The 2014 General Assembly session is all but wrapped up. The regular session ended with a two-week break, and the members returned on April 14 and 15 to address any potential vetoes by the governor and tie up loose ends.
There were some successes in this legislative session, but also just as many disappointments as legislators wrangled with some tough issues while ignoring others.
First, we did a get a two-year budget, and it was even on time. Lawmakers were patting themselves and each other on the back for reaching a last-minute, behind-closed-doors budget that still has critical funding shortfalls and simply doesn't address some long-term issues. But at least they passed a budget on time without a special session.
They did restore some funding back to K-12 education, funded teacher raises for the next two years and more textbooks and technology money at the secondary level.
Public-private partnerships have been approved, allowing state and local governments to partner with private sources on project funding. Now, maybe we can get the widening of I-65 completed in our lifetimes. Parents of teenage drivers charged with traffic violations will now have to appear in court with their children - putting some of the responsibility of parenting back on parents.
Sales of electronic cigarettes are prohibited to anyone younger than 18. Viewing or possessing child pornography is now designated as a sex crime.
After way too much discussion, a snow day bill was finally passed, giving districts relief from make-up days because of the bad winter Kentucky experienced. Lawmakers made the right decision by reversing cuts made to child care subsidies to low-income parents.
While we were encouraged by some of the successes that came out of this year's legislative session, there were just as many disappointments.
Kentucky's antiquated tax code wasn't even given the time of day. Even though a statewide tax commission made recommendations on new sources that included taxing services with a combination of tax cuts, the legislators again ignored the white elephant in the room. Kentucky will never be able to keep pace with critical funding issues like education, health and human services until we overhaul our state tax system.
The complicated state pension plan shortfall was once again ignored. While the budget does allow for current year funding, it simply ignores the growing debt and $80 million critical funding shortfall. Everyone had high hopes that HB 70, supporting restoring voting rights for most felons after they have served their punishment, should have passed but failed to do so in the Senate. Why?
Lawmakers skirted the opportunity to take a stand on the use of eminent domain for pipelines or other private business uses. Instead they pushed it off on the courts to decide. Well, the courts did rule and found that the Bluegrass Pipeline does not have the power of eminent domain because the pipeline is not in "public service."
Now that the legislators have heard from the courts, surely they'll make the right decision and take a stand for rights of property owners. We'll see.
Increasing the minimum wage failed to gain any momentum, leaving families still struggling and relying on public assistance just to get by. Even though a large majority of Kentuckians support a statewide smoking ban, lawmakers let the issue merely go up in smoke.
The repeal of the death penalty went nowhere despite all the common sense reasons for abolishing the barbaric measure including millions of dollars in savings.
We did get a budget and we did have some successes, but did Kentuckians really get their money's worth out of this legislative session? We don't think so.
• This editorial originally appeared in The Kentucky Standard in Bardstown.