News Archives – 2014

Legislative Interim Period Now Underway

FRANKFORT, Ky. – In 1968, the Kentucky General Assembly established an interim committee system to cover the time period between regular legislative sessions. The scope and functions of this system have broadened over the years and in 1979, a constitutional amendment was adopted in an effort to strengthen the system by assuring that legislators serve on these panels to get an introduction to issues before a session convenes.

During the interim – defined as the months from June to December – committee meetings are used to discuss and weigh potential legislation that may be introduced during a regular session. Interim committees are made up of the standing committees of both the Senate and House and referred to as an Interim Joint Committee.

I currently serve on four of these committees – Agriculture, Licensing and Occupations, State Government, and Local Government. As the majority floor leader, I also attend a monthly leadership meeting to discuss issues that affect our entire caucus, and I serve on the Legislative Research Commission comprised of members of leadership from the House and Senate Majority and Minority caucuses.

While our most visible work is done during regular sessions, a great deal of work leading up to those sessions is done during the interim. During each session of the General Assembly, legislators often direct the LRC to study specific issues needing immediate attention – issues that often require more scrutiny than the brief regular sessions can provide, and that are so important that they warrant a special study panel.

In addition, we meet with advocates and opponents on issues we cover during the interim, and we have staff available to research topics when appropriate. We undertake in-depth studies of new issues and we monitor progress of newly enacted laws. By doing these things during interim months, we can try to work out differences between parties and come up with legislation that will make its way through the process in a more efficient manner.

Because our time constraints aren’t as tight as during session, we occasionally hold these meetings outside Frankfort. This allows constituents to attend meetings that they may not otherwise be able to attend when they are held in Frankfort.

You can find a schedule of weekly committee meetings by visitinghttp://www.lrc.ky.gov/legislative_calendar/index.aspx .

Some of the topics that may come up for discussion during the current interim are the use and regulation of hemp in Kentucky, the redrawing of precincts for census purposes, military voting and public pensions.

During the interim, I still maintain an office in Frankfort. Please call me with any questions, comments, or concerns at 502-564-8100 or toll-free at 800-372-7181. If you miss watching the proceedings on KET, meetings are archived at www.ket.org. You can also find me on Twitter by searching for @damon_thayer.

I hope you have a great summer, and I look forward to hearing from you about issues of concern to you and your community.


The 2014 General Assembly Adjourns

With the crack of the gavel, the 2014 legislative session adjourned sine die on midnight April 15. The session produced measures that will affect economic development, appropriate funds for state government for the next two years, public health, safety and education. Of course, as with every session, there were measures that did not succeed. But the beauty of our system is that there is always another day for the issues that did not see a resolution.
Successes this session include passing a fiscally responsible budget with less debt ratio and structural imbalance than those proposed by the House of Representatives and the governor. Additionally, we passed important health-related measures that will have positive effects on the well-being and medical needs of our citizens.

Additionally, we added language to the budget that prohibits using state funds to operate Obamacare programs and the medical exchange, which was unilaterally implemented by the governor. If the federal dollars run out in the future, Kentucky can opt out.

We banned e-cigarettes for our minors, made legal the cannabidiol oil that can provide relief to those with major seizure disorders, created an adult abuse registry for the safety of our adults in assisted living. We also passed a bill to broaden access to dental care for children who otherwise can’t afford it. The compassion for Kentuckians and the access to needed services was obvious throughout the session and we rose to the occasion on these matters.

Education benefited this session as well, as funding for our public schools was increased and educator salaries were increased. We also expanded preschool, increased per-pupil funding for elementary and secondary schools and authorized capital construction projects on many college campuses across the state.
Several bills were approved to protect vulnerable and victimized citizens and expanding medical training for doctors regarding pediatric abusive head trauma with House Bill 157. Senate Bill 184 passed this session, and victims of human trafficking will be allowed to have non-violent offenses resulting from trafficking cleared from their record. With the passage of HB 128 anyone granted an emergency protective or domestic violence order can apply for and receive a provisional concealed carry weapons permit in one business day after undergoing a background check.

We sought to provide an economic and employment boost to the state through a bourbon barrel tax credit, angel investor tax credit and “new markets” tax credit included in HB 445. With the passage of HB 396, we also expanded eligibility for the Kentucky Jobs Retention Act benefits to include appliance manufacturers.

With the session complete, we’ll head back home now to meet with constituents, keep an eye on the progress of these new laws and study issues through the interim.

Your input on the issues facing the state, as always, is important to me. I invite you to contact me with issues or concerns in Frankfort at 800-372-7181 or 502-564-3120, or e-mail me at[email protected].


