Guest Editorial: Session saw passage of several bills

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By Damon Thayer
Now that the 2011 General Assembly has adjourned, I wanted to review some of the legislation enacted this year.  As chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, I made sure that we took action on key pieces of legislation that will impact the lives of many Kentuckians.
I am very proud that Senate Bill 7 became law.  I was the primary sponsor SB 7, also known as the “Taxpayer Transparency Act.”  It requires that all three branches of government and state universities create Web sites where all financial transactions may be viewed by the public.
Another bill I sponsored which became law was Senate Bill 24, which creates an interstate horse racing and wagering compact with Kentucky becoming the first state to enact the provisions of the compact.  The compact will give state racing commissions the option—but not require them—to participate in the same rules and programs as other states. It will also simplify procedures for horsemen racing in multiple jurisdictions.
Many other bills that were approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee also became law.  Senate Bill 64 establishes a Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage attached to the Tourism Cabinet.  House Bill 33 prohibits any state agency from mailing an unsolicited publication to any person who has not requested a copy, thus saving taxpayer dollars.  House Bill 192 requires secondary schools to provide information to 12th-grade students on how to register to vote and vote in an election.  House Concurrent Resolution 13 creates a Task Force to study childhood obesity.    House Bill 333 allows the sale of fireworks in Kentucky, consistent with our neighboring states.  House Bill 433 establishes the tire waste working group in the Energy and Environment Cabinet.
Other important legislation passed the committee and the Senate this year but did not become law in 2011 due to lack of action in the House of Representatives.  These bills include Senate Bill 2, which would have reformed the public employee pension system.  SB 2 would help put Kentucky on more sound financial footing with a move toward a 401(k)-style plan for future state and local government employees.  Senate Bill 10, known as the “21st Century Bill of Rights” highlights a variety of measures that will protect Kentucky’s sovereignty under the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution.  
SB 10 would have put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to prevent citizens from being forced into a federal health plan, prevent healthcare providers from being forced to perform abortions, require any expansion of gambling be done so through a vote of the people, prevent environmental extremists from ending coal mining, and affirm the free practice of religion, such as posting the 10 Commandments in public venues. One constitutional amendment that you will get to vote on in 2012 is HB 1, which will affirm the right of Kentuckians to hunt and fish.   Finally, Senate Concurrent Resolution 134 would have made Kentucky the first state to petition Congress with specific proposals as part of a balanced-budget constitutional amendment.  The proposed 28th Amendment would not only limit federal spending to annual revenues, but also prohibit tax increases or unfunded mandates on states.  I was proud to work with U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky on this important legislation.
With the annual session now completed, I will be preparing for next year’s session.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.  I would urge you to contact me by calling the Legislative Message Line at 1-800-372-7181 or by emailing me at damon.thayer@lrc.ky.gov.
Damon Thayer is a state senator representing Owen County.