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Higdon: Senate passes its version of state budget, adjourns until March 26th

By JIMMY HIGDON
14th District State Senator

Friday, March 20, 2020 — The Kentucky General Assembly remained committed to fulfilling its constitutional obligation to pass a two-year state budget during Week 11 of the 2020 legislative Session. Due to the ongoing concerns surrounding COVID-19, the General Assembly, along with the assistance of an incredible legislative staff, moved expeditiously last week to ensure that our Constitutional responsibilities were met while ensuring the safety of all involved.

SEN. JIMMY HIGDON

Per the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Senate was cautious, practicing social distancing and implementing creative ways to carry on business. Only the most essential staff members were on duty, and they cannot be complimented enough.

I encourage you to take an opportunity to express your gratitude to those who are making sure Kentuckians are taken care of. These include our medical professionals caring for the sick, first responders rushing to where they are needed, and neighbors helping neighbors. Finally, be kind and grateful to those throughout the field of food production and retail who are resolving to meet our needs, and working hard to ensure supplies are in stores and on shelves. There are many fears right now, and they are understandable, but I trust when we look back on this time we will remember how we pulled together to get through this crisis.

I want you to be aware that the Education & Workforce Development Cabinet is working to serve better those displaced from work during this frustrating and challenging time. Last week, to better serve you, unemployment claims were to be filed on specific days of the week based on the first letter of your last name. As an example, the last name letters A – I was assigned for Wednesday, March 18. We might expect the cabinet will continue with a model similar to this, so please be on the lookout for updates from them on their social media pages and website: https://educationcabinet.ky.gov. You can also call the Unemployment Insurance (UI) assistance line at 502-564-2900 if you have questions. Be mindful that they are currently receiving an extremely high influx of calls. Be patient and courteous to them. They are there to help you during this difficult time. Only call if you qualify for the benefits to ensure those most in need are taken care of first.

The COVID-19 Hotline is still available to Kentuckians in need as well. The number is 1-800-722-5725. The hotline is a service operated by the healthcare professionals at the KY Poison Control Center who can provide advice and answer questions. Like the UI assistance line, the COVID-19 line is also handling a high volume of calls and want to give everyone the time they deserve. For general information, they ask that you review their website prior to calling. Guidance is being provided as it becomes available. The site to visit is kycovid19.ky.gov.

On Thursday, the Senate Passed House Bill (HB) 352, the biennial budget bill. The efforts in getting to this point in the budget process have required intensive reviews, substantive discussions, and very late nights. I want to make it abundantly clear; however, the budget process is not over.

Though the bill has passed both the House and the Senate, there are still conversations to be had between the House, Senate, and Governor’s Office. The budget in its version that passed the Senate will not be the final version. A conference committee between the House and Senate was set for Monday, March 23. My promise is to continue to advocate for our 14th State Senate District. I do not take my responsibility to you for granted.

Out of precaution, after the budget bill passed on Thursday, House and Senate leaders announced that chambers would be adjourning until Thursday, March 26, at which time we will be able to go back into session to complete legislative business. In making this decision, we have fulfilled our obligation to the people of the Commonwealth and our oath to the Constitution. Just as the governor has a responsibility to work in the executive branch, particularly with the department of public health, to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, we, too, in the legislature, have responsibilities. As we wrap up legislative priorities in an expeditious manner, we are also protecting the General Assembly’s constitutional ability to override any vetoes the governor may issue – a constitutional tool that is granted to him.

In closing, we are in unprecedented times. Very few citizens will not be affected one way or the other by this crisis. It is important that we pull together as a community, state, country, and world. I have been touched by some of the stories of sacrifice and generosity coming out of our communities. Many are stepping up to help those in need. There are a lot of services available and more on the way. The President and the Governor both have done an outstanding job of keeping the public informed, but there are still many unanswered questions. Below are further resources that you may find beneficial as we move forward to address COVID-19.

On the CDC’s website, you can find useful tips on how to protect yourself, such as what to do if you think you are sick, how to prepare your family, and community resources regarding businesses and employees, travel, schools & childcare, and community & faith-based organizations. Communities across the nation should put these resources to use, and families should take the time to familiarize themselves with ways they can keep their loved ones safe. That website is cdc.gov/coronavirus. Do your part to share this information with others. I am grateful to the always incredible local newspapers and media in the 14th District for all they do to ensure the public is informed.

This crisis is not going away overnight. We don’t know how long this will last or what the results will be. I do know that we will pull through this by helping each other, working together, and praying for our families, community, state, and country. God bless each of you, stay safe, and wash your hands.

Please reach out to me if I can be of assistance, (270) 692-6945

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