The Final Weeks of the 2014 Session

April 14 and 15 are the last two days of this year’s General Assembly. This week, members met in Frankfort about pending legislation. During the final two days of the session, we will review any vetoes made by the Governor, act on bills that are still in the process, and will vote to pass the biennial Road Plan, a very important budget piece for roads and bridges.

As the conference committee negotiated the final budget, we were able to reach a compromise on most items. We led the charge in reducing borrowing and spending. We found efficient and responsible ways to fund educational technology. Some of the key items of the final budget bills follow.

The Senate prioritized a more fiscally responsible plan than the original budget proposal. The final budget borrows less money and uses less one-time money to pay recurring expenses than the proposals from the Governor and House. That means both the debt service ratio and structural imbalance are lower.

In addition to fiscal responsibility, we prioritized giving all Kentucky students the opportunity for quality education. The final budget supports Kentucky’s education efforts from preschool to college. The plan will expand the state’s preschool program in 2016, increase K-12 per-pupil (SEEK) funding, and add nearly $10 million for education technology.

Also, there is additional funding for Career and Technical Education to fill vacant teaching positions at vocational schools throughout the state. Also retained were increased funding for college scholarships through the Kentucky Tuition Grants (KTG) and the College Access Program (CAP).
The budget also includes pay raises for state employees for the first time since 2008, most of whom are taking home less now than several years ago due to increased insurance cost. The final budget includes raises for public school teachers and judicial branch employees as well.

We were also able to avoid requiring libraries and health departments to pay for Property Valuation Administrators to collect taxes, as proposed by the Governor. This would have put a large strain on the budgets of these important public services. This was not implemented due to additional general fund support to PVAs instead of placing the entire burden on special districts.

This budget adds stability to Kentucky’s retirement systems. It fully funds the Kentucky Employee Retirement System’s Actuarially Recommended Contribution (ARC), and provides $372.3 million in FY15 and $380.5 million in FY16 for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System employer match for qualified local school district employees.

We also made sure to include language provisions to ensure taxpayer dollars are used responsibly. For example, the budget specifies that no general fund dollars may be used for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, which has been done without legislative approval with the promise it would be paid for by federal funds. Likewise, funds received as a result of the ACA may not be used to permanently expand or create programs.

Besides the focal point of passing these important budget bills, we also acted upon other House and Senate bills. Some Senate bills went through the House and we concurred with changes. Other House bills were acted upon in our chamber and sent back to the House.

To encourage outside business to come to our state, we passed House Bill 488, which gives tax breaks to national corporations holding conferences in Kentucky.

Senate Bills that were sent to the Governor for signature included Senate Bill 98, which will create an adult abuse registry and require agencies that employ adult caregivers to check the registry database before hiring a personal care staff member. The registry would be maintained by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and would also be available for individuals or families seeking to hire a caregiver. Currently, nursing homes, adult care agencies and families have no way of knowing if a potential employee has been fired for confirmed abuse or neglect. An adult abuse registry will help employers hire responsible caregivers, and more importantly, will better protect our vulnerable citizens from harm.

Senate Bill 109 will prohibit the sale of “electronic cigarettes” to minors. These e-cigarettes are sometimes marketed and sold as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes because they are smokeless. However, they still emit a vaporized form of nicotine to users that many have found is addictive and unsafe for youth.

Senate Bill 124 will allow research and limited medical use of cannabis oil. Under the measure, doctors at the state’s two university research hospitals can prescribe the oil to patients, as well as conduct studies of its effectiveness. The oil has been used as an effective treatment for certain medical conditions, especially pediatric epilepsy. The measure has been named the Clara Madeline Gilliam Act in honor of a Kentucky baby who suffers from pediatric epilepsy.

The budget and many other bills are now in the hands of the Governor, who must choose whether to sign or veto the measures. The Governor has the authority on budget bills to line-item veto specific provisions if he chooses to do so. When the General Assembly returns to Frankfort on April 14 for the final two days of the session, any vetoes may be overridden by a majority vote of both the House and Senate.

Your input on the issues facing the state, as always, is important to me. I invite you to contact me with issues or concerns in Frankfort at 800-372-7181 or 502-564-3120, or e-mail me at[email protected].


Senator Damon Thayer’s Legislative Update, 3-28-14

This was a critical week as we continued to hash out state budget details with the House in a conference committee after passing our versions of the budget bills. Conference committees are reviewing the Executive, Judicial and Legislative Budgets for the next two years, as well as the state’s road plan. There are many different opinions and philosophies on how to spend the money, raise revenue and support the important public services for Kentucky. The budget is the ultimate statement of priorities for the Commonwealth.

