The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

January 18, 2012

House knee-deep in important issues

Frankfort — Last week was filled with impassioned and sometimes heated discussions about redistricting as we struggled to meet the constitutional mandate to redraw boundary lines based upon U.S. census data.

The Kentucky General Assembly is bound by the constitution to meet tough demographic standards to comply with the court-mandated one-person, one-vote guidelines.  

It is one of the most difficult things we do in Frankfort and the redistricting process can lead to the loss of long-time constituents, picking up new precincts and in some cases, losing or gaining entire counties.  

Unfortunately, I had to give up 2,000 people on the outskirts of my district, mainly Union City and Moberly areas.

I was sad to lose Rep. Lonnie Napier, but excited about the possibility of another full time representative from Madison County in the 88th district.

This area covers a small portion of Fayette County and most of the eastern part of Madison. After a lively debate, House Bill 1 passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 63-34 and will now go to the Senate for its consideration.

House Bill 255, the Kentucky Green Schools Initiative, was announced last week.

It is a broad collaborative legislative effort that will allow K-12 schools to achieve energy efficiencies, help small and mid-sized manufacturing facilities upgrade their energy systems and create jobs across Kentucky.

This initiative builds upon House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 132, previous energy legislation that the Kentucky General Assembly has passed over the past six years.

The Kentucky Green Schools Initiative will create the Kentucky Green Schools Authority which will tap into a $50 million bond pool previously authorized and other sources of funding.

School districts will be able to apply for loans for energy conservation measures such as new insulation, windows and doors, caulking and weather stripping, HVAC modifications or replacements.  

Another component of the initiative would allow small and medium-sized manufacturers to have access to lower cost capital to achieve energy efficiencies. Industrial revenue bonds would be issued by the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority and used to assist those manufacturers with financing energy conservation projects undertaken through performance contracts.

The initiative also authorizes a pilot program, also established under House Bill 2, to help four schools achieve LEED certification.  

The effort to combat drug addiction continued this week. Experts from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics testified that Kentucky needs to require a prescription for some over-the-counter medications in order to halt the production of methamphetamine.

Kentucky has a tracking system, but these experts and others say that does not go far enough.  

Several bills have been filed on this issue.

One would require Kentuckians to have a prescription for medications with pseudoephedrine.

Another would create a registry of all people convicted of a crime related to methamphetamine who would then be prevented from buying medicine with pseudoephedrine without a prescription. This is a complex issue that will require many more hours of discussion and debate and will certainly be at the forefront of this session.

Improving education remains a top priority. The Education Committee unanimously approved a measure to create a new uniform method to evaluate teachers and school administrators. HB 40 would require the Kentucky Department of Education to develop a consistent evaluation for the entire state as opposed to the many different evaluations now used throughout Kentucky’s 174 school districts.

Finding additional money to support our schools is not easy given these tough economic times. One idea has surfaced again to help school boards generate revenue.

HB 30 would allow school boards to sell advertisements on the sides of school buses. If the bill becomes law then local school boards would have the authority to decide what advertisements could be displayed. Alcohol and tobacco products would be prohibited from advertising.

We’ve only completed week two of the 2012 session of the Kentucky General Assembly and already we’re knee deep in issues and legislation that will have a lasting impact on our commonwealth.  It’s important for me to hear any thoughts or concerns you may have on these ideas, so please leave a message for me or for any legislator at 1-800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 1-800-896-0305.

Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, serves the 81st District in the House of Representatives. She is a member of the  local government, agriculture and veterans committees.

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