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Legislators review pension, hemp bills at chamber breakfast

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Hornback, Montell address about 50 on legislative issues

By Lisa King

Pension reform and the legalization of hemp, two issued addressed in the recent state Legislative session, were the key topics discussed Thursday by state Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) and state Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) at a meeting in Shelbyville.

Montell told a crowd of about 50 people in Stratton Center for a legislative breakfast sponsored by the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce that he was pleased with the pension reform bill, Senate Bill 2, that passed near the end of the session in mid-March.

The bill is projected to save taxpayers $10 billion during the next 20 years, he said.

“Failure to act would have resulted in the retirement system running out of cash in five years and made the commonwealth pay as you go on pension benefits,” he said.

The retirement system pays out nearly $1 billion in benefits each year, Montell said.

Hornback talked about the successful passage at the last minute of a bill that positions state farmers to capitalize on industrial hemp, should Congress allow its commercial development.

A farmer himself, Hornback said in researching the issue he talked to farmers around the world who said hemp crops can be very lucrative.

“I talked to farmers in Canada and Europe who are raising hemp right now very profitably,” he said. “I think we should be giving the commonwealth every economic opportunity we have.”

Hornback said he does not intend to let the matter drop. “I will try to work more on it the first week in May,” he said.

Hornback also touched briefly on other topics he supported, such as a bill that would make it easier for military personnel overseas to cast absentee ballots as well as the AT&T bill, that would end a requirement that telecommunications companies must provide basic phone service via wire or wireline connections.

“I’m not going to let this die,” he said of the latter bill, which he introduced last year. “This is an issue that is very important to rural Kentucky.”

A couple of people in the audience also asked questions, such as Jackie Waits, community liaison from Masonic Home Shelbyville, who asked about a bill that would require a panel of physicians to review lawsuits against nursing homes.

“We would never want to take away anyone’s opportunity to sue if they have a legitimate grievance, but we want to limit frivolous lawsuits,” Hornback said. “These [nursing homes] are facilities that protect and care for our parents and, someday, maybe ourselves.”

In response to a question about child-care subsidies, Montell said he thinks funds soon would be cut in that area.

“One issue that came up was cuts in child-care subsidy across the state,” he said. “People are concerned about those cuts within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, because they couldn’t afford to work. The government needs to step up and take leadership on this because I think those cuts are coming.”

Both Montell and Hornback spoke on the issue of legislative redistricting, with Montell saying the matter probably would not be addressed this year.

“We really need to do it sooner rather than later, because it really puts our [county] clerks in a tough place,” he said. “We won’t know what our districts or our precincts will look like.”

Hornback agreed, saying the issue probably won’t come up until January and that he also is concerned because, even though he would get to keep Shelby and Spencer counties, he would lose Bullitt County and have to pick up some new people and would not much have time to familiarize himself with their issues.

Shelley Goodwin, executive director of the chamber, said she was pleased how the event turned out.

“We have held luncheons and other things for our state reps and senators before, but this is our first time to hold a breakfast,” she said. “We were very pleased with the turnout and thank both of them [Hornback and Montell] for doing a wonderful job.”