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First day of 2022 legislative session includes tradition and money talk

Kentucky House
Stu Johnson
Kentucky House

Kentucky lawmakers returned to Frankfort this week for the start of the 2022 general assembly session. Certain traditions continue during a time when all members realize it remains a time of uncertainty in some respects.

The gavel fell in both the Kentucky House and Senate around noon. Each day of the session begins with prayer in both chambers. In the House, Tuesday’s offering included a call for cooperation. “I pray for good politics God. I pray for good policies and good solutions and creative thinking and alliances and partnerships”

There was prayer for those who suffered tornado damage across the Commonwealth. Down at the other end of the third floor of the capitol, the Senate came into session a few minutes later.

Stu Johnson

The color guard presentation for this first day of the general assembly came from ROTC cadets in Marion County. Summeer Votaw held the American flag during the anthem and My Old Kentucky Home.

“It really means a lot to me. I’ve came to Frankfort the past four years with my fellow cadets doing the Frankfort color guards and actually being able to participate in this and being able to hold the national flag means a lot to me,” said Votaw.

While the House and Senate were in session, the capitol rotunda, often the spot for public gatherings and events was home to a political rally. Lee Watts was there to talk about his congressional candidacy.

Stu Johnson

“I for not sending one more red cent overseas as long as we got one homeless vet or one more American in need,” said Watts.

Back upstairs in the House, there was discussion about rules for the consideration of bills during the winter months. But, there were comments also related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which lawmakers experienced near the end of the 2020 session. Louisville Representative Mary Lou Marizan spoke about signage in the capitol which notes “masks required.” “So, Mr. Speaker why does it not apply to us, because I guess we’re so important that we don’t have to follow rules that apply to the peons. What is the position of being in the House of Representatives and not following the rules? Asked Marzian.

“Point well taken, Lady,” said House Speaker David Osborne.

This budget session of the legislature begins with much talk about a higher than usual amount of dollars to consider spending. That comes with the influx of federal coronavirus recovery money and a large state budget surplus. Richmond Representative Deanna Frazier Gordon says care must still be taken in making funding decisions. “We have to be careful about one time use of those funds because we’re creating something that would be recurring and then not having those surplus funds later on is a potential pitfall, but we are optimistic that we’re going to be able to help education, higher education,” explained Frazier Gordon.

When asked about priorities in her central Kentucky district, Frazier Gordon said Eastern Kentucky University and Madison County schools rank high. Bowling Green Representative Patti Minter is optimistic about more money for higher education, in part, to address deferred maintenance. Minter has also filed a student loan borrower’s bill. She talks about a constituent’s debt difficulties. “And she had a predatory loan. She didn’t know at the time that she was signing with a predatory lender. Over ten years, and she hadn’t missed a payment until the moratorium. But, she’s only paid down $700 of her principal. That’s usery. That’s not right,” said Minter.

The influx of federal dollars will likely make for interesting debate on how to allocate those resources. Letcher County Representative Angie Hatton believes federal and state monies could mean good things for eastern Kentucky. Just as an example, she says her district has a large percentage of homes without water lines. Hatton says it’s important to divvy up both federal and state funding. “So is we had a water project or something like that in the state budget that will now be covered by federal, we need to take that out and handle that with federal money and do something else good with the state budget money. We’ve all been looking at that real carefully and I hope that how it ends up staying,” said Hatton.

Next on this week’s list of activities is the governor’s State of the Commonwealth Address Wednesday evening before a joint session of the legislature. Later this month Governor Beshear will deliver his budget recommendations.

Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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