The pace of the General Assembly picked up considerably last week as legislators considered a flurry of legislation. A total of 20 bills had passed both chambers as of last week, but that number will likely grow exponentially over the next week. Action on House bills ended last Friday; House members will focus this week on Senate bills and carefully study all Senate revisions to our House bills, including in the budget bills.
While we are still waiting for the Senate to take action on the state road plan, our conference committee is already working to resolve any differences between the House and Senate versions of the executive- and judicial-branch budget bills.
The House did not receive the 2,010-page budget bill from the Senate until last Friday morning, and our staff worked through the weekend analyzing the changes made by the Senate. The conference committee then began the joint discussions Monday morning. A compromise between the two versions of the budget and the (yet to be passed by the Senate) state road plan must be agreed upon and returned to both chambers for approval by the end of this week. The General Assembly will then recess for the required 10-day veto recess. The 2012 session will come to a close April 12 after the governor has exercised a 10-day period that allows him to either sign bills into law or veto them.
Legislation approved by the House in recent days includes the passage of the False Claims Act. House Bill 401 intends to root out fraud and reduce the state’s deficit of millions of dollars by giving whistleblowers strong financial incentives to step forward if state tax dollars are being misused.
The bill would require those who are found guilty to be liable for up to three times the amount they had fraudulently billed the state.
Whistleblowers would be eligible to receive 15 to 30 percent of the money recovered as a reward for their service. Under the bill, Kentucky would also be positioned to receive 10 percent more money recovered under Medicaid fraud. The House passed HB 401 91-1.
Victims of the recent tornadoes would receive an incentive to rebuild in their communities under HB 165. The proposal would provide a 6-percent sales-tax rebate to people affected by the storms in the 21 counties included in the recent presidential disaster declaration. The bill would also provide relief to school systems by allowing for up to 10 emergency or disaster days. It would also guarantee school personnel their wages and benefits from the days they have missed so that they suffer no financial setback. HB 165 was approved by the House 96-0 and will now be considered by the Senate.
In an effort to expand the protection of victims of domestic abuse, HB 498 would extend domestic-violence orders to include people who are dating. The bill would only apply to those dating couples who are 18 years of age or oldaer. HB 498 was approved by the House 87-6.
Kentuckians can be proud of the many legislative initiatives pursued and passed by the House of Representatives during this session. Although hundreds of bills are filed each session, only a small percentage of them are able to withstand the scrutiny of the legislative process. While the process may seem complicated and frustrating at times, our system for making laws provides us with the best opportunity to address Kentucky’s many needs. I’m proud of what we have accomplished so far and look forward to finishing the work of the House in the coming week.
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. You may also reach me by calling my office at 502-564-2217.