It’s back to work in Frankfort for the second half of the 2011 legislative session, and I am hopeful this session will be one of progress as we spend the next several weeks discussing bill proposals and passing legislation.
Our return began with the State of the Commonwealth address, which often sets the tone for the remainder of the session. It was encouraging that Gov. Steve Beshear asked that we focus on working in a spirit of bipartisanship. As I have traveled around my district, I constantly hear we need to put our people above politics and solutions above spin. It is a statement that has been heard in the hallways of Frankfort.
It was also encouraging that the governor’s address called upon our leaders in Washington to stop the growing restrictions on one of Kentucky’s most important industries: coal. We remain one of the top producers of coal in the nation, which in the past has allowed us to keep electricity rates low. While I support responsible mining, the bevy of regulations placed on our coal industry has led to higher power bills, lost jobs and has negatively impacted our economy.
The governor also requested during his address that we reopen Kentucky’s Medicaid budget. According to the Governor’s Office, our commonwealth is facing a shortfall in 2011, and wants to move $166.5 million from 2012 to cover the shortfall. Because of a downturn in our economy combined with a growing population of citizens 65 and older, it is essential that we explore ways to continue providing Medicaid services to those who need it. However it is my belief that shifting Medicaid funding from one year to cover another is not being fiscally responsible to taxpayers, and that we should explore other avenues that don’t involve playing a shell game with our tax dollars.
We also began hearing bills in various committees last week. One proposal we took up in the House Education Cabinet was House Bill 225, which seeks to raise the dropout rate from 16 to 18 years old. I cast my vote in favor of the bill during the committee meeting because we must address the high dropout rate we have in Clark County.
Education is the cornerstone for building our economy through a well-educated and well-trained workforce, and we must find ways to keep our students in school. As the session goes along we’ll keep you updated on key bills during the session, including proposals from our agenda entitled “A New Day, A New Direction for Kentucky.”
As always, I welcome your comments and concerns for the upcoming session. I can be reached at home or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181.
A taped message containing information on legislative committee meeting schedules is available by calling 1-800-633-9650, and information on the status of each bill is available by calling 1-866-840-2835.
If you have Internet access, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you may keep track of legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.
Donna Mayfield of Winchester is the state representative for the 73rd House District, which includes Clark County and part of Madison County.