1. Abortion waiting period - "focusing once again on the rights of the unborn" - "no state funding goes to Planned Parenthood"
2. Transparency in retirement systems
3. Preventing frivolous medical malpractice -
4. Judicial redistricting
5. Changing gubernatorial elections -"from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years,"
I hope you and your family enjoyed a wonderful Christmas season and a happy New Year. A new year also means a new legislative session of the Kentucky General Assembly. Tuesday, January 5, marked the beginning of a 60-day session that will run through mid-April. In this session we hope to address the numerous important issues facing our state, keeping the common theme of creating Kentucky jobs, and strengthening Kentucky families.
One of the most important bills we are working on in 2016 will be passing a comprehensive budget bill and road plan which will be implemented from July 2016 to June 2018. Although we have seen some slight increases in general fund returns, new costs related to public employee pensions and state-implemented Medicaid will place a greater burden on our budget than in years past.
Senate Leadership rolled out 13 bills, identified as priority legislation, on Wednesday and one of the most critical was Senate Bill 2. This measure would make our state employee pension systems (KRS, KTRS, and JFRS) more transparent in their transactions, more accountable in how they contract with third parties for services, and ensure that the board of trustees of KRS and KTRS have the investment experience necessary to professionally guide these organizations.
We also will be focusing once again on the rights of the unborn. If you have followed the investigation of Planned Parenthood in 2015, you know that there is a major concern about that organization. We would like to ensure that no state funding goes to Planned Parenthood. Likewise, we will bring an additional bill forward to better promote informed consent for women who may be considering an abortion. We value life, no matter how long an unborn baby has been in a mother's womb, which is why we believe those considering abortion should be required to have a face-to-face meeting with a physician, rather than simply listening to a pre-recorded message.
In the health-care realm, which is one of Kentucky's biggest economic drivers, we will be focusing on legislation working to prevent frivolous malpractice lawsuits which drive health provider jobs away from our state. Creating an appeals process for Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) will also be a priority for health-care accountability. This legislation would allow health-care providers to appeal to the Department of Medicaid Service for service cost determinations instead of the current law which only allows providers to appeal directly to the MCO.
Redistricting of the judicial branch has also come to the forefront of the Senate's conversation. While the legislative branch is required to redistrict every 10 years in order to balance the ever-changing constituent landscape, judicial districts have not been updated for several decades. Judicial redistricting on the same legislative schedule would balance population and caseloads throughout the state and make Kentuckians equally represented in the court system.
Research shows that over a million Kentuckians show up to vote in a federal election year, but only hundreds of thousands show up to vote for their future governor in odd-numbered years. A new bill proposed in the Senate would move gubernatorial elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, including more Kentuckians in the process of selecting their new state leader. This measure would not extend the term of the current governor and would save an estimated $20 million over each election cycle.
We have heard the voice of Kentuckians from across the state and crafted this legislation by listening to your concerns and ideas. Thank you for your support, and please do not hesitate to contact me at my Frankfort office at any time. I look forward to what this new year and new Senate session will bring to Kentucky.
If you have any questions or comments about the issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181. You can also review the Legislature's work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.