On Wednesday, we approved our version of the Road Plan which includes the Louisville bridges project, West Kentucky bridges project, Brent Spence Bridge project in Northern Kentucky, as well as other road projects. A separate bill that includes an operational budget for the Transportation Cabinet, as well as appropriations for statewide road and bridge projects found in the road plan bill, cleared the Senate Transportation Committee later that day and is expected to come before the full Senate soon.

Of particular interest to me is the funding of the Brent Spence Bridge project, which carries 5% of the national gross domestic product. The House and the governor propose tolling to pay for this bridge, and I strongly oppose this measure. Tolling would lead to diversion of traffic and congestion on the other bridges for daily commuters. It is an unfair approach for citizens of Kentucky.

We also cut the proposed gas tax increase included in a revenue measure sent to us by the House with their version of the budget. Other provisions of that bill, such as the sale of abandoned property, would still generate more than $20 million for the General Fund over the next biennium.

The main items we changed in the House’s executive budget bill were adjustments that reduced our borrowing, reduced the bonding and spends money more efficiently and wisely. We lowered the debt service ratio (that is the percent of current revenue we direct to paying debt payments) from 7.05 percent in the House to 6.26 percent. Also, we increased the budget reserve trust fund to $125 million. We also reduced the structural imbalance (the amount by which current spending is more than recurring revenue) from the proposed $231 million to $153 million. Regarding the road plan, we removed the 1.5 cent gas tax increase that the House proposed.

Education is a key piece of our budget, and always high on the list of priorities. The House’s budget had appropriated $50 million in school technology bonds to fund devices for schools. This means that Kentucky would pay 10 years on equipment that had an average life of three to four years. We did not agree with this method, however, we know updated technology is essential for our students and classrooms. So, we found a better way to fund this initiative. We can provide the equipment, expand the bandwidth for classrooms and implement a statewide Information Technology Academy program with $6.6 million. This plan uses a federal E-rate program that will pay for 80 percent of the bandwidth investment, and also can be used for devices for classrooms.

Another big ticket item is healthcare. This year, as the Obamacare program was implemented, the state obligations to provide healthcare to uninsured people changed. Under our budget plan, no state funds can be used for Obamacare because the federal government is committed to its funding. If those commitments change, we can opt out of both the exchange and expanded Medicaid. We also redirected the funds of the Quality and Charity Care Trust for University of Louisville. Obamacare is the ultimate social net, and if it is working as proponents claim, the additional money is not necessary, and can be spent in another area of need.

Though we had differences of borrowing limits and indebtedness, there were several aspects of the House’s budget with which we concurred. We agreed to fully fund the actuarially required contribution of both the Kentucky Employee Retirement System and the Kentucky State Police Retirement System.

The budget bill is an all encompassing document that cannot be explained in a few paragraphs, but these are the high points. I do want to point out another major savings we wrote into the budget was to authorize $270 million in agency bonds as opposed to the House’s proposed $974 million.

Work continues in a conference committee, of which I am a member, and changes will be made, but we will work hard to preserve fiscal accountability, which our constituents deserve.

Your input on the issues facing the state, as always, is important to me. I invite you to contact me with issues or concerns in Frankfort at 800-372-7181 or 502-564-3120, or e-mail me at[email protected].


Senator Damon Thayer’s Legislative Update, 3-21-14

This week, the Senate acted on legislation that will help school districts plan for the remaining school year. House Bill 211 specifies how districts can adjust their calendars, many of which have been greatly upset by the inclement winter weather. The bill allows flexibility for districts, permitting them to submit a plan to make up the time missed to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) detailing how each will meet the required 1,062 hours of instruction, upon which school funding is based.

For the school districts that cannot attain 1,062 hours, because of the overwhelming amount of days missed due to weather, the commissioner of KDE will have flexibility to help these districts work out a plan to meet the needs of their students, and on a case by case basis, waive the hours that cannot be reached. Differences are being worked out with the House.

Seeking to create more opportunity for Kentuckians seeking office, we passed legislation I sponsored, Senate Bill 205, which would permit a candidate to seek two federal offices in the same election year. The philosophy behind the measure holds that when a Kentuckian is a potential nominee for President or Vice President, it is good for the state, and he or she should be allowed to pursue the office, even while a candidate for the United States Congress. Historically, this has been legal in other states. For example, Vice Presidential candidates Lyndon Johnson, Joseph Biden, Joseph Lieberman and Paul Ryan all ran for their federal legislative seat while running for Vice President. The legislation is similar to Wisconsin’s which permitted Congressman Paul Ryan to be on the ballot for the U.S. House and Vice President in 2012.

