SENATOR PHILLIP WHEELER’S LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
Lawmakers returned to Frankfort on Tuesday to reconvene following a constitutionally required break in the 2023 30-day legislative session.
We immediately got back to work, passing House Bill 1, which codifies the income tax reduction from 5 percent to 4.5 percent that went into effect on January 1. The bill lowers the income tax to 4 percent beginning on January 1, 2024. Additional tax reform, moving away from taxing production and more emphasis on consumption, not only keeps more money in wage earners’ pockets but it builds on the record years of economic success in the commonwealth, primarily because of conservative, pro-business policies enacted by the Kentucky General Assembly.
Along with House Bill 1, the Senate passed House Bill 2 on Wednesday, which provides over $16 million to support the construction of a new veterans center in Bowling Green. The center is the fifth in the state and will provide services to veterans in the south-central region. The need for this funding support is, unfortunately, partly because of high inflation, which has greatly increased the cost of construction.
I understand we all still bear the weight of high inflation and gas prices, but I am always happy to support our veterans and the Republican supermajorities’ commitment is to leave more money in your pocket because you know best how to spend your hard-earned income, not the government.
We recently had a meeting of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee where the discussion centered around high electricity costs and even blackouts in various parts of Kentucky caused by the continued retirement of coal plants. The presenters from the various utilities confirmed that the vast majority of these retirements are being driven by harmful policies being driven by the Biden administration and Washington, D.C. Although we cannot change federal law, we can pass legislation to require the Public Service Commission to consider grid reliability when utility companies attempt to accelerate the decommissioning of their fossil plants, and adopt a responsible “all of the above” strategy when it comes to energy. That is why I have signed on as a primary co-sponsor of Senate Bill 4 filed by my colleague Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson.
An issue that dominated the media and lawmakers’ attention through the session’s break involved the state Department of Juvenile Justice. I’m confident you have heard about and followed recent disturbing reports from within the DJJ system, including the sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl in Adair County and the brutal assault of employees in Bowling Green. Much work is left to be done, but I’m happy to say some legislative efforts have prompted the executive branch to take action to better protect our detained youth.
First, in the 2022 interim, the Legislative Oversight and Investigations Statutory Committee and the Interim Judiciary Committee recommended that DJJ separate those inside facilities based on the severity of the offense and by gender. It’s concerning these recommendations were only taken following the terrible story of Adair County’s incident.
Nevertheless, the Senate initiated a DJJ working group which met extensively over the session’s break. The group communicated its recommendations to Governor Andy Beshear. Recommendations that have been met as of this legislative update include:
- Provide 24/7 Kentucky State Police presence at facilities housing the most violent offenders.
- Identify specific immediate, intermediate, and long-term resources needed to address the crisis and gaps in the law that can aid in the department’s efforts.
- Make trauma care available to staff and youth victims in DJJ facilities.
- Develop and maintain a tracking notification system concerning the transportation and status of youth offenders so that parents, legal guardians, and law enforcement entities can be aware.
Still, lawmakers have made recommendations to the Governor that remain unmet, some of which could be the most meaningful. They are:
- Consider replacing department leaders who have failed to create a culture within DJJ where employees and youth can feel safe and begin a nationwide search for qualified replacements. The DJJ workgroup has concluded a toxic culture exists within the department that money alone could never repair.
- Provide unfettered access to cabinet and department officials but, most importantly, the rank and file employees who have indicated fear of retaliation from those above them.
- Allow for an independent inspection of DJJ facilities to determine if health and safety measures are up to expectation and if policies and procedures are being met.
- Explain failures to implement past recommendations.
DJJ working group leaders outlined met and unmet recommendations during a press conference on February 2. They also formally requested the state auditor of public accounts to contract with an independent organization for a full audit of DJJ.
The final bill passing the Senate this week was Senate Bill 20, which would prohibit the application known as TikTok on all state government devices.
Following the recent incident involving a balloon used for spying on some of our nation’s most sensitive military sites, it’s imperative that we swiftly pass this legislation. Republicans and Democrats alike, agree that need to do everything in our power to prevent the communist Chinese government from accessing state government information. The bill will now head to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
In closing, several legislative measures were introduced in week two, including an education-centric bill focused on strengthening parent voices in the school system.
Rest assured, your elected officials remain engaged in light of the rolling blackouts some Kentuckians have experienced this winter.
Senator Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, represents Kentucky’s 31st Senate District, including Elliott, Johnson, Lawrence, Martin, and Pike Counties. Wheeler is vice chair of the Senate Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor, and the Senate Judiciary committees. He is also Capital Planning Advisory Board co-chair. Additionally, Wheeler serves as a member of the Senate Transportation, Natural Resources and Energy, State and Local Government, and Transportation committees. Wheeler recently served on the 2022 Interim Benefits Cliff Task Force.
Please visit https://legislature.ky.gov/Legislators%20Full%20Res%20Images/senate131.jpg for a high-resolution .jpeg of Wheeler.
Legislative Research Commission
Capitol Annex Room 290 | 702 Capital Ave. | Frankfort, KY 40601-3448 | 502-564-8100 ext. 59315
Once again nothing about restoring the B-Readers even though you made your living off coal miners with black lung
You have felled right in line
Thank You Senator Wheeler
I appreciate you and your colleagues attention to our electrical generation industry . Due to the misguided and destructive policies pushed by the Obama and Biden administration and groups trying to exploit environmental and climate concerns , we have seen our electrical supply change drastically . Kentucky was once home to practically the cheapest and most reliable electricity in the nation . Our utilities were class leaders in reliability , efficiency and environmental compliance even though they were portrayed the opposite by groups who wanted to subsidize industries and products that could not compete either economically or efficiently. We now face high prices and a precarious supply . Many in this state have had to suffer through rolling blackouts during the times they need the power the most – high and low temperatures . This has affected not only Kentucky but large swaths of our country . Instead of being a source of supply we are now forced to draw from a weakened grid and can’t even supply our own load .
Time to go Solar Davey
Dear thelevisalazer.com admin, Thanks for the well-researched and well-written post!