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Opinion – Chris McDaniel: Interim joint committees hard at work in new fiscal year

I hope you had a safe and enjoyable Independence Day and are staying cool during these hot summer days.

On July 1, Kentucky officially entered the new fiscal year, which means that budget-related legislation from the 2024 Legislative Session, including the state’s highway plan that included a $450 million infusion from the state’s budget reserve trust fund, is now in place. The state budget included record funding for education, and House Bill 1 included $2.7 billion from the state’s budget reserve trust fund for unique, transformative projects in communities across Kentucky. I am pleased that we made these critical investments while also lowering your income tax to four percent.

As we continue our efforts in Frankfort during the first weeks of the 2024 interim period, I want to provide you with the latest legislative updates from the recent Interim Joint Committee (IJC) meetings.

Senator Chris McDaniel

The IJC on Health Services recently heard from representatives of the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. They reported that nearly 80 percent of the 1,984 drug overdose deaths in Kentucky in 2023 were attributed to fentanyl. Dealers make between $15,000 and $20,000 per kilogram of fentanyl, and one kilogram yields up to 100,000 pills. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death among 18- to 45-year-olds. This deadly drug that claims the lives of children and law enforcement officers is being smuggled into the United States from Mexico. It’s a clear and critical example of how border control issues turn every state into a border state.

The committee was also briefed on the state’s urgent mental health crisis intervention strategies. Critical updates included expanding Crisis Intervention Team training for law enforcement and first responders to better handle mental health emergencies. Additionally, the committee discussed implementing a statewide mental health hotline to provide immediate support and resources to people in crisis. The hotline will launch by the end of the year, with significant funding allocated for training and infrastructure.

The IJC on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection heard from the Kentucky Community and Technical College Systems (KCTCS), who provided an overview of KCTCS’ commitment to military-connected students.

The presentation emphasized the importance of obtaining credentials, noting that KCTCS awards an average of 3,486 credentials per year to students with military ties. It also highlighted the tuition waiver benefit offered by the Commonwealth of Kentucky for families of veterans. It mentioned the role of the system office director and veteran certification officers at each college in facilitating military enrollment.

The Kentucky Public Pension Authority (KPPA) provided an update on the implementation of House Bill 8 from the 2021 session, which reformed how employers contribute to the Kentucky Employees’ Retirement System (KERS) for non-hazardous employees. HB 8 aims to address payroll cuts from downsizing and outsourcing by setting each employer’s contribution rate based on its share of total pension debt as of 2019. This means employers will have a fixed, accurate rate to pay into the pension system, ensuring more stable funding despite changes in payroll size.

The IJC on Transportation will hold its second meeting of the 2024 interim term at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16 in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex Building. Topics will include updates on the driver licensing system and new regional offices, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s (KYTC) NEVI and KAVIS electric vehicle charging station grant program.

The IJC Appropriations and Revenue Committee will meet at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17. Budget Review Subcommittee meetings will be held in the morning on the same day as the Appropriations and Revenue Committee meeting. Agendas for these meetings are still pending but will be available on Legislature.ky.gov once they are determined.

All meetings will be streamed live on the LRC YouTube site. Some meetings will also be available on Kentucky Education Television (KET).

These conversations will help us navigate the interim period and prepare for the 2025 legislative session. Please stay tuned for more updates and reach out to my office anytime with your feedback.

Chris McDaniel is a Republican state senator from Ryland Heights and represents Senate District 23 in northern Kenton County. He serves as co-chair of the Joint Interim Committee on Appropriations and Revenue. He will lead Senate budget discussions regarding the upcoming biennial state budget as co-chair of the 2024-2026 Budget Preparation and Submission Committee.