Senate Bill 221 passed as well. This is a very important piece of legislation that will give the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate standing to intervene in judicial proceedings in which the constitutionality of any Kentucky statute or constitutional provision is challenged. Recently, Attorney General Jack Conway refused to defend the Kentucky Constitutional provision stating that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This bill would assure that the Senate President and House Speaker can go to court to defend our laws when the other constitutional officers will not fulfill their duty.

Senate Bill 221 would also require that funds obtained by the Commonwealth, by judgment or settlement, must be deposited in the general fund surplus account (rainy day fund) for future appropriation by the General Assembly. This year, Attorney General Conway obtained a sizeable settlement against certain drug manufacturers and has attempted to spend the settlement funds without appropriation by the General Assembly, which is required by the Kentucky Constitution.

The Senate also passed Senate Bill 194, which would require local option elections for alcohol sales to be conducted on primary or general election days rather than on separate dates resulting in great savings for counties. A review of recent local option elections show that voter turnout for these special elections is extremely low, averaging 7 percent or less, and the cost to counties to hold elections is very high. In one case, a county ended up averaging a cost of $200 per vote to hold the special election where only 13 people showed up at the polls. One provision of the legislation would allow a special local option election to be held outside of the general or primary day as long as the petitioner covered the cost.

We also passed Senate Bill 195, a measure that would decrease the number of legislative days of General Assembly sessions every two years from 90 to 60, and increase flexibility on how and when to use the days allotted. It will return the institution to its founding basis, a citizen legislature, and save taxpayers $3 million annually.

Your input on the issues facing the state, as always, is important to me. I invite you to contact me with issues or concerns in Frankfort at 800-372-7181 or 502-564-3120, or e-mail me at[email protected].


Senator Damon Thayer’s Legislative Update, 3-14-14

On Thursday, the 45th day of the legislative session, the House of Representatives passed its version of the Governor’s budget for the next biennium. This leaves the Senate only 13 days to work on the budget, present it in a committee, and vote on a Senate version.

A multibillion-dollar budget that funds education, health care services, infrastructure, public safety and many other critical public services deserves more scrutiny than 13 days. This isn’t a great deal of time. But it is what we are left with, so we are obligated to make it work.

As we study the House’s proposal, more information will come out regarding our response, priorities and review in the next week.

Among bills passed this week, Senate Bill 124 would provide legal access to cannabidiol oil, which is derived from the hemp plant used to treat people with epilepsy and seizure disorders. Children with this illness in some cases have hundreds of seizures per day.

Cannabidiol does not produce any psychoactive or intoxicating effects. Instead, studies have shown that the oil successfully aids children suffering from seizure disorders. It is critical that families dealing with this issue have access to this product. Simply put, it impacts their child’s quality of life. The bill passed the Senate Thursday with no opposition.

Senate Bill 108 also passed this week. This bill would provide that a person convicted of a felony offense of rape in which a child was born as a result of the offense shall lose parental rights with respect to that child; provide for an exception at the request of the mother; and provide that a court shall impose an obligation of child support against the offender unless waived by the mother and, if applicable, a public agency supporting the child.

We also had a lively debate on the core content that has been adopted by Kentucky schools. Senate Bill 224, which I co-sponsored, would prohibit Kentucky from adopting the national common core content and require the Department of Education to create new standards that exceed the national common core. At stake is ensuring Kentucky students are ready and prepared for college and a career after graduation. The core content does not provide desirable mathematic and language arts skills for Kentucky students. We heard testimony from several education experts regarding the failure of the common core to address student needs.

Your input on the issues facing the state, as always, is important to me. I invite you to contact me with issues or concerns in Frankfort at 800-372-7181 or 502-564-3120, or e-mail me at[email protected].


Senator Damon Thayer’s Legislative Update, 3-07-14

The Senate continued work this week, and recognized an historic event. On Wednesday, many lawmakers joined thousands of Kentuckians gathered along Capitol Avenue to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Frankfort led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a cold and blustery March 5, 1964, when Dr. King, along with 10,000 others, marched up to the front door of our capital in support of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.

Regarding the work on the floor, Senate Bill 81 passed our chamber this week, and generated a lot of discussion. The bill would define terms regarding employment, specifically “contractor”, “person”, “prime contractor” and “subcontractor.” Under the bill, any person determined to be independent contractor is not eligible for employee benefits or wages. It would also allow for an appeal process to circuit court in the county where the person resides or where the person has a principal office.

