Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

Columns

February 9, 2011

Senate week in review

Feb. 9, 2011 —     Senators returned to Frankfort this week ready to get to work on a number of issues facing our Commonwealth. You’ll remember that during our brief four-day January session, the Senate passed an even dozen bills tackling major issues, ranging from government transparency and efficiency to immigration to education. Those comprehensive reforms alone would be an accomplishment to take pride in, but we have a great deal of work left to achieve.

    We followed up January’s work when we returned this week by moving several bills through the committee system, preparing them for a vote in the coming days. Those bills include legislation on expanding Kentucky’s energy portfolio, increasing opportunities for career and technical education in our high schools, and allowing students a better understanding of the Bible’s influence on the arts and modern history.

    Perhaps the most important debate we had this week was the right tack to take in our ongoing war against drugs, particularly methamphetamines — meth. We have already moved products like Sudafed, Claritin-D, and other cold remedies behind the pharmacist’s counter because they contain pseudoephedrine or related drugs, which are the key ingredient in cooking meth. We now require buyers to sign a ledger and limit the amount they can buy. Purchases are tracked.

    For every move we make, however, meth producers create a new trick to get around it. So the next step is to require a prescription to obtain those drugs, which could drive up both the difficulty and price of making meth, and run many producers out of business. At the same time, we recognize that would be a real inconvenience — and an expensive one — for ordinary Kentuckians who simply want to beat their common cold without having to go to the doctor every time they’re stuffed up. That’s an ongoing debate in our chamber, and it’s a difficult discussion worth having.

    We also heard this week from Gov. Beshear, who delivered his annual State of the Commonwealth Address to the General Assembly.

    Obviously, there are things that various legislators, including me, disagree with the governor on, but there were others ideas that we all concur with. He offered his support to SB 8, the bill we passed in January to create a one-stop online shop for business services and reduce bureaucratic paperwork. He also spoke about the need to make tough decisions regarding Medicaid, which threatens to overwhelm the state budget in these tight fiscal times if we don’t rein in spending growth and strengthen oversight — although in some key areas, we disagree with the governor on how to do that. Finally, he forcefully mentioned the vital role that coal plays in our energy economy and how we can boost clean coal’s contributions to our energy independence.

    We don’t have much time to tackle the many challenges we face, because we’re already eight days into this 30-day odd-year session. The Senate has done its part in sending key bills to the House already, and we look forward to receiving House bills soon, and to both chambers acting expeditiously to get this winter's work done.

    In fact, Senate President David Williams has proposed that we eliminate up to six days from this year's legislative calendar. Such a move could save us $400,000 or so, substantial savings to Kentucky taxpayers, while still allowing us to complete our work at the Capitol.

    Time is short, so I want to hear from my constituents on the issues we face. To leave a message for me, your House member, or any other legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at (800) 372-7181. People with hearing impairments may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the TTY Message Line at (808) 896-0305.

    Senator Robin Webb represents Bracken, Carter, Greenup, Lewis, Mason and Robertson counties.

    The opinions expressed are solely those of Sen. Robin Webb.

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