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Legislative focus with Rick Rand

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By The Staff

While most legislative sessions are generally remembered for two or three major accomplishments, there are often dozens of other laws that positively affect our lives, even if they do not generate as much news.

In recent years, we in the House have included many of these initiatives in our "Commitment to Kentucky Families" agenda. "Taken together, they are designed to improve our schools, our collective health and the way we interact with state government. "All are affordable, commonsense measures.

We usually begin passing these bills shortly after the legislative session begins, and this year has been no different. "Several were added to the list last week, beginning with House Bill 13 on Monday.

This legislation, sent to the Senate with unanimous support, would create the Kentucky Family Trust Program if it becomes law. "This charitable program would supplement, but not replace, public assistance given to those who are disabled and need ongoing medical care. "It would make sure that privately donated money from families and friends is spent in the best manner, and do it in a way that reduces the legal hurdles these families might otherwise face.

Although different in many respects, House Bill 234 shares the same concept: One person helping another. "In this case, the state would give up to $10,000 in income-tax credits to those Kentuckians who donate an organ like a kidney or tissue like bone marrow.

This legislation, approved Thursday by a vote of 94-0, takes into account the fact that insurance often does not cover costs associated with the donor. "By recognizing that sacrifice, this bill will hopefully reduce the backlog of Kentuckians waiting for an organ transplant.

Right now, about 70 Kentuckians willingly take part in a live-organ donation each year. "This credit is a small price to pay for the lives they save.

Although somewhat technical in nature, House Bill 307 is important because it formally creates the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky.

This school opened on the campus of Western Kentucky University last August, making Kentucky one of 17 states with a high school designed for juniors and seniors who are exceptionally smart.

These students are from 61 counties, and are given a curriculum that not only ends with their having a high school diploma but a significant number of college credit hours as well.

Right now, the academy is having to needlessly jump through a series of hoops to ensure the students" paperwork is properly coordinated. "This legislation, sent to the Senate with a 93-0 vote early this month, will enable the academy to grant high school diplomas and simplify other administrative matters.

This academy fills not one but two critical needs: It puts these students in a more challenging environment, and it makes it more likely they will continue pursuing their postsecondary education in Kentucky.

One of last week's highlights in the House did not center on a potentially new law, but rather the recognition of a group of Kentuckians we all depend on: Our farmers. "Wednesday was known across the nation as Food Checkout Day, a time when the average American family earns enough to pay for what they will eat for the entire year.

We spend just 10 percent of our disposable income on food, the most affordable rate in the world. "Our farmers deserve a lot of praise for that.

Our emergency workers deserve to be honored as well for the work many of them did during last week's devastating storms. "Many communities were hit especially hard by this weather, and seven Kentuckians lost their lives in the deadliest tornado outbreak in two decades. "Overall, the storms killed nearly 60 people.

The General Assembly is ready to do what it can to help, both in the cleanup and in making sure that such things as early warning systems and communications equipment for our emergency workers are up-to-date.

As we approach the legislative session's halfway point, I want to thank those who have taken the time to call or write me with their concerns or suggestions this session. "If you haven't taken part, but would like to, I am easy to reach. "You can write to me at Room 351C, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.

You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. "For the deaf or hard of hearing, the number is 800-896-0305.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Representative Rick Rand