Other legislation cleaned up law from previous sessions. Senate Bill 83 tightens up alcoholic beverage control law, which received an overhaul in 2013. It also reclassifies cider that is less that 7% alcohol as a malt beverage. Previously, cider had been classified as wine. SB 83 also creates a class B distillery for micro-distilleries producing up to 50,000 gallons per year.

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. But they still emit a vaporized form of nicotine to users that is reportedly addictive and unsafe for youth.

Two bills regarding the “concealed carry deadly weapon” (CCDW) license process also received passage 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.

To address personal protection of those under threat of violence, Senate Bill 106 would permit a person protected by an EPO or DVO to be issued a temporary CCDW 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.

Your input on the issues facing the state, as always, is important to me. I invite you to contact me with issues or concerns in Frankfort at 800-372-7181 or 502-564-3120, or e-mail me at[email protected].


Senator Damon Thayer’s Legislative Update, 2-28-14

March promises many things here in the Commonwealth, and one is that the Senate is preparing to tackle the most difficult part of the job, the biennial budget. As we await the House to pass its version of the budget, legislation continues in the Senate chamber.

This week Senate Bill 7 was signed by Governor Beshear. The new law will allow nurse practitioners a pathway to prescribe medication without a physician as long as they meet certain requirements. Ultimately this will provide more access to medical care, especially for citizens in rural areas.

The Senate passed a bill I co-sponsored, Senate Bill 142, which makes some minor changes to my pension reform bill of last year, Senate Bill 2.

This bill adjusts some areas that affect overtime and secondary employment of first responders: fire fighters, police officers and other state employees. Under SB 142, an employee’s annual salary increase above 10% will not be used to calculate pension benefits.

Like SB 2, SB 142 allows wage increases due to promotions and a return to work after authorized unpaid medical leave to be used in calculating retirement benefits. This will allow the state to continue to receive federal funding of certain overtime wages, and will allow state employees to choose to work additional overtime hours without adding a burden to the pension fund.

Other legislation dealt with small fixes in state government, and other narrow scopes of law. For examples, Senate Bill 105 passed this week. The bill changes statute language to allow newspaper deliverers to be contract employees, not employees of the newspapers. Newspaper carriers act as contractors already, and this change allows the law to reflect what is in practice.

Senate Bill 118 passed and will benefit families and individuals with eye conditions. The legislation permits eye drops to be refilled more frequently and requires insurers to cover an additional bottle of prescription eye drops once every three months if needed for a child in day care or school. It is critical that children with glaucoma have access to these drops to maintain their sight and eye health.

Your input on the issues facing the state, as always, is important to me. I invite you to contact me with issues or concerns in Frankfort at 800-372-7181 or 502-564-3120, or e-mail me at[email protected].


Historic Legislation and Protecting Vulnerable Citizens

The midpoint of the General Assembly has passed, and this week we saw an historic piece of legislation in House Bill 70.

The Senate Committee on State and Local Government heard testimony on House 70, which would restore voting rights to certain felons after a five-year waiting period with no repeat offenses. The committee room was “standing-room only” as we heard from the bill’s sponsors Representative Jesse Crenshaw and Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, as well as U.S. Senator Rand Paul.

Through a Senate Committee Substitute, I sought to strike a balance between the automatic restoration of voting rights to all who have completed sentences (and paid restitution for felony convictions) and a more measured approach which implements a five-year waiting period. This is appropriate since these are people who have violated substantial laws in our state such as drug trafficking, racketeering and embezzlement. Simply restoring automatic rights for all with felony convictions forfeits necessary accountability as they work to rejoin society.

Recidivism rates are highest within three years for ex-inmates. For those who really do want to rejoin as rehabilitated citizens, they can earn their rights back. Also, the amendment keeps the current mechanism in place allowing ex-felons to pursue an executive pardon from the governor. The Senate passed the bill, 34-4 and it now goes back to the House to consider the changes.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 60, which I co-sponsored. The bill updates many regulations of the concealed carry process in an effort to make it more efficient. The bill would also replace the requirement that students clean their weapons during the concealed carry class with a proper weapon cleaning demonstration by the instructor, in an effort to increase safety.

Finally, a bill of note that passed Wednesday is Senate Bill 119. The bill sets up a medical review panel for lawsuits against healthcare providers. It consists of three doctors and their opinion is admissible to court. It is not a finding of law or an opinion. This measure will help prevent frivolous lawsuits, it will protect victims that are taken advantage of by unscrupulous attorneys and will keep healthcare providers focused on what they need to do rather than worrying about entering into expensive, frivolous litigation.

