<span>LEGISLATIVE UPDATE</span>: Sen. Robinson reflects on All Masons Day, Gene Allen

I would like to have joined my constituents for some exciting basketball games in the 21st District this past week, as Laurel County athletics continued to impress during the 49th and 50th district girls and boys basketball tournaments, but my responsibility as your state senator demanded I be in Frankfort to represent you and our values. That is what I continued to do during week eight of the 2020 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

Though I was unable to be with you for the tournaments, I was happy have people from our district visit me in Frankfort, such as fellow brothers of the Masonic Order, including McKee Lodge #144.

Several years ago, I took the initiative to establish the "All Masons Day" at our State Capitol. The 2020 "All Masons Day" occurred this past Wednesday, where Masons from all across the Commonwealth gathered to recognize the principles that guide Masons. As a Mason, my brothers and I serve with a belief in God and help our fellow man through charitable means. Our values can be envisioned through the numerous charities we actively support.

During the ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, I received a warm introduction as the "Founding Father" of "All Masons Day." However, it is important to understand that Masons do not serve for the credit, although I was humbled by the kind words. Masons serve for the cause.

I spoke to my brothers and expressed to them that the three most significant moments of my life were as follows: 1. When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of 12. 2. The day God saw fit to bring my wife of soon to be 58 years into my life, and 3. The day that I became a Mason. I am so grateful to my brothers and the quality work that is done by the Masonic Order. I wake up every day blessed to know they are there to help those in need.

Few represented the values of the Masonic Order better than my late friend, Murrell Gene Allen, who was also a Mason. While being joined in the Senate chamber by his wife, Betty Allan; sons, Mark and Charles Allen; daughter, Heather Jackson; and East Bernstadt school officials like Superintendent Vicki Jones, Finance Director Amy Brown, and Board Member Lucas Joyner, we shared a special moment as I presented Senate Resolution (SR) 175. SR 175 adjourned the Senate in Gene Allen’s honor.

Gene was a proud resident of East Bernstadt and a tireless supporter of the East Bernstadt School District. He was the longest-serving school board member in Kentucky, having served the board 53 years and proudly chairing it for 42 years. Next year, there will be a room dedicated in his memory called the "Gene Allen Board Room." He left a lasting impression on all who knew him, as he did on the East Bernstadt School District throughout his long and dedicated service. It is only right that we honor him in this way. Gene entered his heavenly home this past January, leaving behind his family, friends, and colleagues. I know I am joined by many others who mourn his loss. We will honor his legacy by dedicating ourselves in the same manner he did.

Dedicated service is epitomized by first responders like our paid and volunteer firefighters. I was happy to have received a visit this week from representatives of the Kentucky Fire Commission. I heard about the Commission's continued efforts to help Kentucky firefighters. There are certainly challenges facing the Kentucky fire service, such as health-related issues - like cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - and recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. Nevertheless, I am encouraged by the Fire Commissions efforts and appreciate its representatives taking the time to discuss their legislative goals with me during this budget session.

Now that we have passed the halfway point of this 2020 Regular Session, the countdown begins as we in the Senate anticipate the forthcoming 2020-2022 budget bill from the House of Representatives. We are expecting to receive it by early March. While crafting the biennial budget remains at the forefront of our minds – and Laurel County remains at the forefront of mine as budget discussions progress – my fellow lawmakers and I continue to uphold our other responsibilities, like passing legislation that will move Kentucky forward.

I am pleased to update you that this year's school safety measure, Senate Bill (SB) 8, has been signed into law. Passing both chambers with bipartisan support, SB 8 requires the trained and certified law enforcement officers already serving in Kentucky schools to carry a firearm. Our children are worth protecting. This is a commonsense step toward keeping them safe.

The Senate focused heavily on constitutional amendments during week eight. Constitutional amendments are introduced like any other bill but go through a slightly different process than regular bills. A bill like SB 8 ends with a signature from the governor, but a constitutional amendment requires approval by you, the voter. If both chambers pass a legislatively proposed amendment, it is placed on the ballot during the next general election. If approved by a simple majority of voters, it becomes part of the constitution. Amendments that pass the General Assembly this year will appear on your ballot this November for you to make your voice known. No more than four amendments can be placed on a single ballot.

Constitutional amendment proposals passing the Senate this week were SB 15, SB 58, and SB 62. SB 15 - also known as "Marsy's Law" - would add a crime victims’ bill of rights to the state constitution. SB 58 would require governors to make determinations on pardons prior to their re-election date, ending their ability to make controversial pardon decisions without answering to the voters of Kentucky. SB 62 would provide authority to the legislature to establish standards for restoring persons convicted of certain felonies' right to vote.

You can read these constitutional amendment bills - and those I am about to mention - in their entirety by visiting legislature.ky.gov.

Other bills clearing the Senate last week were SB 55, a bill aiming to study ways to make Kentucky's digital infrastructure more secure. SB 132 adds people with state-issued personal identification cards to the master list of potential jurors. SB 156 ensures the high school career and technical education system is unified, equitably funded, collaborative, responsive to industry, sustainable, and provides equalized access to all Kentucky students. Finally, SB 160, a bill that reorganizes the Office of the Attorney General, establishing an Office of Administrative Services and a Solicitor General position.

Remember, I invite students from Laurel County and the 21st District to join me in Frankfort as my Senate pages. If you know anyone who would like to serve as a 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 appreciate your input on all matters and urge you to continue making your voices heard in Frankfort. It is my sincere pleasure to serve as your state senator.

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.

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