FRANKFORT — The 2012 special session came and went this past week, as both chambers were able to approve both a budget for Kentucky’s transportation needs and legislation to combat so-called “pill mills” in the commonwealth.
House Bill 2 was essentially the agreed upon version of the transportation budget bill in the regular session, House Bill 266. The $4.5 billion budget will pay for road construction projects in various phases, from planning and design to those that are ready to be built. This bill was held up on the final day of the regular session because of a disagreement between the leader of the Senate and the governor over approval of House Bill 267, which lays out the construction phase of Kentucky’s highways in the coming two years.
There is controversy over the agreement on House Bill 267. The conference committee of House and Senate members never met to discuss it, but instead, a few select legislators met behind closed doors to decide on which projects received priority. It is a tactic that is unfair to the majority of legislators in both chambers, and to the people of Kentucky.
We must be open and transparent regarding all legislative matters, not just during the conference committee meetings on the general budget.
House Bill 1, which was the other bill under consideration in the special session, seeks to make several changes in the medical community to combat those who place profits above patients by handing out large prescriptions of controlled drugs like OxyContin, much of which ends up being sold on the streets.
House Bill 1 in the special session was the original version filed as House Bill 4 in the regular session. However, the Senate filed a committee substitute that put in place many of the revisions agreed upon by the conference committee, and the Senate also changed the funding source from the multi-county coal severance funds to the mortgage settlement agreement.
The House and Senate finally reached a compromise on the bill on the last day of the session. The biggest sticking point had been on moving the prescription monitoring system known as KASPER to the attorney general’s office. The final version of the bill keeps KASPER in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. I did not support having personal medical records under the eyes of the attorney general. I believe this violates privacy issues between patients and their doctors.
While much has been said in the media about why we were called back into special session, my concern is the behavior of the legislature during both sessions. We began our task of doing the “work of the people” on Jan. 3, yet we did not take up important issues such as the budget until very late in the session, thus causing the extension.
We were also dealing with the pill mill bill in the last moments of the special session. The road plan was produced during a behind closed doors meeting that excluded many of the very members of the committee.
This is not the way our legislature needs to behave. We must be transparent in all that we do, and give the people of Kentucky the opportunity to have input in these important issues. I am a great believer in common sense government, and I have witnessed that it is severely lacking in Frankfort. I know there are many legislators who agree with me, but unfortunately, we find ourselves in a legislature that is controlled by a few who put their personal interests and political gamesmanship ahead of the interests of the people of Kentucky.
We must change this way of doing business for the people of Kentucky. We all deserve better.
As always, I welcome your comments and concerns about any issues facing our Commonwealth. I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. A taped message containing information on legislative committee meeting schedules is available by calling 1-800-633-9650, and information on the status of each bill is available by calling 1-866-840-2835. If you have Internet access, I can be reached at email@example.com, or you may keep track of legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.