A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

John Schickel: Activity picking up in Frankfort, long hours spent trying to resolve issues with pension bill

Last week was the busiest yet in Frankfort with a number of bills moving through committees and on to the Senate and House floors for votes.

The halls are starting to get crowded as we are visited by lots of statewide advocacy groups that championed their great causes and rallied in the Capitol Rotunda. Some of the groups visiting me this week were officials from our school system, Boone County fire chiefs, and the public defender’s office.

I enjoyed my conversation with the public defenders because, even though I am tough on crime, I believe passionately in the constitutional right for a vigorous defense by competent council whether you can afford it or not. Between visiting constituents, committee meetings, and voting on the Senate floor, we continued to discuss the upcoming budget.

The highlight of the week for me was the passage of Senate Bill 12, which I sponsored, designating May 1 of every year as “School Bus Driver Day” in Kentucky. Although they do not often receive the accolades they deserve, our school bus drivers are one of the most important parts of our children’s school days. They are the first and last adults our children interact with the school system every day, and we are so grateful for the work they do.

Senate Bill 35, which I sponsored, was another bill we passed which would align Kentucky labor laws for seasonal facilities with federal standards. We also passed SB 37, which I cosponsored, directing the Transportation Cabinet to establish procedures allowing federal inmates on work release to obtain their driver’s licenses in order to better integrate into society. Measures such as SB 37 are important in both workforce development and criminal justice reform as we try to help inmates best prepare for reentry into the workforce. The bill passed the Senate unanimously.

Another important bill that passed the Senate this week was SB 68. This bill would clarify that a victim of domestic violence is not required to pay the legal fees of the abusive spouse in a divorce action when the spouse is jailed for crimes against the victim. During this bill’s committee hearing, we heard compelling testimony from survivors of domestic abuse who were forced to pay their abusive spouses’ legal fees. This bill also passed the Senate unanimously, and I was proud to support it.

Senate Bill 85, which passed without opposition, would make it easier for notaries public to change their name without having to undergo the certification process again.  Senate Bill 57 also passed and allows a person injured by an act of terrorism to file a claim for damages against the terrorist. It also establishes a crime of terrorism as a capital offense that will be punished by imprisonment for life without probation or parole and that a person convicted of terrorism cannot be released early. This bill puts in place protections for Kentuckians if there is ever a terror attack on our Commonwealth’s soil.

The Senate also passed SB 72, a government transparency measure which prohibits the naming of state buildings, properties, programs, initiatives, highways, or bridges in honor of any living elected state official or state employee. I, along with two other colleagues, voted against this bill because although I felt it was well-intentioned, there are some instances that people should be recognized for the good work they do, and I was not aware of any particular problems with the current system. The bill is not retroactive and will not remove already-named structures.

We continue to meet and try to hammer out a pension bill that is passable and still would save money. This has become a huge challenge and a bit of a political conundrum in my opinion. I hope and pray something can be worked out. The financial future of the state literally depends on it.

I can report to you this: long hours have been spent in meetings with all stakeholders trying to resolve this matter. I also have been working on the state road plan, making sure that our long-range plans are included in the full road plan. I am happy to report that all of our current projects are well-funded. The middle section of Pleasant Valley Road will have construction beginning this spring as well as the left turn lane on KY 237 into the Boone County Bus Garage.

We wrapped up the week on Friday wearing blue and orange to support Marshall County High School and to show that we are #MarshallStrong. We continue to pray for all those affected, especially the citizens of Marshall County, and they are in our hearts as we continue our work in Frankfort.

If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or send me a message at www.lrc.ky.gov. You can also review the Legislature’s work online www.lrc.ky.gov.

Senator John Schickel represents Kentucky’s 11th District in Boone County. He is chairman of the Senate Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee


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One Comment

  1. Mark Nolan says:

    In summary, the General Assembly approved some non-controversial measures, including “School Bus Driver Day,” but made no progress on issues which actually matter to citizens of the Commonwealth. Way to waste your time and our money Sen. Schickel.

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