Resolutions are part of our job, too

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By Rick Rand

Updating Kentucky’s laws may be the primary job of the General Assembly each legislative session, but it is not the only task legislators undertake. We also enact numerous resolutions that, in many cases, direct state government to focus on areas we feel are important.

There are three types of resolutions, with the most common being known as “simple.” These only take a vote by either the House or the Senate, and generally they are used to honor Kentuckians or to pay tribute to those who may have passed away.

“Concurrent” and “joint” resolutions are a little more involved, however, and in both cases need the action of the House and the Senate and, many times, the governor as well. The former is used for legislative studies and to send messages to the two other branches of government and does not have the force of law. Joint ones are treated like law, meanwhile, and are also used for such things as ratifying amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

There were several resolutions that made it through the 2008 Regular Session that are worth mentioning.

House Joint Resolution 6, for example, calls on the Kentucky Department of Education to review what other states do in teaching about the Holocaust and genocide. By next March, the department is expected to give schools an age-appropriate guide that may be used to help teachers with these subjects.

Senate Joint Resolution 166 also involves the Department of Education. In this case, it directs officials to lead the way in developing a comprehensive statewide literacy plan, with a main goal being to improve adolescent reading levels.

The resolution notes that while tremendous strides have been made in this regard by our schools and by programs like the federal government’s “Reading First” and the state’s “Read to Achieve,” these do not constitute a comprehensive approach.

A plan is due by December 2009, and it is expected to include strategies that bring together family, business and community members and various educational groups that also have a vested interest.

Senate Joint Resolution 76 also involves our communities, but in this case it deals with the recycling of electronic waste – things like cell phones, computers and televisions. It’s estimated that 106,000 tons of electronic waste were generated in Kentucky in 2006 alone, and while no one knows for sure how much may have made it to the landfill rather than be recycled, it is suspected to be a large amount.

Several other states have already undertaken efforts to study this growing problem. As much as these electronic gadgets help us in our daily lives, they can become a huge environmental headache if disposed of improperly.

The Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet is to have a report by this December detailing what course of action it thinks Kentucky should take.

Another study due in September will have the House and Senate’s Judiciary Committee review our criminal laws and see how they could be streamlined and made clearer. It has been 34 years since the last major review has taken place.

Several of the resolutions the General Assembly approved this session center around agriculture. One re-authorizes the Kentucky Aquaculture Task Force for another year and another directs the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources to study Kentucky’s deer population. While more than 113,000 were harvested in 2007, there were more than 2,800 vehicular collisions in 2006, with one person dying and 25 others suffering severe injuries. The goal is to see what more can be done to reduce accidents like these.

While this is taking place, a new task force will look more closely at another group of animals: Kentucky’s livestock. This task force will review beef cattle, poultry, hogs, dairy cows, goats, sheep and aquaculture, with a focus on disease control, marketing, pricing and quality standards.

The 2008 Regular Session may be over, but as these resolutions show, the work of the General Assembly is on-going. Within the next month or two, our committees will begin meeting again with an eye toward 2009.

If you would like to contact me about any aspect of state government, please 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.