Last week’s legislative committee meetings provided plenty of information to share with you in my regular update. Legislators heard from a variety of stakeholders on issues like clean water, the housing market, and updates to the state’s vehicle and boat licensing systems. I hope you will take a few moments and read these brief summaries. As always, please reach out if I can provide additional information for you on these topics.

IJC on Judiciary: The Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary heard compelling testimony this week on the need for legislation addressing swatting. Swatting is a newly coined term that refers to when someone calls the police and lies about a crime taking place. As with any reported crime, police respond prepared to deal with the worst and instead find someone who has no idea what they are talking about. It can be tense, but it can also be deadly. A family in Scott County recently had this happen to them, and the experience left them shaken and traumatized. Currently, this type of crime is only a misdemeanor, meaning perpetrators would receive little punishment. However, the proposed legislation would seek to turn this type of false reporting into a felony.

IJC on Appropriations and Revenue: The director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Kentucky updated members on the state’s economic health. According to testimony, while economic output improves, Kentucky continues to lag behind the national average in employment to population ratio and labor force participation. In fact, according to the Kentucky Chamber, the gap between Kentucky’s labor force participation rate and the national rate is almost a full percentage point wider than it was before the pandemic. The labor force participation rate is essentially the number of people who could be working.

IJC on Transportation: Members received updates on the implementation of the KAVIS:2 project, road fund revenues, and the Transportation Cabinet’s driver licensing and KSP driver testing transitioning. The KAVIS:2 project should provide the Commonwealth with a statewide, automated system for vehicle and boat titling, registration, taxation, and related functions. This comprehensive solution will replace the legacy systems, other small subsystems, and provide a consistent and updated platform for the Commonwealth to perform vehicle licensing business. Currently, 72% of this project is complete. Approximately 17 months of effort remain, which lines up with the targeted goal of completion by December of 2022. KYTC reported that by the end of August, Kentucky will have transitioned 49 Circuit Court Clerks. There are now 19 opened regional offices, and they are vigorously looking to open other offices in parts of the state where they see the potential for greater services. They expect to see more office openings beginning in late September, continuing through the fall and into early 2022.

During August, KSP will continue to transition driver testing services to a regional testing model in connection with the regionalization of all driver licensing services throughout the Commonwealth. As of Aug. 1, 2021, regional testing sites have been established in eight locations.

IJC on Banking and Insurance: Members of the Interim Joint Committee on Banking and Insurance kicked off their first meeting with an update from the Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions (KDFI) on the increase in foreclosures due to the pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic, many people would have struggled to pay their rent without the federal moratorium on evictions. As the federal moratorium just ended and a housing-price boom, many renters are facing evictions. KDFI shared that they urge the financial institutions to work with the borrowers as much as possible, but that doesn’t ensure that people won’t lose their homes. Another topic of interest in this month’s meeting was bitcoin. For those who might not understand bitcoin, it is a decentralized digital form of currency that does not use a central bank, which can be sent from one user to another within the bitcoin network. Currently, the Commonwealth has not developed a set of regulations for bitcoin like we have for financial institutions.

IJC on Natural Resources and Environment: Committee members heard testimony from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on the changes needed to permitting requirements and processes to ensure Kentucky stays competitive with other states. Over the past 10 years, approximately 450 Kentucky development projects required the Clean Water Act 404 permits, many times taking years to obtain. The chamber expressed the importance of the “Fee-In-Lieu-Of” (FILO) to speeding up the permitting processes. Currently, the program is dealing with a major backlog impacting 23 Kentucky counties. Ensuring the capabilities of the FILO program will promote economic recovery from the pandemic, generate high paying jobs, and aid Kentucky’s overall development.

As always, I want to share a look back at the week, but I hope you will reach out to me for more information. I can be reached here at home anytime, or 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.

Also, feel free to watch the committee meetings on YouTube by searching “KY LRC Committee Meetings” or on Kentucky Educational Television at ket.org/legislature. KET does not cover all committee meetings, but the YouTube channel will have the meetings that KET does not. Also, visit the legislature’s website at legislature.ky.gov.

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