I want to take some time this week to look into the not-too-distant future and eye some of the issues that we lawmakers may be tackling during the 2013 Regular Session that begins on Jan. 8.
Many of these issues will be up for “reconsideration” next year, having already been vetted during the last regular session and in sessions prior. They include:
• Raising Kentucky’s school dropout age from age 16 to age 18.
Getting a job without a high school diploma is extremely difficult, and getting into college is impossible without one. Young people today must have an education to get ahead in the world.
Under the most recent proposal to increase the state’s dropout age, the required age of attendance would increase to age 17 in 2016 and age 18 the following year. While the dates for implementation may change, I do expect to see this legislation before Kentucky lawmakers again in 2013.
• Easing the burdens on those who take out payday or “deferred deposit” loan by limiting the annual percentage rate on the loans to 36 percent.
This proposal would establish a maximum annual percentage rate of 36 percent for any payday loan. The current interest rate on each of these loans is nearly 400 percent APR. The proposal would also replace a service fee of up to $15 per $100 allowed on payday loans under current law, and clarify in law that any lender who makes a payday loan that violates the maximum interest provisions is involved in “an unfair, false, misleading and deceptive practice in violation of the Consumer Protection Act.”
The future of this proposal next year is very uncertain, with lawmakers hesitant to pass further restrictions on small business owners.
• Changing how Kentucky handles redistricting of legislative seats, and possibly others.
Redistricting is not only volatile and litigious, as we saw in the 2012 session. It is likely that we will see another attempt next session to take redistricting out of the hands of the General Assembly and put it instead into the hands of a special reapportionment and redistricting commission that advocates of such a commission think could handle the process more objectively.
Members of the General Assembly could still file a redistricting plan under the commission system, but would have to follow certain standards and procedures to do so.
Like the payday legislation, the outcome of such an effort remains uncertain.
• Adjusting the “pill mill bill’ passed during last spring’s special session to make the law less punitive for good physicians, while cracking down on improper prescribers.
Physicians are largely supportive of the bill’s goal to curb fly-by-night pain clinics and abusive prescribing of controlled pain medicines. But they also need clarification on the new law’s rules and how noncompliance will be fairly enforced. Physicians have said in interim committee meetings that they need solid details on exactly which medications are monitored under the new law, which requires all prescribers and dispensers of controlled substances to register with KASPER and check the state electronic prescription monitoring system before prescribing medications like Lortab or Vicodin containing hydrocodone.
Look for some fine tuning of the pill mill legislation to take place as the 2013 session proceeds.
• Looking deeper at the state employee pension system and trying to fix it.
Legislative members of the 2012 special Kentucky Public Pensions Task Force are working hard to arrive at recommendations for comprehensive reform of Kentucky’s state pension system. We need to permanently bridge the $23.6 billion gap between what the state retirement system has on hand to pay future retirees and what is actually being paid into the pension fund.
A report from the Pew Center and Laura and John Arnold Foundation that sets out a framework for reform was released last month by the task force, which will use the report to draft recommended pension system changes by Dec. 7. That gives lawmakers plenty of time to turn those recommendations into bills for the 2013 General Assembly’s consideration.
I hope this gives you a good idea of where we are, and where we are headed, on key policy issues in the Kentucky General Assembly as we look toward the 2013 Regular Session. There will be more to share next week as we continue to plow through September and head into autumn.