Your input on the issues facing the state, as always, is important to me. I invite you to contact me with issues or concerns in Frankfort at 800-372-7181 or 502-564-3120, or e-mail me at [email protected]

I encourage you to come to Frankfort for hearings of interest to you. Citizens are always welcome in committee meetings. If you can’t visit, then please tune in. You can keep up to date on all the bills passed and view live-streaming and archived coverage of legislative proceedings at www.ket.org.You can also follow our caucus on Twitter at @kysenategop


A Lively Week at the Capital Feb. 14, 2014 report

The energy was lively as hundreds of school groups, local officials, advocacy groups and interested citizens visited the Capital throughout the week. I appreciated so many coming to witness legislation in action.

I was honored to welcome many students from my district as well as groups like the Governor’s Scholars and the Future Politicians of America. We need interested and involved students who are service-oriented and focused on leading the in legislative and governmental sectors.

In addition to the many visitors from all over Kentucky, we voted on several bills dealing with education, healthcare and liability issues.
The first bill to pass out of the Senate this week was Senate Bill 78. The intention of this legislation is to keep liability from automatically being attributed to landlords whose tenants own a dog in the event that dog bites and injures someone on the property. Currently, a property owner can be held liable for a dog bite that takes place on his rented property. Personal responsibility is at issue here, and it is not right for a rental property owner to be liable in these cases.

Another bill that passed is Senate Bill 47, requiring the reporting of newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome, the medical term for babies born dependent to drugs due to maternal drug use during pregnancy. The legislation requires The Kentucky Department for Public Health to publish on at least an annual basis statistical data on the number of neonatal abstinence syndrome. The report does not give any identifying information about the mother or the infant; it simply reports regional and county statistics.

The first House Bill to be presented on the Senate floor, House Bill 98 passed. It represents a bipartisan effort to solve an issue of safety for treating diabetic students in schools.

House Bill 98 would permit students to inject themselves with their needed insulin while in school, and requires schools to have at least one trained staff member to administer medication for diabetes after they successfully complete the American Diabetes Association training program.

Senate Bill 61 passed and designates pastoral counselors who hold advanced degrees and training in behavioral and mental health as “licensed clinical” pastoral counselors rather than “certified fee-based” pastoral counselors. This change will make services eligible for private insurance billing and assist our state in complying with recent state and federal policies requiring Medicaid and insurance policies to provide substance abuse and behavioral health services.

The Senate also unanimously passed an important education on Thursday. Senate Bill 89 would help protect the data stored on the “cloud” of Kentucky students by prohibiting the sale or marketing of this information gathered through web-based services at their schools. There are instances of vendors doing this and I think we need to make student information only available to the Department of Education and the school system. The measure also would require school districts to inform parents of the types of student information given to third-party web-based service providers.

Another provision of SB 89 would allow local school districts to adopt academic standards that exceed standards approved by the state Board of Education. We want to give districts local control and freedom to choose more rigorous academic standards. They are better arbiters of students’ educational needs.

Your input on the issues facing the state, as always, is important to me. I invite you to contact me with issues or concerns. You may call my office in Frankfort at 800-372-7181 or 502-564-3120.
I encourage you to come to Frankfort for hearings of interest to you. Citizens are always welcome in committee meetings. If you can’t visit, then please tune in. You can keep up to date on all the bills passed and view live-streaming and archived coverage of legislative proceedings at www.ket.org.You can also follow our caucus on Twitter at @kysenategop.


Addressing Government Efficiency and Separation of Powers

As the Majority Caucus of the Senate, we are able to focus the legislation this session, along with bipartisan collaboration with our Democrat colleagues. Per our agenda, we were able to move on a Senate Bill that proposed a constitutional amendment emphasizing legislative independence to ensure proper execution of the law.

Senate Bill 1, which I co-sponsored, allows the General Assembly to have oversight regarding government regulations enacted when not in Session. With this change, we can set up a committee to make deficient regulations void and unenforceable. Currently, the Executive Branch can implement regulations despite deficiency, and this is not in accordance with a representative government. The bill passed the Senate Thursday, and now moves to the House.

Another event that occurred this week was the unveiling of the Governor’s tax reform proposal. Unfortunately, it came off as a thinly veiled tax increase proposal. The Governor wants to raise taxes on certain services, again unfairly assessing higher taxes on citizens that are already burdened by increasing health and insurance costs and federal taxes. Some of these measures also seem counterintuitive with Kentucky’s goals in health and paving a way for a better quality of life. It seems that in a state that statistically rates high in obesity and diabetes, one wouldn’t want to increase taxes on fitness center memberships, for example. Also, taxing car repairs would burden those with a very small amount of disposable income rather than those in the higher income bracket who can afford new vehicles and avoid costly repairs.

