Guest columnist: Owen schools need snow days relief

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Owen County’s State Representative

March 4 marked a solemn moment in the Kentucky House of Representatives as we paused from legislative action to honor those Kentuckians who have given their lives to our country during combat service over the past year.  
The families and loved ones of USAF Staff Sgt. Daniel N. Fannin of Morehead and US Army Sgt. Michael C. Cable of Philpot were honored in the House chamber as resolutions celebrating their lives were read and adopted.  We also had a moment of silence for US Army Pfc. Joshua A. Gray, 21, of Van Lear, who died Feb. 10 in Afghanistan in a non-combat related incident.  
The sacrifices given by these young Kentuckians are holy reminders of the ongoing conflicts in the world as well as the dedication our soldiers have to ensure liberty for all.  They will be remembered.  
As we approach the final weeks of the 2014 Regular Session, a flurry of bills have been filed, bringing the total to well over 580 in the House and over 200 in the Senate.  
The vast majority of these bills will not become law, and many for good reason!  
Proposals to take Kentucky off daylight savings time in addition to numerous unfunded mandates for local governments and schools are likely to not see the light of day.  
While we wait for the details of the state budget to emerge, we continue to consider other worthwhile bills.  One such proposal would give school systems more flexibility regarding the school calendar for weather delays and closings due to the harsh winter.  
HB 211 and HB 410, still works in progress, would allow local districts the ability to rework their schedules and possibly shed up to 10 school days to make up for the high number of closings, while still meeting the instructional time requirements.  
Owen County’s school system has been hit particularly hard this winter, and we must respond to the needs of our cash-strapped schools across the state, while at the same time balancing the educational expectations of our parents and students.   
However, other pro-growth, public protection and good government bills have made their way through the legislative process.  
A bill that could benefit Kentucky military veterans seeking employment in the HVAC industry passed the House and now heads to the Senate.  HB 337 would allow proven military training and experience to be accepted on applications for certain HVAC licenses.  This legislation is designed to recognize qualified military education as a way to ease the transition of veterans back into the workforce.  
HB 395 allows for the synchronization of prescriptions, so patients who now receive their refills at various times each month could instead receive them all on one set date.  Currently, it is difficult for patients, often in vulnerable situations, to travel to the pharmacy multiple days a week to pick up recurring medications.  
There has been much discussion on the issue of city reclassification lately. Despite the request from the Mayor to reclassify Owenton during this legislative session, the Kentucky League of Cities has been working for years to eliminate the cumbersome and broken system of six classes of cities, which dates back to 1891.  
HB 331 would radically reform city structure by eliminating the classes altogether and establishing a simpler framework.  Simplifying complex law should be the better route to take.
Another “housekeeping” bill designed to update the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System passed the House this week.  HB 333 allows KTRS to use electronic signatures where appropriate and makes other tweaks to the system.  
As many in our community know, KTRS needs to become more financially solvent as the unfunded pension obligation creates stress in the system and drags Kentucky’s bond ratings into the gutter.  
Regardless, I have been a strong advocate for honoring the pension and retirement obligations that the state owes to their dedicated employees.  The General Assembly, along with the financial managers, needs to do a better job of tackling these issues.
As always, feel free to contact me if I can be of any help.  I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181.  If you have Internet access, email me at Ryan.Quarles@lrc.ky.gov, or you may keep track of legislation through the Kentucky Legislative Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.
My door is always open, and I hope to continue to earn your trust.