February 10, 2023
Lawmakers return to Frankfort for second week of session
Representative Scott Sharp
Perhaps my favorite part of being a legislator is returning to Frankfort to do the work of District 100. I am proud to say HB 1 and HB 2 have already been sent to Governor Beshear’s desk for consideration. Last year, we passed HB 8 establishing the framework for the individual income tax to be cut by half a percentage point increments until it is eliminated entirely. HB1 reduces the income tax to 4.5% which started on January 1, and then another reduction on January 1, 2024, to 4%.
Taking care of our veterans is a top priority for us in the legislature. HB 2 provides over $16 million to the Department of Veterans Affairs for construction of the new Bowling Green Veterans Center. This center will provide veterans with the best possible care while still being close to their families.
I would like to provide you all with an overview of what we heard in committees this week as we have hit the ground running.
Education: With reports of a teacher shortage of 11,000, the House Committee on Education heard from the Department of Education, the Teacher Retirement System, and the Kentucky Association of School Administrators. According to the Department of Education, the reported 11,000 teacher openings is not an accurate measure of the shortage. Instead, the actual number tends to vary, with early January reporting roughly 1,500 openings. Despite the average age for retirement increasing by five years for teachers and more education pathways for university students, Kentucky is still experiencing a 20% teacher turnover rate. In response, school districts are having to hire more unqualified teachers and issue emergency certifications. In the meeting, the root of the teacher shortage issue has been narrowed to disputes over teacher salary, growing misbehavior among students, and woke ideology, such as pronoun usage, entering the classroom.
Families and Children: The new House Standing Committee on Families and Children met this week for the first time this 2023 Regular Session. Lawmakers received an overview of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services from Secretary Eric Friedlander. Secretary Friedlander discussed several departments within the cabinet that will be involved in the legislation the Families and Children committee will be considering.
BR Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Protection, Tourism, and Energy: The Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet testified before the committee to provide updates on Kentucky tourism and investment. Of the $75 million appropriated from HB1 in the 2022 Regular Session, $51 million has been distributed. The goals of the monies are to continue to market Kentucky tourism and to develop and advance tourism commissions, which are designated as marketing organization or a regional tourism committee.
BR Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education: The Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) came to testify in Frankfort in front of the committee to discuss their progress and continued initiatives. Half of Kentucky has a postsecondary credential, with current trends showing underrepresented minorities performing above average. CPE’s Healthcare Workforce Collaborative (HWC) received $10 million in funding from the legislature and has issued $8 million in grants to institutions across the state, with 43% of grants focused on nursing programs. Moreover, $48 million has been invested in HWC from employer partners. CPE also remarked on the state of Kentucky State University, with plans to fix and improve current infrastructure as well as bring in a new auditor.
BR Subcommittee on Health and Family Services: Lawmakers heard a presentation from the Associates in Pediatric Therapy (APT) about how expanded Medicaid makes it harder to provide services for their patients. With the expansion of Medicaid, APT is seeing more children on Medicaid than those with commercial insurance, decreasing income dramatically as other costs increase. The First Steps Program has also been a roadblock in the APT services; last year, APT saw more children per week than First Steps did in one year. Some proposed changes would be a 20% increase on at least the top five service areas, a 20% increase for Early Pediatric Screening Diagnosis and Treatment Services (EPSDT) providers, and a 20% increase for First Steps providers. EPSDT is a federally mandated Medicaid program for children that requires specific services.
As always, I hope you will feel free to contact me with any questions or issues. I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Please feel free to email me at Scott.Sharp@lrc.ky.gov. If you would like more information about the legislature, you can visit the Legislative Research Commission website at legislature.ky.gov.