These proposals give me concern that a true tax reform package could be created for Kentucky any time soon. In spite of this, we work to find ways to save revenue and better spend funds and resources. One bill that addresses making better use of government funds is a bill I co-sponsored, Senate Bill 58. SB 58 won passage this week by a party line vote. It creates a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would abolish the office of the state Treasurer. With this measure, Kentucky would save at least $2 million in the first year, and $750,000 in subsequent years. The duties of the office would be absorbed by the Finance Cabinet.

The current Treasurer would not be affected, as his term will end prior to the implementation of this measure, should it pass. The merit employees in this office will be absorbed in other departments of State Government. Making a more efficient government, respecting the powers of all branches and creating jobs should be the focus of our time here.

Your input on the issues facing the state, as always, is important to me. I invite you to contact me with issues or concerns. You may call my office in Frankfort at 800-372-7181 or 502-564-3120.

I encourage you to come to Frankfort for hearings of interest to you. Citizens are always welcome in committee meetings. If you can’t visit, then please tune in. You can keep up to date on all the bills passed and view live-streaming and archived coverage of legislative proceedings atwww.ket.org.You can also follow our caucus on twitter at @kysenategop.


This Week: Education, Public Safety, Infrastructure and More – Jan. 31, 2014

A broad range of bills were heard and passed this week during the Senate Sessions. Health care, communications infrastructure and public safety along with criminal investigations were addressed in bills passed.

Senate Bill 99 passed the chamber on Thursday; this legislation addresses needs in the rural areas of our state for better broadband and wireless service. It is a proactive measure that gives individuals as well as businesses more resources to connect to the world, and be competitive with those living in urban areas. Not only does the legislation allow for advancement in connectivity, but it also has safeguards for those who simply want to keep a landline.
Another bill that addresses technology and education that passed is Senate Bill 16 which approves computer programming courses to meet foreign language requirements in public school. Training in computer programming prepares interested students for a field in need of skilled workers.

To take advantage of modern technology, Senate Bill 45 was proposed and passed. It gives law enforcement a more efficient way to work during criminal investigation. This legislation allows search warrants to be processed electronically, saving time and manpower during an investigation.

During a meeting of the Committee on State and Local Government a bill was heard, Senate Bill 1, which is a priority of our Caucus. Senate Bill 1 addresses a need for checks and balances when it comes to legislation and regulations. Currently, if the General Assembly passes a law, the intent of that law can be changed with regulations enacted by a sitting governor and the legislature has no power to stop them.

Senate Bill 1 is a constitutional amendment that gives the legislature power to stop such regulations. The legislature makes the laws; the executive branch carries them out. This is an important separation of powers. I testified for the legislation in the State and Local Government Committee this week, and the bill was reported favorably and soon goes to the full Senate for a vote.

Your input on the issues facing the state, as always, is important to me. I invite you to contact me with issues or concerns. You may call my office in Frankfort at 800-372-7181 or 502-564-3120. If you can’t visit, then please tune in. You can keep up to date on all the bills passed and view live-streaming and archived coverage of legislative proceedings at www.ket.org .You can also follow our caucus on twitter at @kysenategop.


Senator Damon Thayer’s Weekly Update – Jan. 24

After observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, the General Assembly went back to work. Assembly went back to work.

Tuesday was a significant day as Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine, the highest ranking female legislator, became the first woman legislator to preside over the joint session of the Kentucky General Assembly when Governor Beshear presented his proposed budget.

During the address, Governor Beshear presented a multi-faceted budget proposal of $20.3 billion dollars for the next two fiscal years. The plan calls for five percent cuts to most state agencies, proposes a gas tax increase, and borrows $1.9 billion in new debt. Of course, we all know it is easy to propose grand initiatives in broad strokes. However, the reality is that the economy is stagnant, and we will have to make tough choices and operate within our means.

Despite the hazardous weather and somewhat dangerous road conditions, the Senate plowed ahead, passing bills brought to the floor this week. Among the bills passed was Senate Bill 27, a measure that moves all elections of constitutional officers to even-numbered years. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Chris McDaniel, saves local and state governments money by combining elections, and will help engage more citizens in choosing constitutional officers with higher voter turnout. These funds can be put to better use for education, public safety and infrastructure projects.

Another cost saving measure, Senate Bill 4, was successfully passed this week as well. This legislation provides a onetime election for members to base their pensions on their legislative work only, rather than on a high salaried position such as a judgeship or executive appointment that they may pursue in their final years of service.

