Top Kentucky lawmakers preview upcoming legislative session
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Kentucky lawmakers are preparing for the upcoming 2022 legislative session which is set to begin on January 4.
On Monday, top senate Republicans were in Bowling Green, speaking to local leaders and answering questions from several media outlets.
The entire Republican caucus will be back in Bowling Green in one week for an annual retreat, where they will further plan out the legislative session.
“We’ve invited the budget director to come down,” Senate President Robert Stivers said. “We’ll work with our committee chairs to see what they’ve seen over the past six, eight and nine months, and that’s kind of how we’ll work through.”
They said a lot of talks will be centered around delegating state funds. “We’re looking at what’s going to be the best bang for our buck in the state,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Wilson said.
This go around, lawmakers will draft up a two-year budget. Pensions are likely going to be a big priority when it comes to the state budget.
You could actually take and put a billion dollars toward an unfunded liability and certainly reduce the cost,” Wilson explained.
They’ll also decide what to do with money received from the recently passed federal infrastructure bill. There is also one point one billion dollars in the state’s hands from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
“I’m going to put in a request from the Kentucky Travel Industry Association for 75 million dollars in ARPA money to go towards marketing of Kentucky tourism,” Damon Thayer, Kentucky’s Majority Flood Leader, said.
Bonus pay for essential workers was mentioned, but leaders say it would be too hard to decide who gets what. “Because if we take the 400 million that the governor wants to do and spread it out amongst everybody that worked, everybody would get about 500 dollars, so that’s not going to be very effective,” Wilson said. They’ll have until 2024 to decide how to divvy up the ARPA money.
For a while now, these republican leaders have worked on drafting new maps of Kentucky’s legislative and congressional districts. However, Governor Andy Beshear wants to see the plans before calling a special session.
“He’s making that the caveat to calling a special session even though I think we could be ready within a week to have a special session and get it out of the way,” Stivers said. It is a somewhat unique situation, as, for the first time, Republican leaders have nearly complete control of the process.
Attracting more workers to Kentucky is another priority, as the state continues to face a workforce shortage.
“We have 3,000 nurses that are needed in Kentucky right now, that is huge for us,” Wilson said.
Legislators are looking into solutions like changing laws around licensing or certifications to make it easier for workers to transfer into the state.
“There are things that if you’re licensed in HVAC and you move to Kentucky, you’ve got to start from the bottom again, and nobody wants to do that kind of thing,” Wilson said.
Bills are already pre-filed as we approach the new year, and a new lawmaking session taking on new and continuing challenges coming out of the pandemic.
Copyright 2021 WBKO. All rights reserved.