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Representative Richard Heath's Legislative Update
By State Representative Richard Heath
MAYFIELD - While the 2019 General Assembly adjourned more than two months ago, I appreciate the opportunity to continue sharing details about the laws we passed. This series of columns, which began in early April, is still relevant as legislation passed this year goes into effect on Thursday, June 27, except for general appropriation measures and those containing emergency or delayed effective date provisions.

Honest, accountable and transparent government is and always will be a priority for me. This session, we were successful in passing several measures to ensure that state government properly serves the people of Kentucky.

With our troubled pension system a huge concern to all of us, we moved to close an unintentional loophole to prevent abuse of the retirement system. Previously, state law allowed elected officials to retire for a few months, then hold the same office within a year of retiring. To address this issue, we approved HB 55, which voids the retirement of any elected official who participates in the Kentucky Retirement System if they are elected to the same office within 12 months of retiring.

Good government should also mean that elected representatives are setting policy for the people they serve. HB 176 takes away the authority to dictate the insurance premium surcharge tax from the Department of Revenue. The authority to create, increase or decrease taxes should be in the hands of elected officials – the men and women who voters choose – rather than appointed positions.

This session we also approved SB 6, a measure aimed at strengthening the ethics requirements for those who lobby the Governor and other members of the executive branch. The new law will require that executive branch lobbyists register and fully disclose their client fees. Likely the most important part of the bill prohibits executive branch employees from leaving to work for a company that received a state contract. Issues with executive branch lobbying recently came to light with the bribery conviction of a former employee of the Attorney General’s Office.

The General Assembly also passed a bill strengthening the legislature’s independence and oversight over how the laws we enact are actually implemented. We approved HB 4, a bipartisan measure aimed at making sure laws are interpreted correctly, ensuring that the intent of any given bill is actually followed when state agencies make regulations. The provisions of HB 4 require the legislature to issue an annual report on regulations that legislators feel do not meet legislative intent. The legislature then can clarify the issue through new legislation. While this measure was vetoed by the Governor, we overrode that veto and the bill has now become law.

Another mark of good government is the use of technology to increase the access and accountability afforded to all citizens by their government.  This session we approved SB 230, which allows open records requests to be emailed, making the process much easier for Kentuckians throughout the state. Until now, the law only allowed requests to be submitted by hand delivery, mail or fax. It was well-past the time to do this, but keep in mind that the last time the open records law was amended was in 1994. 

Good government is government that serves you the people and not itself. I know that you sent me to Frankfort to ensure that state government remembers that. As always, please contact me with your thoughts and ideas on topics we may address in the interim and during the 2020 legislative session. I can be reached here at home anytime, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. If you would like more information, or to e-mail me, please visit the legislature's website www.legislature.ky.gov.

Published 02:02 PM, Monday Jun. 17, 2019
Updated 11:30 AM, Monday Jun. 17, 2019

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