The “people’s house” certainly lived up to its moniker this week. Citizens of the Commonwealth descended upon the capital city in droves to advocate for and against a number of issues. I was particularly happy to see so many folks from the 28th District.
It was awesome to meet with resident physicians from UK Hospital and get to talk with the next generation of healthcare professionals. We spoke on several health-related initiatives, but much of our conversation centered on the public school campus smoke-free legislation I filed. No one is more aware of the long-term damage and cost associated with smoking in our state than these future doctors, and I am glad to know they will continue to educate individual patients so that the health of our citizens can improve.
I also got to meet leadership groups from the Mount Sterling and Winchester Chambers of Commerce. As you might imagine, these conversations focused on economic development. We spoke positively about the ambitious first week of this session in which we passed business-friendly bills and improved Kentucky’s economic prospects dramatically. It’s great to feel that excitement from business owners and entrepreneurs back home!
My local officials came by to ensure that local issues are considered even during this short session, and I also met with the local Home Builder’s Association on a number of development initiatives. Finally, I spoke with teachers about charter schools, school calendars, pension funding and the unnecessary bureaucracy that keeps good teachers from being able to teach. With passage of Senate Bill 1, we hope to change that.
I would be remiss if I did not mention my meeting with Cathy Edwards from the Kentucky Protection and Advocacy Group. Ms. Edwards and I had a great conversation about protecting Medicaid funding for people with disabilities and ways to continue making the Commonwealth more user-friendly and handicap-accessible to all its citizens. We spoke about, among other things, improving access to the Capitol building for people using a wheelchair, and I let her know I would take those concerns to the Governor’s Office for consideration. I love having a chance to speak about big-picture issues like these because much of my day is spent studying details. Thanks to Cathy Edwards and all constituents who made the trip to Frankfort to share their concerns. While I made nearly every scheduled appointment this week, there were a few groups I was unable to see because I was spontaneously called into committee to give testimony on legislation. If I missed you, I apologize, and my office will be in touch to reschedule.
Now an update on Senate Bill 78, which makes public school campuses smoke free. Last week I spoke of its prospects and am happy to report that for the first time, smoke-free legislation was called up for a vote in front of the full Senate body and was passed. The bill now moves to the House chamber to begin the journey all over again. I have been in contact with my House colleagues and have given my full support of the measure. I urge you to contact your elected officials in the House and ask their support of this legislation, which will dramatically improve the health of Kentucky and help curb the highest youth smoking rate in the nation.
The Senate also passed my minor identity theft and landlord dog bite bills, which also go to the House for consideration. These bills received bipartisan support, and I await their passage from the House chambers.
Finally, Senate Bill 1, filed by my colleague and great friend Senator Mike Wilson, passed the Senate chamber and will be accepted by the House of Representatives. This is not the first time the Senate has taken action on this bill, but it is the first time that we sent it to the House with the expectation that it will at least receive a committee hearing on its merits — something that did not happen last year. Senate Bill 1 was drafted with input from teachers and education professionals throughout the state. The bill has been nicknamed the “let teachers teach” bill because that is exactly the core philosophy behind the bill. We aim to cut piles of bureaucracy and paperwork that confine teachers to their desks instead of allowing them to educate and inspire their students. I applaud Senator Wilson’s hard work on this bill and look forward to its progress in the House.