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Legislative Update from Rep. Reginald Meeks

From: State Rep. Reginald K. Meeks

It’s not the stuff of rabid public interest -- and it will probably garner only passing notation from reporters, but those who have been around Frankfort for some time are not likely to stop talking about yesterday’s end to this Special Session for some time. Call it the Politics of Procedure or the Procedure of Politics, but be sure to call it “Mission Accomplished!” -- well, partially. Governor Steve Beshear called the General Assembly back to address two matters: the Graduation/Drop Out bill and the Medicaid budget.The Senate completely dismissed consideration of the former.

That bill was saddled with a big, bright bull’s-eye from the start given the Governor’s and the First Lady’s personal investment in it. Senate President David Williams -- the Governor’s potential foe in the November General Election -- had no intention of allowing the Graduation/Drop Out bill to see the light of day in that chamber; some would say for obvious reasons. And so, for yet another year, some 6,500 children under age 15 will be able to hit the bricks and hightail it out of Kentucky schools and on to – well, let’s see…hmmmm, not much except maybe the welfare rolls, or the justice system…Either way, you and I will continue paying for children who are allowed to flush themselves out of any possibility of contributing to our schools, or society…Way to go, Senate?
But the ending of this Special Session was all about that second bill – the Medicaid budget.And, for us junkies, it was all about strategy – the end game. I’m talking about political strategy that has real, identifiable consequences and real impact on the lives of Kentuckians. Not the tired political theatre we usually get which masquerades (and is reported) as strategy. Frankly, few around these hallowed halls had seen anything like it.

SO, HERE’S THE REAL DEAL:

Facing the prospect of not reaching agreement on balancing the Medicaid budget -- and having to implement a 35% cut in provider reimbursements, reductions in services and the possibility of hospitals, clinics and providers closing their doors on April 1, as well as cuts to education funding --and possibly having the Governor call us back again, the House did what it was loathe to do:1.) Agreed to send the Senate budget plan to the Governor -- across the board cuts to education, Medicaid and to general Government expenses and all; 2. Placed the legacy of long fought for legislative independence in the hands ofthe Governor, and 3. Relied entirely on the power of the Governor’s pen; on his commitment to veto those parts of the Senate version that would cause the kind of cuts that are most offensive to the House and most Kentuckians.

The Senate bill was passed by the House, signed off on by the Senate and sent to the Governor.

It is important to note the House adjourned “sine die”. In a message from Governor Beshear, he stated, “By concurring [with the Senate version] and adjourning sine die after the bill is enrolled and delivered to my office, together we can save the taxpayershundreds of thousands of dollars, and still provide my administration the flexibility to uphold the standards you have fought for. By doing so, you have my absolute commitment to honor the principles you and the Senate Democrats have stood for throughout this session.”

There are three guiding principles that earned bi-partisan support in the House. First, is to fix the Medicaid shortfall without cutting education or jeopardizing families depending on Medicare and without causing cuts to health care providers that could lead to job losses across the state. Secondly, is our commitment to preserve the $135 M in federal education funds that has already been transferred to and been factored into local school budgets.Thirdly, and finally, we are – and the Governor is – committed to balancing the Medicaid budget with $169M in efficiencies as has been done eight (8) times in this administration using management flexibility.

The end of our Special Session was an all too rare example of people putting short term gains aside in order to make long term accomplishments. Taking one step back in order to take two steps forward. It was the extra pass that gets the ball out to a jump shooter beyond the line for a trey;it was the player stepping up and taking the hard charging call – in this case, a charge that could put someone on the bench and it was a moment in time when Democrats and Republicans in the House put aside the expected posturing, the canned responses both Parties are overcome with at times in order to do what is best for our collective constituents – the People of the Commonwealth.

Even our Senate Democrats loudly proclaimed the virtue of our bi-partisan process in the House, and the hypocrisy of the Senate process which was controlled, and contrived and did not include input from them.The working relationship between the Governor and at least the House members bodes well for the future – IF the two continue to trust and to rely on each other.That means communication with individual members, as well as with leadership, is important. One has to wonder if the administration was in contact with Senate Democrats who remained united in their opposition to the Senate version of the budget.

Speaking of this administration, I need to clarify a question I raised last week about the alleged hiring of one thousand new state employees while it was also conducting furloughs.This claim was often repeated during the Regular Session. Turns out, every Cabinet in the Executive Branch has fewer workers today than three (3) years ago – 1,465 fewer state workers in all.In fact, you would have to go back to the mid- 70’s to find fewer employees.

Not much time has passed since the March 9 close of the 2011 Regular Session. The regular session ended with the General Assembly’s passage of 102 bills and 379 legislative resolutions. Of the bills that passed, 99 became law, including 28 Senate bills and 71 House bills.

There were many accomplishments among those bills, including measures that protect our elderly, improve our criminal justice system—as well as the cost to operate it—and dozens of other areas. I’m happy to explain or provide information about any of these or you can contact LRC for details as well.

Call me directly at 502.564.8100 or write me at

State Rep. Reginald K. Meeks
Rm. 329C, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue
Frankfort, KY 40601.

I’m on FACEBOOK at http://www.facebook.com and online at http://reginaldmeeks.com.

To reach any particular legislator, contact our toll - free number at 800.372.7181. For the deaf or hard-of-hearing, that number is 800.896.0305.

Check on the status of any bill at: www.lrc.ky.gov.

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