As a member of the Kentucky State House of Representatives, I am often asked to talk about how the legislature shapes its priorities for the upcoming session. Now, there are a few bills that are drafted to address last minute issues. However, much of the legislation that makes it into law is the result of months of preparation and study by committees, working groups, and individual legislators. During the 2021 Legislative Interim, the House and Senate created six task forces to study specific issues that will lead our agenda during the 2022 Regular Session. They will look at a variety of issues, ranging from how we fund public schools to how we provide services.
1915c Home and Community Based Services Waiver Redesign: Within broad Federal guidelines, States can develop home and community-based services waivers (HCBS Waivers) to meet the needs of people who prefer to get long-term care services and supports in their home or community, rather than in an institutional setting. In 2017, Kentucky began a project to redesign our state’s six 1915© Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers. These include: Acquired Brain Injury (ABI); Acquired Brain Injury Long Term Care (ABI LTC); Home and Community Based (HCB); Model II Waiver (MIIW); Michelle P. Waiver (MPW); and Supports for Community Living (SCL). These waivers help individuals with brain injuries, disabilities, or who are ventilator dependent live in the community as independently as possible. This task force will review previous redesign efforts and develop recommendations to ensure the future quality and stability of these waiver services.
County Clerk Office Modernization: This task force was created to discuss issues regarding the implementation of electronic recording, fees or functions of the county clerk in the recording of documents, closure of county clerk offices due to an emergency, and related issues. Task force members will also look into how the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s response to it impacted clerk’s offices and the services they provide in order to identify areas of improvement for future emergencies.
Pari-Mutuel Wagering Taxation: While pari-mutuel wagering has a major impact on Kentucky’s horseracing industry, this task force will focus primarily on the taxes and rates related to the practice of pari-mutuel wagering.
School Funding: Public school funding for kindergarten through 12th grade accounts for more than 42% of our current budget and per pupil spending is at a record high dollar amount, yet there are still concerns about how per pupil funds are allocated. Legislators on this task force are developing and submitting recommended changes aimed at allocating the money in a more equitable and efficient manner.
Severe Mental Illness: Although we have made some progress, a stigma is still attached to mental health issues in general, and the diagnosis and treatment of severe mental illnesses specifically. Severe mental illnesses are defined through diagnosis, disability, and duration and include disorders with psychotic symptoms such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, manic depressive disorder, and bi-polar disorder. Approximately 2.6% of adults in Kentucky live with a severe mental illness. While the diagnosis of symptoms can be influenced by our society and culture, most mental illnesses occur in all countries and cultures. This suggests that they have very real biological and psychological causes. This task force is delving into the services available to those with severe mental illnesses, and how the state can improve access to proper treatment and care in order to help those suffering recover.
Unemployment Insurance Reform: The administration’s unemployment insurance debacle is without a doubt the single greatest failure of government in our lifetime. Thousands of Kentuckians waited months for claims to be processed, many still have not been paid benefits they are due, and employers who paid into the system faced an increase while those who traditionally did not participate in UI received benefits. Members of the UI task force will evaluate and discuss long-term changes, while seeking input from employers, benefit recipients, and experts. A list of recommendations will be submitted in time for consideration next session.
If you would like to share your thoughts on these or any issues relating to the Kentucky General Assembly, please reach out to me. 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. If you would like more information visit the LRC website www.legislature.ky.gov.