By Representative Chris Harris
Like the first day back to school, the first week of any new legislative session brings mixed emotions – anticipation and excitement, apprehension and hope. To me, it’s also an exceptionally humbling time as I consider the great responsibility you have vested in me as your representative for the 93rd district.
I serve in Frankfort to be an active, accessible voice for the people of Pike and Martin counties and this 2016 session of the Kentucky General Assembly will be no exception.
When we meet in even-numbered years, we do so for 60 legislative days. Kentucky’s constitution calls for us to focus our attention on passing a state budget before the next two-year budget cycle begins in July.
The good news is that the state’s overall revenues are increasing. A recent budget analysis suggests that state revenues will continue to grow this year. The bad news is that Commonwealth’s obligations are also increasing. Funds necessary to shore up the state’s ailing retirement systems for teachers and state employees, along with increased outlays required for Medicaid, will leave funding gaps that need to be filled.
On January 26, we’ll hear new Gov. Matt Bevin’s own ideas for balancing the budget during a televised address before members of both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate.
After that, I’ll join my colleagues in the House as we begin creating our own budget plan before sending it on to the Senate for its consideration. Then the budget comes back to us and, if history is any guide, major differences eventually will be hashed out in conference committees appointed by both Senate and House leadership.
Both chambers then approve a final version of the budget before sending it to the governor for his approval, veto, or line-item veto of individual budget items.
It’s a lengthy and complex process, and one that ultimately centers on how best to serve the needs of Kentuckians throughout the state. From my standpoint, that means encouraging the development of higher-paying jobs, quality health care, good roads, improved schools, and better water and sanitation services.
I am sure you and your family understand the challenges of balancing a budget all too well, and I hope throughout this process you will share with me your own ideas and concerns. Although we will likely not always agree on every issue, I value your comments and opinions. I will always strive to cast my vote in ways that will benefit the people of Pike and Martin counties.
During the 2016 session, you may reach me at [email protected] or call 1-800-781-7181 to leave me a message. You can also write to me – Rep. Chris Harris, 702 Capitol Avenue, Annex Room 329, Frankfort, KY, 40601.
For the latest updates, please find me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @RepHarrisKy.
I also encourage you to follow the legislative process by visiting the Legislative Research Commission’s (LRC) website at www.lrc.ky.gov. There, you can also find a variety of information – everything from the status of individual bills to a schedule of committee meetings to “kids” pages with legislative facts, state symbols and coloring pages. The LRC has also launched its own YouTube channel called “LRC Capitol Connection.” The channel provides videos about the legislature, legislative issues and state lawmakers. It can be accessed at http://bit.ly/CapitolConnection.
Please also make note of these important phone numbers: the Bill Status Line, 1-866-840-2835; the Calendar (Meetings) Line at 1-800-633-9650; the TTY Message Line, 1-800-896-0305; and En Español, 1-866-840-6574.
Next week, I’ll provide more information on individual issues we’ll be discussing this session, but until then, please know how honored I am to serve your interests and those of your family.