COLUMN: Senate honors a true public servant

-A A +A
By Sen. Jimmy Higdon

FRANKFORT – The General Assembly is now recessed for a 10-day veto period and will return on March 25 for the final two days of the 2013 Regular Session.  

While consensus hasn’t been reached on important bills dealing with the public employee pension reform, industrial hemp and military overseas absentee voting, the Senate is ready and willing to work on these unresolved issues.

First, we paused during this busy short session to give tribute to the outstanding life of a fellow public servant, friend and proud Kentuckian, Mike Haydon.  We were honored to have Mike’s wife, Lisa, his children, Blair, Kate and Ben, as well as his parents, C.H. and Frances, and his brothers and sisters with us. Joining us as we honored Mike were Gov. Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear, as well as Mike’s co-workers from the Governor’s Office. They all would agree Mike’s commitment to the commonwealth was total.

After serving in the Kentucky National Guard and U.S. Army, Mike began a political career in his hometown. He served on the city council and then became the mayor of Springfield. He came to Frankfort and served four governors in various agency and cabinet positions. More recently, he was House Floor Leader Rocky Adkin’s chief of staff until 2008, when he became the governor’s legislative liaison. At his passing, Mike was the governor’s chief of staff.

Mike Haydon made our betterment his professional life’s mission. And his work touched the lives of every Kentuckian. Mike reached across party lines to accomplish what he thought was best for every citizen of the commonwealth. His work made Kentucky a better state.  

Moving on to the work of the Senate, I am pleased to say, in the final hours of the session, the Senate and the House worked together in a bipartisan conference committee to reach a compromise on an amendment to House Bill 1, a measure relating to special taxing districts. These taxing entities, consisting of library boards, fire districts and water and sewer districts, among others, serve a great purpose and offer valuable services to the general public.  The bill would create an online registry to publicly disclose their annual budgets and other pertinent information. As agreed upon in the conference committee, the special taxing districts would be required to submit a budget report to their local fiscal court and hold a public hearing before imposing a new fee or increasing the rate of an existing tax. While many taxing districts act in accordance with their statutory mandate, this measure would provide disclosure, transparency, accountability and oversight to best guarantee sensible spending.

A measure to protect the state’s most vulnerable citizens, its children, was passed unanimously in both chambers last week. House Bill 290 would create a 20-person review panel for cases of child abuse and neglect-related fatalities and near fatalities. For the first time, the panel would have access to uncensored case files from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. It also would give the panel access to data from law enforcement or other agencies outside of the cabinet and allows for state legislative oversight. With this measure, well-informed decisions can be made to ensure Kentucky’s children are protected from harm. The bill awaits the governor’s signature.

When the General Assembly reconvenes on March 25, it will consider any vetoes the governor might enact on any of the various bills that have passed so far, as well as put a final stamp of approval on the important bills still being considered.

In the meantime, you can review the work of the Kentucky General Assembly by visiting our website atwww.lrc.ky.gov. Archived meetings and proceedings from the session can be viewed at www.ket.org.  To check the status of a bill, you may call the toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835.  

Remember, your input is invaluable, so please contact me if you have any comments or questions toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or at my home at 270-692-6945 if you have any questions, concerns, or comments.

You can also review the legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.

Note: Senator Jimmy Higdon (R-Lebanon) represents the 14th District including Marion, Mercer, Nelson, Taylor, and Washington counties. He is the chairman of both the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee and the Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation; vice chairman of both the Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee and the Transportation Committee, and a member of the 2012 SS HB 1 Implementation and Oversight Committee; the Budget Review Subcommittee on General Government, Finance, and Public Protection; the Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee; the Education Committee; the Health and Welfare Committee; the Program Review and Investigations Committee; and the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee.