Dating violence, heroin and health care. Those are certainly not the openers to any pleasant conversation that start off the new semester of college. Yet, to anyone following the political affairs of our state, they will definitely be objects of attention in the coming weeks.
This past week marked the opening of the Kentucky General Assembly, the state’s version of Congress, along with Governor Steve Beshear’s final State of the Commonwealth Address. Although this year’s assembly is rather short, only 30 days compared to last year’s 60, Beshear was sure that the state’s record of bipartisan effort and collaboration would bring about several new laws to the Commonwealth.
Top priorities in the coming weeks mainly concern health and safety for the people of the Commonwealth. Following the rising impact heroin has had with over 32 percent of overdose cases in 2013 involving the drug and over 4,000 heroin-related cases taken to the police in 2014, the Assembly will be discussing bills that would expand treatment, protect 911 callers of overdose cases and create harsher punishments for traffickers of the illegal substance.
Movement for heroin has already made some headway, as earlier last week, the University of Louisville hospital, University of Kentucky hospital and Saint Elizabeth’s Healthcare will receive funding that will allow the purchase of naloxone kits, injected or inhaled medical devices that can prevent a heroin overdose from becoming fatal.
Dating violence was also a strong pull in Beshear’s speech. He stated that Kentucky’s domestic violence rates were the highest in the nation and needed reform to ensure domestic violence protection.
Along with this, the Governor desired to put on the Assembly floor a bill for state-wide smoke free policies, a bill on which 66 percent of Kentucky adults seem in favor for, according to the most recent poll.
Robert Stivers, president of the Republican-controlled Kentucky Senate, stated that while he does not like smoking, it is not the government’s place to tell private enterprises what to do. Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo, however, believed it to be time for a resolution on the matter. Stumbo is also authoring a bill concerned with the use of medical marijuana in Kentucky.
One of the bigger moves by Beshear in the past years, the Affordable Care Act, also received notice during the address. Kentucky is the only southern state to expand health benefit exchanges.
Beshear stated that he had hired an international group to analyze the economic impact Kynect and the ACA had on the Commonwealth, and those findings will be unveiled in the months to come. A preliminary result already shows that 5,300 jobs were created with the ACA, and that cost cuts that would have been costly if the state had been delayed until 2017.
Beshear ended his final address with a call to arms to his fellow politicians. “When the elections are over, we must work with the winners, no matter what side they are from. Collaborative Leadership is needed, and although Republicans control the Senate and Democrats the House, they must work for a stronger Kentucky.”
With less than 30 days to go, we can only hope that they put up a good effort.