Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - Updated: 2:09 AM
For the first time since 1921, Republicans took control of the Kentucky House of Representatives, making our first week back to Frankfort a historic one. We have been hard at work doing exactly what the voters of Kentucky sent us to Frankfort to accomplish. The result of this was an extremely productive first week of the 2017 session, in which priority bills to improve the economy, protect life and make government more accountable passed through the General Assembly.
This week we began by passing House Bill 2. This legislation, dubbed the "Ultrasound Informed Protection Act," aims to give women all of the necessary medical information before undergoing an abortive procedure. The House passed this commonsense, informed consent bill 83-12, a testament to the bipartisanship consensus that our new majority has brought. Our caucus shares my belief in not only this principle, but also that our unborn children are the most defenseless among us; they deserve the chance to pursue the same livelihood that every Kentuckian does. This philosophy guided our passage of Senate Bill 5, also called the Pain Capable Unborn Child Act. This legislation bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, in which the science shows that an unborn child can feel pain. The new majority in Frankfort has made it a priority to protect the life of the unborn, and I was proud to vote for both of these pieces of legislation.
A top priority of mine in the 2017 Regular Session is economic development and job creation for our Commonwealth. House Bill 1, the Right to Work bill, also passed the House and Senate this week, and was quickly signed into law by Governor Bevin. This legislation will make Kentucky the twenty-seventh state where joining a union will no longer be a condition of employment. Many of our surrounding states already have this law, and it has given them a leg up when it comes to attracting companies, who come in and create jobs and invest in communities. Implementing Right to Work not only makes Kentucky more attractive to job creators, but it brings liberty to our workers by ensuring that they have the option to not join a union, just like they have a fundamental right to do so. Freedom of choice for individuals, so long as another life is not threatened, is a cornerstone principle in our nation. I am proud to have voted for this pro-job, pro-worker bill, and look forward to seeing more companies taking a look at the Commonwealth, where many Kentuckians are longing for gainful employment.
In accordance with our commitment to protecting the taxpayers of Kentucky, we enacted House Bill 3, which will eliminate the prevailing wage on public construction projects. The current policy provides artificial, above-market wage rates, which inherently leads to us having less money to spend on basic government services. Local governments will benefit immensely from repealing the prevailing wage, as it will now be more cost-effective to build, for example, schools for children across the Commonwealth. This measure passed the House 57-40, and has been signed into law by the governor. Eliminating the prevailing wage in Kentucky is a critical step in spending taxpayer dollars wisely, and giving local governments the flexibility to manage the operations of their towns.
When it comes to House Bills 1, 2, and 3, I was proud to be a co-sponsor of these three bills and to be able to honor my campaign promises.
One of the most inspiring aspects of our new majority is the restoration of honesty and transparency in Frankfort. Senate Bill 3, also passed by both chambers and signed by Governor Bevin, provides the general public with access to the retirement plans of both current and former legislators. Kentuckians deserve to know the size of the legislative pensions that their tax dollars are funding, and this bill ensures that they will. The overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of approval, even as the bill couldn't get a floor vote last session, shows that this commonsense idea is a good one.
The first week of the 2017 Regular Session has been historic for our Commonwealth. The General Assembly has taken the necessary steps to open Kentucky for business, restore workers' liberties, ensure economic freedom, protect life, and make government open and transparent to the taxpayers. The House of Representatives now has a working majority, fighting hard on behalf of taxpayers and racking up numerous legislative accomplishments. I will continue to support legislation that makes a better Kentucky for every citizen, and I look forward to continuing this work as we forge through the 30-day session.
I welcome your comments and concerns on any issues impacting our Commonwealth during the 2017 Regular Session.
I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or you can contact me via e-mail at Walker.Thomas@lrc.ky.gov.
You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.