By Kendall Fletcher
Source: The Winchester Sun
Legislators from Clark County plan to face bills concerning heroin, medical tort reform and local option taxing when the Kentucky General Assembly convenes in Frankfort today.
State Rep. Donna Mayfield (R-Winchester) said you never know what to expect in state legislature, but something that will gain much attention this session will be a heroin bill that was shut out last session.
“It’s a huge crisis in the state right now,” she said.
Heroin has quickly taken precedence after a bill was passed to combat prescription drug abuse through close regulation of pain management clinics, resulting in addictions and many deaths from heroin use, she said.
“Last session, the clock ran out and we were unable to get it to pass. It’s a big issue we certainly need to address,” she said.
Though unsure of all the details of the bill, Mayfield said factors including heroin addicts going through drug programs rather than doing jail time and stiffer penalties for dealers will be part of it.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a very complex bill. I think that everybody is in agreement to get some legislation passed that has some teeth in it (concerning heroin),” she said.
Newly elected state Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester) said he will most likely be co-sponsoring the bill. He said he feels optimistic about the bill, which will have bipartisan support this session, and he hopes to aid in reducing the heroin trade in the state.
Mayfield is looking for tax modernization to be proposed, which is needed to move the state out of its financial straits and would help businesses become more inclined to settle in Kentucky, she said.
“We’re trying to create an environment in the state that helps create jobs,” Alvarado said.
Mayfield said another bill gaining attention is LIST, or Local Investments for Transformation.
“The proposal that would help the state’s finances, and it would give local communities the option of approving whether or not they want a given project,” she said.
Whether it’s a pool, park or other kind of project, instead of asking for state money, local government could take an actual vote to impose the tax for a one-time project.
“It’s a local option tax. It scares people when they hear the word tax, but it actually gives local government more power. It takes away from big government telling the smaller governments what to do, and lets them decide what will be a good project,” she said.
Alvarado, who defeated incumbent R.J. Palmer in the November election, said he’s excited for his first day in state legislature.
“It’s a new job. Anytime you start something like that, there’s a matter of excitement,” he said. “You have a lot of information coming at you and you have to assimilate it all. You’re learning as quickly as you can how things are run, and trying to get things accomplished. You’re trying to get to work right out of the gate. There’s a sense of urgency. You have a four-year term, but that can go very quickly, and there’s no time guaranteed beyond that. I came here with things to accomplish as quickly as I can.”
Medical tort reform with medical review panels is one of his main focuses, and he’ll be bringing a physician’s prospective to the table, which is something they haven’t had before, he said.
The medical review panels, which he said most Kentucky counties support, would first review a claim brought forth against a doctor, nursing home or hospital. After the claim is reviewed, it lessens its ventures through the court systems with the panel weeding out frivolous cases.
“The plaintiff could still sue, but it would be discoverable to a jury that ‘hey, the panel decided this person was not at fault,’ so they’re not likely to win that,” he said.
Legislation will also look at pensions, landlord issues, smoke-free legislation and other pharmaceutical issues, which Alvarado plans to also co-sponsor the latter. Mayfield said they will be organizing Democratic and Republican leadership in the House and the Senate this week, and will return for actual session on Feb. 2.
Contact Kendall Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.