State legislation work continues

Brandon Smith State Senator

March 12, 2014

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying; “March comes in like a lion, and leaves like a lamb.” If true, maybe Kentucky will finally get some milder weather as we move toward the end of the month.

This week, I was honored to welcome Dr. Brenda Hughes of Hazard, who is the Director of the Kentucky River Community Care Center and celebrate her recent “Fonetta A. Elam Award for Excellence in Clinical Supervision.” Dr. Hughes has been a strong advocate for Sexual Assault Awareness and I am proud to call her my constituent and friend.

I also welcomed the Bell County Leadership group to Frankfort and was happy to spend time with them and hear their experiences and insights. This year’s impressive group of leaders includes Dakota Albertson, Morgan Baker, Kelly Brown, Jason Bryant, Charlotte Garland, Lakin Daniels, Peter Helman, Rhonda Hensley, Brooke Phipps, Theresa Watkins and Melissa Yeary. Thank you to Brooke Miracle and Candace Evans with the Bell County Chamber for their continued hard work with this worthwhile group.

Work on the floor of the Senate this week centered on cleaning up statutory language, fixing some areas of recent laws and addressing various issues for the commonwealth.

Off of the floor, the members and staff of the Majority Caucus have been busy reviewing the budget situation in preparation for the House’s budget bill. Even though we do not have an actual piece of legislation to work with, we still anticipate certain requests and appropriations, and can be ready to work quickly when the bill comes out of the House. I have been working with officials from each of our counties regarding coal severance and have made great strides for our region in preparing for the House’s budget.

With the budget in mind, I joined as a co-sponsor to Senate Bill 195. This is legislation that would reduce the number of legislative days in even-numbered years to 45. The session in odd years would be reduced to five days and could go up to fifteen if needed.

This proposal would save 7 million dollars annually, and also more accurately reflect a citizen legislature. The tight economic times we are in demand that we all need to produce solutions to reduce the cost of doing business in Frankfort. The budget will be austere for the next biennium, and many state agencies will receive cuts. Therefore, it is only right that the legislature act accordingly. The legislature is tapped to create a budget every two years and to enact legislation necessary for the health, safety and prosperity of our citizens. If we do our jobs effectively, without partisan politics or pandering, I believe the constraints of SB 195 provide more than enough time for all of our duties to be conducted while allowing a wide representation of citizen legislators. Senate Bill 195 will require a constitutional amendment. If it passes this session, the people of Kentucky will vote on the amendment in the November ballot.

Legislation this week included Senate Bill 36 which reduces the time period for the right of redemption of real property from one year to six months. After researching the issue, no cases of redemption after six months could be found. This legislation helps purchasers rehabilitate and sell these properties rather than leaving them empty and vulnerable to crime, vandalism and other misuse that not only hurts the value of the property, but also those in its vicinity. This legislation has obvious impacts in some of our larger cities, but as an advocate for downtown revitalization in our communities, I see great potential for spaces right here at home.

We also took action on youth access to e-cigarettes. Senate Bill 109 would prohibit the sale of “electronic cigarettes” to minors. E-cigarettes are sometimes marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes because they are smokeless. However, they still emit a vaporized form of nicotine to users that is reportedly addictive and unsafe for youth.

I am a firm believer in the Second Amendment and hold it with great respect. Two bills regarding “conceal and carry deadly weapon” (CCDW) license process received passage this week. With the increase of people applying for CCDW, the wait time to receive a license is growing due to the time it takes to process a paper application. A measure to relieve some of this backlog passed this week. Senate Bill 100 speeds up CCDW licensing by a simple measure; allowing electronic applications for licenses and renewals. This will take advantage of modern technology and make the licensing process more efficient. The convenience of the electronic application will cost the applicant ten more dollars, but if the applicant does not want to pay that, the paper application is available at the current cost.

Regarding personal protection, we passed Senate Bill 106, which would permit a person protected by an EPO or DVO to be issued a temporary concealed weapon license for the period of the protective order. A background check by the State Police will have to be conducted, and the recipient will have to receive training within 45 days in order for the provisional to convert to a full CCDW license. Unfortunately, almost all of us know of someone in a potentially dangerous relationship or have seen cases gone badly on the news. Senate Bill 106 will give peace of mind to those in these horrible situations and hopefully prevent terrible tragedies.

If you have any issues or concerns, please call my office in Frankfort at 502-564-2450 or toll free at 1-800-372-7181. I appreciate your time and input.

As legislation continues, I appreciate your comments and input. Please contact me through the Legislative Research Commission’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. Also, you can follow the work of the General Assembly at www.lrc.ky.gov. In addition, you can see activity of our caucus via twitter at @kysenategop.