As the legislative interim continues, I would like to focus on what our committees are working on as the agenda for the 2023 Regular Session of the General Assembly takes shape. Veteran’s issues, the current status of the opioid settlement, as well as an update on initiatives that improve access to healthcare led last week’s discussions.

Here are summaries of what committees covered during the last two weeks of June:

Task Force on Executive Branch Efficiency

This task force was created to analyze how effectively and efficiently the executive branch is working so the legislature can craft more fiscally sound policy that puts taxpayer dollars to good use. During the first meeting, the Department of Local Government (DLG) provided an overview of the agency’s role in providing financial help in the form of grants and loan assistance, advising local governments in budget, personnel, and other relevant issues. Many of the federal dollars that come to Kentucky — particularly Covid-relief funding — flow through the DLG. As a result, the agency has seen an increase of 177% in the funding for local governments that it must oversee. When asked what could make them more efficient, DLG’s director told members that the agency is doing more with less but meeting the needs of local governments.

Task Force on Early Childhood Education

Created to review all aspects of early childhood caregiving, structures, and operations, this task force is critical to making sure Kentucky children have early learning environments where they thrive and helping get Kentuckians into the workforce. The first meeting provided a detailed overview of what exists today, including the fact that there are 7,000 fewer childcare slots now than prior to 2020 after 9% of licensed providers closed as a result of the pandemic. This is startling considering the state faced a shortage in childcare before the first case of Covid was diagnosed. Task Force members also learned that half of Kentucky households live in areas that either have no childcare options or extremely limited availability. These areas are commonly referred to as childcare deserts.

IJC on State Government

Lawmakers met for the first time this legislative interim and heard testimony from representatives of the Attorney General’s office regarding the opioid settlement and how the money gained from the settlement will be spent. A total of $483 million is coming to the commonwealth as a result of this settlement, half of which is set to be allocated to local governments in their effort to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic. The other half will be used by the state in its efforts to curb the epidemic. This money can only be used for prevention, treatment, awareness, and recovery efforts, and local entities seeking this funding will have to provide reports on how this money is being spent.

IJC on Local Government

Members held the committee’s first meeting of the 2022 Legislative Interim, discussing reimbursements to county jails for the state prisoners they house. The Department of Corrections discussed the provisions and potential impact of HB 211, which was considered during the session but did not receive final passage. The bill would have required the state to reimburse counties when inmates convicted of a felony receive credit for time served in the county jail pre-trial.

IJC on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection

Legislators heard from the Kentucky Commission on Veterans Affairs about a program called C4 that provides career training to active duty, reserve, National Guard military, veterans, and their dependents seeking jobs in cybersecurity. Eastern Kentucky University’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs also addressed the committee. The university ranks third in the nation in military friendliness and has done an outstanding job of providing support to those serving and leaving service. Eastern’s administration spoke about their VETS|Ready Program, an initiative that provides a college experience tailored to the needs of those who serve.

Legislative Oversight and Investigations

The committee received a briefing on the findings of a Legislative Research Commission study on the judicial branch’s contracting procedures. The report included a set of 16 recommendations for improving the process. According to officials from the Administrative Office of the Courts, they have already implemented 15 and are currently working on the final recommendation.

Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee

Members met this week to discuss updates on Medicaid enrollment and how to improve access to care. In the last two years, enrollment has increased by 372,262 putting those enrolled in Medicaid at almost 1.65 million or almost a third of our state’s population. Health insurance officials from Anthem Blue Cross explained to legislators that one of the leading efforts to address awareness of screenings as tools for early detection and prevention of conditions like cancer. Additionally, the Kentucky Hospital Association discussed challenges facing its membership, which includes both urban and rural hospitals struggling with labor shortages, low reimbursement rates, and other financial issues caused by inflation.

If you are interested in keeping up with legislative committees, work groups, and task forces, the meetings are open to the public with materials available at legislature.ky.gov. While lawmakers must be physically present to participate in the meeting, members of the public may attend in-person or watch meetings live on YouTube @KY LRC Committee Meetings or Kentucky Educational Television at ket.org/legislature. In the meantime, I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Feel free to contact me via email at Samara.Heavrin@lrc.ky.gov. If you would like more information, please visit the LRC website legislature.ky.gov.

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