Guest columnist: Politics take center stage during final session days

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As the dust settles on the 2014 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly, I thought I would take a moment to discuss a few highlights.  Of the more than 800 bills filed for consideration, only a handful became law including two of my own.  
This year’s legislative session produced a budget that better funds our schools and provides raises for our teachers and state employees after years of staying stagnant.  
We also made the first step of many to come towards funding Kentucky’s woefully fragile pension system.  This biennial budget fully funds the actuarial required contribution (ARC).  
With Kentucky’s bond rating one of the worse in the nation, there must be serious fiscal discipline to improve the Commonwealth’s balance sheet.  
I was proud to co-sponsor numerous agriculture bills this session that range from dealing with devastative wildlife on crops to preserving half of the dwindling tobacco settlement dollars for agriculture.
Several bills honoring and helping veterans passed including HB 337 which recognizes congruent military training for certain licenses.  With many of our young men and women returning home from fighting, finding employment in this economic environment is challenging.  
However, several important bills to move the Commonwealth forward died in the final moments of session as midnight approached on April 15.
The heroin bill, SB 5, was killed by the Kentucky House of Representatives on the very last day of session.  With only minutes left before midnight, the House decided to take up a bill they have had in their possession since January 16, nearly three months.  Instead of voting on the bill up or down, leadership bogged it down.  This extreme procrastination ensured the bill would not pass and I could not be more disappointed as this drug continues to destroy families in Kentucky.  This was politics at its worse.      
The House also killed pro-life legislation for the eighth year in a row.  Despite having 62 co-sponsors of the 100 member House, liberal House leadership refused to allow even a simple vote to protect the unborn.  
The perennial issue of comprehensive tax reform did not make it very far again this session.  Kentucky’s antiquated tax structure causes businesses to either continue to suffer or relocate out of state which happens frequently in Northern Kentucky where businesses simply move across the Ohio River.  A new tax code must encourage economic growth and help, not hinder, our business community.  
The session was also marred by the Governor’s veto of the public-private partnership (P3) legislation which was the number one jobs bill in the General Assembly this year.  If P3 had passed, lingering infrastructure projects such as antiquated water lines could have been fixed as early as this year while creating thousands of jobs across the state.   
With good old boy politics in Frankfort, Kentucky continues to be at a competitive disadvantage while other states move ahead.  Despite passing a budget with a few bright spots, the 2014 Regular Session was marked by several missed opportunities due to politics.  
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.  My door is always open, and I hope to continue to earn your trust.   

Ryan Quarles represents Owen County in the Kentucky House of Representatives.