SENATOR PHILLIP WHEELER’S LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
Week 6 of the 2024 Regular Session
At the start of the sixth week of the legislative session on Monday, the Senate received budget recommendations from the state House of Representatives. House Bill (HB) 1 and HB 6, along with related appropriation and revenue bills, will shape the state’s next two-year operating budgets for the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. In its unique constitutional role within the budget process, the Senate exercises patience in reviewing proposals, crafting recommendations grounded in disciplined use of taxpayer dollars.
The budget bills, particularly the one-time funding proposals from the House, are promising. I believe the Senate aligns with the proposal’s general philosophy, especially the wise use of the budget reserve trust fund. A decade ago, Kentucky lacked rainy-day funds, but through conservative spending and business-friendly economic policies, the current reserve has soared to a record $3.7 billion.
Moreover, following the historic shift in control of the House from Democratic to Republican in 2017, both chambers now share a unified vision for budgeting, economic policies, and comprehensive tax reform, resulting in the replenishment of the trust fund alongside a reduction in state income tax, as evidenced by the recent half-percent decrease effective January 1.
Conservative fiscal strategies have positioned Kentucky to prioritize investments in critical areas such as modern and traditional infrastructure, along with stabilizing teacher and state employee retirement systems. It is imperative that these one-time funds should only be allocated to corresponding expenses, rather than being diverted towards establishing new programs that could potentially burden taxpayers in the long term.
While Kentucky currently operates state programs designed to assist residents in need, the Senate exercises caution in the establishment of new initiatives, mindful of the challenges confronting existing programs like Medicaid. Rejecting the tax-and-spend policies of the past century, the Senate directs its focus toward fostering future growth, enhancing economic competitiveness, and fortifying resilience against the uncertainties of the global economy.
As the 2024 Legislative Session approaches its midpoint, the Senate has approved several bills that are now advancing for consideration by the House. Here’s an overview of the legislation approved by the Senate.
Senate Bill (SB) 18 would enable school districts to purchase bus equipment meeting federal safety standards from various manufacturers, promoting cost savings and supplier diversity. The bill mandates the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to provide standards to the Finance and Administration Cabinet for monitoring price contracts.
SB 70 seeks to safeguard donor intent in charitable contributions by requiring organizations to honor donor-imposed restrictions unless compelled otherwise. Donors or their representatives, upon notifying the organization of a violation, can initiate legal action seeking relief within four years. Courts may order remedies aligning with the charitable purposes expressed in the agreement.
SB 127 aims to strengthen Kentucky’s aviation and aerospace workforce pipeline by establishing scholarship funds and fostering collaboration between public programs and industry partners. The bill creates the Kentucky Aerospace, Aviation, and Defense Investment Fund to address workforce demands and support collaborations, addressing a projected global need for nearly 800,000 new pilots over the next two decades.
SB 145 seeks to allow Kentucky health facilities and Medicaid-enrolled health care providers to submit their current and prospective employees to child abuse and neglect or adult abuse background checks. The checks would utilize the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services’ existing child abuse and neglect and adult caregiver misconduct registries.
SB 151 aims to incorporate new foster care supports and services for relatives and fictive caregivers to access funding support in their care for a child. The bill would allow children to suggest potential relatives or fictive kin caregivers to a district court if they are removed from their homes. Additionally, it would set criteria for when a relative or fictive kin caregiver can apply to be certified as a child-specific foster home through the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Please know, as the legislative session continues, I will never stop fighting for budgetary appropriations and investments in eastern Kentucky and the best interest of the 31st Senate District.
It truly is a privilege to represent you and your family in Frankfort. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if I or my staff can assist you by emailing me at Phillip.Wheeler@lrc.ky.gov or call toll-free at 1-800-372-7181.
Sen. 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.