The General Assembly may be at its busiest during the first few months of the year, when bills are debated and enacted, but that doesn’t mean the summer and fall are unimportant to the legislative process.
On the contrary, this period is also an integral part of lawmakers’ work, because it gives us the chance to review numerous issues and gather public input in a less-hectic setting, both of which are vital when the next legislative session arrives in January.
We call these six or so months the interim, and it starts in June and ends around the first of December. Most of the work falls on the 14 main House and Senate committees that meet jointly each month; I currently serve on the Agriculture, Banking & Insurance, Economic Development and Judiciary standing committees.
There are about a dozen other legislatively created committees that permanently monitor various aspects of state government, while there are usually several temporary task forces whose focus is on a specific issue.
Most of these meetings take place in the Annex located just behind our Capitol, but not all of them. On Thursday, for example, many of the joint House and Senate committees traveled to Northern Kentucky for what has become a traditional kick-off to the interim.
While there, these committees heard testimony on such things as the region’s contributions to Kentucky’s alcoholic beverage industry; the negative impact that high insulin costs and the national shortage of baby formula are having on families; and how state finances look as the budget approaches the end of the fiscal year later this month.
Agendas for future meetings are still being finalized, but expected topics include what more Kentucky can do to ease healthcare shortages, especially in rural areas; the work of a newly created center at the University of Kentucky to study medicinal cannabis; how this year’s tax reform law will affect state spending; and issues tied to student mental health and schools’ overall safety.
Later in the fall, various organizations like Kentucky League of Cities and Kentucky Association of Counties will offer their list of priorities for the next legislative session. There will also be other meetings held away from the Capitol, with the biggest of these happening in Louisville in August, when the Kentucky State Fair is underway.
This year’s task forces – there are six overall – will focus on such issues as the Executive Branch’s organization and efficiency; early childhood education; bourbon barrel taxation; the status of our emergency medical services; and how a “benefits cliff” affects safety-net programs and labor participation.
Just as is the case during legislative sessions, there are ways to stay informed of the General Assembly’s work during the interim.
All meetings are streamed live, either by KET or by the Legislative Research Commission, which is the legislature’s administrative arm. You can find those by searching for “LRC livestream.” The meetings are archived, so you can watch whenever is convenient.
The General Assembly’s main webpage – legislature.ky.gov – makes it easy to find meeting schedules, and you can also read texts of legislation and find prior votes.
As always, you can also contact me if you have further questions. My email is Nima.Kulkarni@lrc.ky.gov, while the toll-free message line for all legislators is 1-800-372-7181. This is available during normal business hours around the year.