Senate Bill 3, a measure that requires a face-to-face consultation with a physician or designee prior to an abortion procedure, also passed. Making sure patients receive valuable information regarding medical procedures ensures they understand any health risks, and allows them an audience for questions and answers. SB 3 is sponsored by Sen. Sara Beth Gregory.

To leave a message for me, or any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. I also invited you to e-mail me at [email protected] I read every message that comes to my desk.

Citizens are always welcome to watch our committee meetings and floor proceedings. If you can’t make the trip to Frankfort, you can access live and archived legislative activity streaming online at www.ket.org.

A taped message containing information on legislative committee meetings is updated daily at 1-800-633-9650. To check the status of a bill, you may call the toll-free Bill Status Line at 1-866-840-2835. For more details about the work of the General Assembly, you can visit www.lrc.ky.gov.


Sen. Damon Thayer: Agenda set in Motion

Senate Bills have been assigned to committees this week and time is precious as Senate members attend to their committees and convene for the Session each day. Some of our key bills have met favor in committees this week.

On Wednesday, SB 4 (which I co-sponsor) and SB 27, which save money respectively by moving gubernatorial races to even-numbered years along with other major elections and eliminates the ability of members to “supersize” pensions, were unanimously voted out of committee. I stated that the civic impact of combining elections should also be considered. With voter turnout at such low numbers, combining elections may help involve more citizens deciding constitutional officers and executive branch leaders.

Of course, I highly support sound measures to make government processes more efficient, enable transparency and responsible use and oversight of our retirement systems.

Another bill important to our signature horse racing industry also passed. Senate Bill 26 extends payments from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund to non-claiming maiden races and allowance optional claiming races at our racetracks.

In the face of a destructive drug taking too many of our citizens, the Senate passed Sen. Katie Stine’s Senate Bill 5, which fights the recent plague of heroin addiction in our state through focused treatment, education and interdiction. This legislation is created out of the tragic stories of families who have lost loved ones to this scourge and takes on the traffickers of the dangerous and deadly drug.

We await the Governor’s budget address and the House’s proposed plan before we get into the
real nuts and bolts of fiscal legislation. I will continue to fight for conservative spending, further pension reform, debt limits and reducing government waste.

Monday, January 20 the General Assembly will not be in session in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King who bravely devoted his life to equal rights for all Americans. The march to legal rights for all people in the time of segregation and separation of races was not quick or easy.

I appreciate any feedback you may wish to provide. If you have any issues or concerns, please call my office in Frankfort at 502-564-8100 or e-mail [email protected]. I appreciate your time and input.


The Senate Republican Majority’s Top Five

Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed some rest and relaxation as 2013 came to a close. The holidays are behind us now, and we strive to get back into our daily routines. School is back in session and the work of the year in full swing.

As for me, January 7 convened the 2014 General Assembly, a 60-day legislative session creating the next two year budget for Kentucky. This session will encompass many complex issues requiring legislative action. The budget will be at the forefront, but we also strive to make pathways for economic growth and push fiscal responsibility.

The Senate Republican Majority’s top five priorities are:

Regulations Fix: A constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to overturn proposed regulations should a legislative committee deem a regulation deficient during the interim. Currently, the Governor can implement a regulation even if it is found deficient.

Debt limit: A bill limiting general fund-supported debt to six percent of general fund revenues.

Legislative Pension Fix: A bill eliminating the “super-sizing” of pensions when legislators leave the General Assembly and take a judicial seat or a high-paying executive branch job.

Informed consent: A bill requiring a woman considering abortion to have a face-to-face meeting with the doctor who would perform the abortion.

Heroin: A bill addressing Kentucky’s heroin problem using a three-pronged approach – treatment, education and intervention.

During the first week, all senators attended two days of mandatory ethics training, and sexual harassment prevention training. Education and training help to prevent certain issues from rearing their ugly head, something we plan to avoid in the Senate.

We also celebrated the historic event of having two African-American Senators serving in the Senate for the first time in Kentucky’s history. The signs of progress in our society are worth celebrating and I, for one, was happy to witness the event.

As we are just getting started, we have had but a small preview of what is to come. Governor Beshear gave his State of the Commonwealth address and presented key initiatives such as tax reform, funding for education, some public safety issues and expanded gaming. In light of the many issues, we have to remember we are accountable to the people of Kentucky, and the issues become more complex than boilerplate statements may imply.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on this first week. I appreciate any feedback you may wish to provide. If you have any issues or concerns, please call my office in Frankfort at 502-564-8100 or e-mail [email protected]. I appreciate your time and input.