Higdon gives highlights from Frankfort

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By Sen. Jimmy Higdon

We are now halfway through the 2010 General Assembly Session and while the House of Representatives continues to labor, as constitutionally required, on a budget proposal, the Senate’s work, while on a smaller scale, is no less important. Both House and Senate Appropriations and Revenue chairmen are in close consultation so that when the House budget proposal is finalized and moves to the Senate, we can hit the ground running.

It is my opinion that we must have shared sacrifice. No one special interest should feel insulated from the tough economic times we are experiencing. We all need to share in the burden. For instance, very few people will be receiving pay increases in the private sector and almost everyone feels blessed to even have a job. It is reasonable to expect that the public sector must make the same sacrifices and share the same fiscal burden as Kentucky families and businesses.

Decreasing the government base - reducing the size and breadth of government - will make us more competitive once the economy turns. The times with less dollars is often the times to make the best decisions.

Senate Bill 132 supports and encourages the construction and renovation of school buildings using energy efficient design concepts. In an effort to create a healthy environment for students and teachers in conjunction with saving energy, resources, and operational expenses, SB 132 encourages participation in the LEED program. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), an internationally recognized green building certification system, provides third-party verification that a building was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. The bill is not a mandate as it will be left up to the individual school district whether or not they can or wish to participate.

The Senate has focused much of the session so far on developing and passing transparency measures for state government. We strongly believe that an open government is one that the voters know where the money goes. Kentucky has witnessed two special elections where millions of dollars were spent - the source of which was unknown to the general population until after the elections; in fact, it wasn’t known until this January.

Senate Bill 25 requires any campaign issues group organized under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Service code - popularly known as 527s - to disclose its donors and the amounts contributed on the same schedule as statewide candidates. There is no downside to a more informed electorate.

DUI laws have worked to reduce the instances of drunk driving. But what about driving under the influence of drugs? Senate Bill 144 allows law enforcement to arrest anyone caught driving under the influence of drugs, within certain parameters. Blood or urine tests would be used to determine whether the driver was impaired; prescription drugs taken as directed would not be illegal. Also, highly intoxicated drivers could face incarceration for a first DUI offense. As many of our communities confront the impact of drug abuse on their citizens, this bill gives law enforcement another tool to keep our families safe.

Finally, continuing the Senate commitment to veterans, Senate Joint Resolution 11, passed unanimously, extends the Purple Heart Trail from Louisville down to Fort Campbell and the Tennessee border. These bills now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The Legislative Research Commission has two toll-free message lines. I look forward to hearing from you on 1-800-372-7181 or TTY 1-900-896-0305. You can also call me at home at 270-692-6945. Please visit www.lrc.state.ky.us for more information on pending legislation and the General Assembly.