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Mike Denham: With new budget proposal on the horizon, two economic indicators provide good news

As Kentucky House leaders were putting the final touches on a proposed two-year state budget last week, legislators received not one but two reports of good economic news.

On Thursday, state officials said that revenues have grown 4.3 percent so far this current fiscal year, all but guaranteeing a surplus with less than four months to go. The sales tax – one of the state’s major revenue sources and a strong indicator of consumer confidence – has now increased in 24 of the past 26 months.

A few days before that news arrived, the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet said the commonwealth’s annual unemployment rate in 2015 was 5.4 percent, the lowest the commonwealth has seen in seven years. Notably, it was a better rate than could be found in 29 other states.

Several industries here in Kentucky saw their job numbers grow by 5,000 or more last year, including manufacturing; professional and business services; and leisure and hospitality. Educational and health services saw its industry growth top 4,000 jobs.

All of those positive indicators bode well as the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee readies to vote on the state budget early this week, with the full chamber soon to follow. Although final details weren’t public last week, House leaders have said Governor Bevin’s proposed 9 percent cuts will be scaled back when it comes to education.

We hope to use that money for such things as restoring funding for the more than 800 Family Resource and Youth Services Centers across the state that help erase barriers to learning.

Several hundred educators, counselors and staff who help create invaluable programs that extend our schools into our communities came to the Capitol this week with many of their students. Together, we celebrated 25 years of successful work through these Family Resources Centers that help thousands of Kentucky’s schoolchildren arrive at school better prepared to succeed.

Several other noteworthy bills made it through the House last week are ready to be considered by the Senate.

With House Bill 217, which I am proud to sponsor, we would toughen the rules coaches must follow if a player receives a concussion. The student would be barred from returning to play, and if no physician or similar healthcare worker is there to make a diagnosis, the student would be barred from playing or practicing until given written clearance by his or her doctor.

House Bill 413 would crack down on those who sell wireless phone numbers to telemarketers without the subscriber’s written consent, and House Bill 314 would better guarantee that off-duty and retired law enforcement officers can carry concealed firearms anywhere that on-duty officers can.

Fireworks sales would last longer in July and around the New Year’s holiday if House Bill 393 becomes law; and with House Bill 388, social workers would be called upon to make unannounced visits where child abuse or neglect or human trafficking has been reported and an investigation is determined to be necessary.

Another piece of legislation I am sponsoring, House Joint Resolution 164, would build on the current success of the state’s Bourbon Trail by calling on the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet to establish one highlighting the state’s covered bridges. According to the resolution, the hundreds that once existed have dwindled down to 13, all of which are officially marked by the Kentucky Historical Society. They are certainly worth promoting even more.

In more somber action, several modern-day military heroes, most killed while serving in Afghanistan, were recognized by the House on Monday last week. Families of many of these heroes were present as the House conducted a ceremony honoring the lives of the soldiers and their loved ones. It was a time of both reflection and respect.

As I mentioned, this week’s highlight will be the House’s passing a budget to run state government, something I will cover more in-depth in my next column. For now, please keep calling, visiting and emailing, because it really helps when it comes to casting votes. To reach me, you can write to Room 329E, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at Mike.Denham@lrc.ky.gov.

To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.

I hope to hear from you soon.


State Rep. Mike Denham is a Democrat from Maysville and has represented House District 70 (Bracken, Fleming and Mason counties) since 2001.

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