My fellow legislators and I in the Kentucky General Assembly have officially crossed the halfway mark on the road toward Day 60 of our 60-day legislative session. Week seven was a four-day week, as lawmakers recognized Presidents’ Day last Monday. I salute President Donald Trump and others who have occupied our nation’s highest office. Wednesday marked Day 30, and we are continuing to speed ahead as conversations on budgets and key legislation rev up.
While the General Assembly is in session, it is imperative that I am in Frankfort doing the work you have elected me to do. Serving you is one of the greatest honors of my life, and I do not take it for granted. That is why I am working for you every day at the State Capitol. My responsibility to serve you in Frankfort means that I cannot always be with you in the 21st District. For that reason, visits this past week from constituents were especially important to me.
The highlight of my seventh week of the 2020 session was another exciting “Military Kids Day.” Initiated by my friend, Sen. Jimmy Higdon, at the request of a military family living in his district, Military Kids Day is an annual event that allows children of service members to participate in the legislative process for a day. Hosted by the Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee, children are invited to go on a Capitol tour, serve as pages, participate in a Capitol Scavenger Hunt, and attend committee meetings related to military issues. It was a blessing to preside as chair of the committee for another special Military Kids Day.
The Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection (VMAPP) Committee held another meeting this past week in which we recognized Military Kids Day. Children of some Kentucky’s brave service members kicked off our meeting by leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance. During the meeting, I was honored to be presented the 2019 Patrick Henry Award by several of Kentucky’s most prestigious military personnel. The Patrick Henry Award is designed to provide recognition to local officials and civic leaders, who in a position of great responsibility distinguished themselves with outstanding and exceptional service to the Armed Forces of the United States, the National Guard or National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS).
I have been fortunate to serve as Chairman of the VMAPP Committee in which I am uniquely positioned to advocate for the needs of our brave men and women in uniform and branches of our Armed Forces. We have seen much success on this front in recent years, as numerous bills have come through my committee that is making Kentucky the most military-friendly state in the country. During our meeting, Retired Brigadier General Steven Bullard, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs who was among those presenting me the award spoke on the recent monumental announcement that the U.S. Army has selected Fort Knox as its fourth headquarter location.
Our efforts to prove our commitment as a state to our armed forces have led to this decision. Three Thousand jobs will be created as a result of this decision. I want to thank my fellow VMAPP committee members for joining me in this effort over the past several years. It took many people, including leaders on the federal level like Sen. Mitch McConnell, state leaders like Gen. Bullard and my fellow legislators, and last but certainly not least, the military personnel who already call Kentucky home. To all, I say thank you, and I look forward to continuing the work to support our military and the heroes who serve in it.
Passing the Senate this past week during the midpoint of the 2020 Regular Session was Senate Bill (SB) 4. The bill would establish a Transportation Board which would be responsible for recommending a state road plan to the Kentucky General Assembly and would provide oversight on the selection of the cabinet secretary. SB 4 would codify into law the Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow (SHIFT) initiative, a data-driven, objective approach to compare capital improvement projects and prioritize limited transportation funds. My attention is keen on the needs of our roadways in Laurel County.
With the first 30 days of the session in our rearview mirror, a look back shows significant milestones were reached, and that the Senate is paving the way for continued success in the Commonwealth. Along with the passage of SB 4, other important bills have cleared the Senate with overwhelming support and are now in the hands of the House, and some even on the governor’s desk. They include bills like SB 1, SB 2, and SB 3 that prioritize public safety and instill confidence and participation in Kentucky elections. Bills like SB 4, SB 5, and SB 6 serve to improve Kentuckians' confidence in both state and local elected officials and provide necessary oversight that taxpayers deserve. Finally, SB 8 and SB 9 focus on prioritizing Kentucky education as well as the protection of Kentucky’s most precious assets: our children. SB 9, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, is still posted in the House Judiciary Committee and was not on the committee’s agenda this past week. I hope to see it passed in that committee and through the house very soon.
Other bills passing the Senate last week included SB 111, a bill that will provide honor and respect to first responders who have fallen in the line of duty; SB 134 that creates an optometry scholarship program; and SB 103, that addresses certain sewage disposal and plumbing requirements negatively impacting Kentucky farmers. You can find additional details on all of these bills by visiting legislature.ky.gov.
Though there has been much success in the first 30 days, there is still a long road ahead. Most notably, the formulation of the state’s two-year budget and road plan. Week Seven saw the Senate continuing comparisons between the state’s previously enacted budget from 2018 and the governor’s recent budget proposal. The House is still in the process of developing its budget bill, which per the Constitution of Kentucky, must originate in the House chamber of the Kentucky General Assembly. Upon receiving that bill, the Senate will have its opportunity to provide input on the priorities we would like to see enacted in the biennial budget. The crafting of this is a lengthy process. The Senate is committed to approaching this great responsibility with discipline and deliberation. I will provide you weekly updates in my legislative columns on budgetary matters, specifically on matters affecting Laurel County and the 21st District.
Productive meetings with local officials and other leaders continued for me last week. I enjoyed meeting with the likes of Kimberly Collier with the London-Laurel County Tourist Commission, Deputy Judge-Executive Rick Brewer, and county magistrates, as we discussed ways to continue the growth we are experiencing in Laurel County. Ms. Collier is truly on the frontlines of that as she and the commission do great work. Deputy Judge Brewer was in Frankfort, particularly, regarding ongoing discussions of the state’s six-year road plan. He, Judge Westerfield, Magistrates, your Laurel County representatives in the House, and myself are all focused on the road needs of Laurel County as budget talks progress.
Other meetings I had this week included a visit from the president of St. Joseph Health, John Yanes. St. Joseph Hospital plays a crucial role in the health and well-being of our county’s citizens. Thank you to all the medical professionals of St. Joseph Hospital for all you do.
In closing, I want to wish the North Laurel High School boys and girls basketball teams good luck in the District 49 tournament in Jackson County this week in what should be an exciting and fun time for students and families. While the Jaguars work hard on the court this week, I will be continuing to work hard for Laurel County in Frankfort.
Don’t forget, I invite students from Laurel County to join me as a senate page. If you know a student who would like to serve as a Senate Page, or if you have any questions or comments, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Albert.Robinson@LRC.ky.gov. I am eager for the possibility that I may soon be able to recognize one or even two of our high school basketball teams in Frankfort soon should they find success in the District 49 tournament.
As always, do not hesitate to contact my office if I can be of assistance, or if you would like to share your thoughts on any matters relating to the Kentucky General Assembly. Have a blessed week and look for my Week Eight legislative update in next week’s edition of the paper.
Senator Albert Robinson (R-London) represents the 21st District comprised of Laurel, Jackson, Estill, Powell, Menifee, and Bath Counties. Senator Robinson serves as the chairman of the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee. He is also a member of the Banking and Insurance Committee; the State and Local Government Committee; the Transportation Committee, and the Mileage-Based Transportation Funding Task Force.