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Higdon, McCoy say pension reform still possible before end of legislative session

State Rep. Chad McCoy and Sen. Jimmy Higdon take questions from the crowd during Wednesday morning’s legislative coffee in the fiscal courtroom of the Old Courthouse.

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019 — Pension reform is still possible as part of the 2019 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, according to state Sen. Jimmy Higdon.

Despite the fact this year is the shorter 30-day session, Higdon said that the bipartisan pension working group has already started meeting, and the goal is to have legislative drafted by the middle of next month.

State Rep. Chad McCoy said the General Assembly will address an exemption for non-profit organizations that are now paying sales taxes. The change was the result of a state supreme court ruling, and was not caused by the state’s tax reform enacted last year.

Higdon is a member of the pension working group.

Last year’s pension reform was driven from the top down, he said. The pension working group will craft legislation from the bottom up.

“We’re going to do it right,” Higdon said of the pension working group.

Higdon and 50th District state Rep. Chad McCoy met with member of the public at their joint legislative coffee Wednesday morning in the fiscal court meeting room at the Old Courthouse.

LEGISLATIVE ISSUES. Higdon and McCoy took turns addressing what they are seeing at the main issues the General Assembly will address this session.

SCHOOL SAFETY. Taking action to improve school safety is the top priority for both chambers, Higdon said. Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1 are identical bills designed to give schools more tools to address a number of issues, including

— requiring school district to appoint a district-level school safety coordinator, provide active shooter training to school personnel; create a state-level school safety tip line; require school resource officers in schools as funding becomes available to do so; require suicide prevention awareness to students above sixth-grade; and have additional mental health professionals in schools who don’t have them.

Judge Executive Dean Watts shows drone photos of the amphitheater project to state Rep. Chad McCoy and Sen. Jimmy Higdon.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE, BAIL REFORM. The General Assembly will examine ways to reduce the amount of jail time Kentuckians are required to spend in jail. In some cases, those accused of minor infractions sit in jail for the lack of bail money. Some in jail for non-violent offenses could wait for their court dates at home rather than sit in jail, Higdon said.

Higdon said he has also introduced legislation that would further decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. Right now, possession of small amounts of marijuana don’t necessarily require an arrest, he explained. Law enforcement have the option to consider possession a violation. Higdon’s legislation would mandate that simple possession would be a violation, regardless of the person’s prior history or other violations.

McCoy noted that because the state’s sales tax does not apply to medicine, approving medical marijuana will not provide the state with a financial windfall as some proponents suggest.

SALES TAX AND NON-PROFITS. McCoy told the group that one issue the General Assembly will address is the fact that non-profit organizations are now required to pay sales tax. He noted that the sales tax on non-profits was due to a state supreme court ruling, and it was not due to any action by the General Assembly.

A supreme court ruling issued at about the same time as the sales tax changes led many to believe the legislation mandated taxes from the non-profit groups, but that was not the truth, McCoy explained. He and Hidgon said they expect legislation that will exempt non-profits from paying sales taxes this session.

PRAYER BREAKFAST JAN. 26TH.  Higdon invited those attending the coffee to attend the 17th Annual Josephine “Mama Jo” Nuckols Prayer Breakfast on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, which is being hosted this year by Faith Fellowship Church, 3160 Bloomfield Road in Bardstown. Breakfast will be served at 8 a.m., and the service begins at 9 a.m.

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