Legislative Update from State Representative Dennis Keene
As we conclude our first month of work in the General Assembly each day sheds new light on the serious financial challenges that confront our state and our citizens. Legislators received more details this week about the financial condition of state government from the governor’s budget director and other constitutional officers.
We are concentrating on ways to create new jobs, strengthen education and make Kentucky a better place to live. We are working through hundreds of bills to find common sense solutions to meet our needs.
Answering students’ complaints and adhering to Kentucky State Auditor’s recommendations, House Education Chair Carl Rollins and, I as chair of the House Licensing and Occupations Committee, have filed a bill to strengthen oversight of Kentucky’s proprietary or for-profit colleges. Last year, State Auditor Crit Luallen conducted an extensive audit of Kentucky’s 122 for-profit colleges. Complaints about high tuition, lack of job assistance and education, and a gross lack of financial accountability prompted the audit.
House Bill 308 would abolish the current State Board for Proprietary Education (BPE) and establish the Kentucky Commission on Proprietary Education, an independent agency of the Commonwealth attached to the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet for administrative purposes.
The legislation would require the new Kentucky Commission on Proprietary Education to establish membership of commission reducing the number of proprietary school representatives so that they don’t comprise a majority of the commission’s membership (6 to 4) and decrease appointed members’ terms to two consecutive terms. I believe that we need to protect students from unscrupulous practices and this new commission will go a long way in meeting that primary goal. I will inform you of House Bill 308’s progress as we move it through the legislative process.
The House of Representatives showed its support for our military and veterans by passing two measures. House members approved House Bill 71 which would exempt the estates of members of the military or law enforcement who were killed in the line of duty from probate fees.
The House also passed HB 221 allowing a veteran when renewing his or her driver’s license or state identification card to have a veteran designation on that card with the presentation of a DD-214. HB 221 passed by a vote of 96-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Creating jobs is the intent of HB 246 which would expand energy incentives to the manufacturing sector of the economy. The bill broadens the incentives passed in the 2007 Special Session’s House Bill 1 to include manufacturers who produce the pieces and parts required to build new energy facilities. The bill passed unanimously out of the Energy and Tourism Development Committee meeting.
Education continues to be at the top of our priority list. A bill to improve school councils requiring at least one parent representative of a school council to reside within the boundaries of the local school district passed out of the House this week. HB 89 would also prohibit non-tenured teachers from serving on school councils unless no tenured teachers are willing or are available to serve. The House voted 62-33 to approve HB 89.
HB 168 works to insure that the 70,000 Kentucky students now enrolled in alternative education programs have quality teachers. The bill would prohibit superintendents from assigning a teacher to an alternative education program who is on probation or the subject of a corrective action. HB 168 was passed by the House 90-8.
The House Agriculture Committee unanimously passed two resolutions to address the concerns of Kentucky farmers. House Concurrent Resolution 76 urges a study of the growth of wild pig populations in Kentucky and would address the dangers and problems that wild swine present for famers and landowners. House Resolution 62 would urge the U.S. Department of labor to withdraw a proposed regulation which would keep kids from being able to work on their family farm. Both pieces of legislation await the full House consideration.
Four weeks into the session and we are picking up the pace. You can stay informed of legislative action on bills of interest to you by logging onto the legislative Research Commission website at www.lrc.ky.gov or by calling the LRC toll free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835. To find out when a committee meeting is scheduled, you can call the LRC toll- free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650.