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The General Assembly convened on Jan. 6 for a 30-day session. Our first week was spent “organizing,” that is, each chamber chose their leadership teams and committee assignments were distributed. I was honored to be reelected majority whip especially since with the changes in the House of Representatives, I am the only voice for western Kentucky in the leadership of either chamber. The majority whip is charged with counting the votes on the bills presented and providing the caucus’s position on key issues to the senate president.
Typically, the rest of January is for wrapping up any business in the interim committees. However, as many of you have undoubtedly read in the papers or over the Internet and viewed on television, the state’s financial situation is troubled. We are faced with a projected $456 million budget shortfall. The governor has proposed budget cuts, a 70 cent cigarette tax, and furloughs for state employees. It is my belief that we must look at any economies that we may achieve first before raising any taxes. There’s little point in throwing money on a system that’s structurally unsound and these times provide us with the perfect opportunity to see what is truly necessary. Furthermore, we must look at our budget with a long view. None of the proposals the governor has discussed will alleviate the situation next year. The senate is open to considering all options. Providing for education, infrastructure and health services will be our first priority.
During the last several years, the senate majority in a bipartisan manner has focused on education initiatives such as encouraging advanced placement courses in math and science. This year, we have developed legislation to focus math standards in order to ensure that every high school graduate is prepared for advanced algebra. Math is so very fundamental to our future economic development and job growth. We must prepare our educational system to support higher achievement. The senate also is evaluating several other proposals in education as well as corrections reform and other areas.
Even though we will be in a “short” session, your input is very much appreciated. Please let me know how the above issues and others affect you. For further information on pending legislation and the General Assembly, you can visit the Legislative Research Commission Web site at www.lrc.state.ky.us. If you have any questions or concerns, please call me on the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. The TTY message line is also toll-free, 1-800-896-0305.
Carroll Gibson, R-Leitchfield, is the senate majority whip, chairman of the Tobacco Settlement and Oversight Committee and serves on the Government Contract Review Committee, the Judiciary Committee, State and Local Government Committee, the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, the Rules Committee, the Committee on Committees, and the Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee. He represents the 5th District including LaRue County.