gave final passage on Wednesday. In this case, we want to make sure those buying cattle are more strictly monitored. This was filed in response to the Eastern Livestock bankruptcy case, which saw cattle farmers and stockyards in Kentucky and many other states lose millions of dollars.
While those bills are all but guaranteed to become law in the days ahead, the House passed several others this past week that we hope will join them.
That includes a bill to include dating couples among those groups eligible for domestic violence orders. Kentucky is one of just four states that does not allow victims in these situations to obtain a DVO.
Another initiative making it through the House this past week would add Kentucky to the list of states having a false claims act. This is designed to give private citizens financial incentive to come forward if they know of fraud involving state tax dollars.
It would make those found guilty of this crime liable for up to three times the amount they had fraudulently billed the state, and the whistleblowers could receive between 15 to 30 percent of this total.
This is not small change, either. Since 1986, the beginning of the modern era of this bill – the concept dates back to the Civil War – more than $25 billion has been recovered by the federal government and the states that have this legislation.
Although it is not law yet, there is broad agreement in the House and Senate for a proposal to give some much-needed relief to victims of the deadly storms that plagued Kentucky on March 2nd, including Carroll and Trimble counties. This legislation, which unanimously passed the House on Thursday, would give a sales tax exemption on building materials that affected communities need to rebuild. It also would ensure that schools in these areas do not lose any state funding for missing days due to storm damage.
Although the end of the legislative session is in sight, there is still a brief time to let me know your views on the issues before us. I hope to hear from you soon.
Rick Rand, D-Bedford, represents the 47th House District in the Kentucky General Assembly. He may be reached by writing to Room 351C, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601, or leave a message at (800) 372-7181 – TTY (800) 896-0305.