Higdon: State senate to start reviewing budget beginning next week

14th District State Senator

Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024 — I regret to say week five was a shorter week for me than my colleagues, as I, like many Kentuckians, was under the weather this week. I tested positive for the flu early in the week. My Senate colleagues and staff continued doing a fine job conducting the people’s business. Thanks to our modern technology, I remained in contact and am pleased with the progress this week.


I appreciate the vice chair of the Transportation Committee, Sen. Brandon Storm, for stepping into the chair position during the week’s Transportation Committee meeting. It was dedicated to hearing from Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials and representatives from the Kentucky County Clerk’s Association regarding the ongoing challenges with the rollout of the updated KAVIS system.

During the meeting, Transportation Secretary Jim Gray told lawmakers that growing pains would be worth it. KAVIS, replacing the 1978 AVIS system, faced bumps in the road, causing delays in vehicle registration renewal transactions. The system requires owners with past-due taxes to settle before processing vehicle registration. County clerks, while facing some issues, expressed confidence in ongoing improvements.

KAVIS aims to enhance data collection and license plate services and pave the way for expanded services.

Nevertheless, I know it’s caused some big headaches for customers. One significant concern is customers’ inability to renew registrations, forcing some to drive on expired tags. This is leading to Kentucky State Police troopers issuing tickets. They are doing their job as best they can. My colleagues expressed this concern on behalf of constituents in their district. KYTC said they issued a memo to KSP to show grace for drivers given the KAVIS rollout issues. Officials with the cabinet and Kentucky County Clerk’s Association said problems may compound in March as more renewals are needed.

I urge customers to be patient with local offices and staff as they do their best with the tools they have to serve them. To help speed up the process, if you head to the clerk’s office to renew your registration, please bring the following:

  • Driver’s license or state-issued identification card.
  • Renewal notice and the previous year’s registration.
  • Kentucky proof of insurance or refer to your county clerk if an insurance email address or fax number is available.

BUDGET UPDATE. A quick budget update: The House cleared all their biennial budget measures from their chamber on Friday, and the effort will now move to our chamber. In the Kentucky Senate, our role is unique, particularly during the 60-day budget session. The Constitution of Kentucky clearly outlines any revenue-raising and appropriation measures to originate with the state House of Representatives.

Traditionally, before the House submits a two-year state budget proposal, the executive branch provides its recommendations. After these initial proposals, the Senate then makes its contribution.

This process is beneficial as it allows the Senate to analyze and gain an understanding of the proposals thoroughly. Crucially, it will enable us to define our priorities and establish a clear vision for allocating taxpayer dollars. This constitutionally-mandated budgeting approach ensures the Senate remains focused on a disciplined and well-informed assessment. You can expect a thoughtful and sound approach from my colleagues as we craft our version of the commonwealth’s two-year state budget, road plan, and other related appropriation and revenue bills.

The process is similar with the biennial road plan, which I continue to monitor. The House has not yet passed its road plan proposal. I’ll keep you updated on this.

This week, the Senate passed various bills covering elections, bourbon industry regulations, and more.

The following bills were approved and now move to the House for consideration:

First, an update on my other transportation related issues, SB 107. The Senate Transportation Committee approved this bill, but it is a work in progress as I hear back from fellow lawmakers and those within the industry. It is a transportation measure providing numerous reforms, including preventing a person operating a semi-truck or trailer from driving in the leftmost lane on a highway with three or more lanes. The bill allows the Transportation Cabinet to establish penalties for towing companies violating towing statutes and those companies not providing posted rate sheets to customers. The bill also simplifies the registration process for commercial vehicles, saving a trip to the county clerks office. The bill allows the Transportation Cabinet to change the overweight and over-dimensional fees through administrative regulation. SB 107 requires the Kentucky State Police to provide information on the organ donation program in the education materials it produces for prospective drivers. Finally, the bill applies the state property tax on electric and hybrid vehicles revenue to the state road fund.

The following are bills clearing the Senate in week five:

SB 46 – Windshield Tinting: Brings relief to Kentucky drivers by allowing tinting on front windshields, benefiting those who spend long hours in vehicles. The measure, following federal safety standards, aims to potentially reduce cancer rates caused by UV rays and enhance driver comfort. This bill came through the Transportation Committee in week four and is my colleague Sen. Greg Elkins’ first bill to pass. I congratulate him and am supportive of this simple bill.

SB 50 – Bourbon Industry Regulations: Implements changes to strengthen Kentucky’s bourbon industry, addressing retail sales, private events, and distribution of distilled spirits. Notably, it allows distillers with a Class B license to sell and deliver up to 5,000 gallons annually to licensed retailers.

SB 75 – Capitol Access: Reopens a portion of Capital Avenue in Frankfort, providing access to residents and tourists. The bill allows emergency responders and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to manage traffic on state Capitol grounds, addressing security concerns and reducing the risk of pedestrian injury. This bill also came through the Transportation Committee the week prior. I have supported this effort for three years in a row and hope this is the year the state House of Representatives will get it across the finish line.

SB 80 – Election Integrity: Strengthens election integrity by refining Kentucky’s voter ID laws. The bill removes student or employee IDs and credit or debit cards as identification options, aligning with previous legislation focused on reasonable voter access.

SB 125 – Off-Highway Vehicle Programs: Creates economic opportunities for eastern Kentucky by extending the ability for local governments to start off-highway vehicle pilot programs. The bill expands the definition of local government, opening the program to the entire state. This is a good bill for our tourism industry and gives our fellow Kentuckians in eastern and western Kentucky economic development and job opportunities.

I’ll register votes on these measures when I return to the Senate on Monday.

Thank you for your continued engagement in the 2024 Regular Session. It is a privilege to represent you in Frankfort. If you have any questions or comments about these or any other public policy issues, please call my office toll-free at 502-564-8100 or the legislative message line at 1-800-372-7181. You can also reach me at 270-692-6945 (home) or email Jimmy.Higdon@LRC.ky.gov.


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