Friends,

Several weeks ago I participated in a survey sent by Senator Reginald Thomas. I was impressed that he made the effort to survey his constituency prior to the legislative session, which began this week. I received another email yesterday giving the results of that survey. He has given me permission to share his email with you. (below)

Today I attended a press conference on expungement sponsored by the KY Chamber of Commerce. I have posted pictures and a video on our social media sites - check them out.  Peace, Peggy

From Senator Thomas:

Dear Friend,

Today marks the first day of the 2016 Legislative Session and I have already hit the ground running. I anticipate this will be a lively session. Work is underway on one of the most important duties of legislators – passing a two-year budget for the commonwealth. I anticipate this 150th regular session will be quite interesting as we also address many other pressing issues that will require much thought and debate.

I have already asked for your input on some of the topics that we will look at this session in my end-of-the-year questionnaire. Thank you for your responses. I was pleased to hear back from so many of you. For me, that signifies that you are engaged in the process and are committed to seeing Kentucky move forward. Your input is very important and I am very grateful that you took the time to share your thoughts with me.

This questionnaire indicates there is overwhelming support for such actions as capping payday lending interest rates, implementing a statewide smoking ban and legalizing medical marijuana. There were mixed responses on a local option sales tax and taxation of services.

The Legislative Research Commission compiled a report that will allow me to reference your responses on these topics anytime there is discussion or a possible vote in a committee hearing or on the Senate floor. As I have told you before, it is very helpful to me to have your input as we determine public policy.

During the session, I will keep you informed on the progress of these issues. I would also like to share with you the results of my questionnaire (below).

Questionnaire Results

1.      Would you support legislation that would prevent schools from starting classes earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 if it included a waiver for districts missing large amounts of days because of inclement weather? Yes – 41% No – 31 % Unsure -- 27% No answer 1 %

  1. Do you support legislation that would allow a school board to include a high school student on superintendent screening committees? Yes -- 66%   No -- 20%   Unsure -- 13%   No Answer -- 1%
  2. With the growing trend of ziplines, should the Department of Agriculture be required to establish requirements and standards for the operation of commercial recreational ziplines in the state? Yes -- 81%   No -- 7%   Unsure -- 11%   No Answer -- 1%
  3. Should the General Assembly enact legislation amending the Kentucky Constitution to allow local governments to impose a local option sales tax? Yes -- 39%   No -- 35%   Unsure -- 24%   No Answer -- 2%.
  4. Despite many changes in our revenue needs and the fundamentals of our economy, our current tax system has been mostly unchanged since the 1950s.  Would you support reforms to modernize our tax code if it also generated additional revenue? Yes -- 81%    No -- 7%   Unsure -- 9%   No Answer -- 3%

6.      Do you support raising the state minimum wage? Yes -- 76%    No -- 15%   Unsure -- 7%   No Answer -- 2%

7.      Do you support requiring school resource or school security officers to have basic training provided by the Department of Criminal Justice Training? Yes -- 81%    No -- 5%   Unsure -- 10%   No Answer -- 4%

8.      Do you support exempting persons, officials, and institutions with religious objections to same-sex marriage from any requirement to solemnize or to issue or record licenses for such marriages? Yes -- 23%    No -- 71%   Unsure -- 5%   No Answer -- 1%

9.      Kentucky is one of two southern states that opted to expand Medicaid and establish a state exchange website. Observers credit Kynect with insuring 15 percent of the state’s population.  Kentucky had the highest decrease in the country in uninsured residents at 5.8 percent.  Do you support dismantling Kynect? Yes -- 12%    No – 76 %   Unsure – 10 %   No Answer – 2 %

10.  To improve access to the polls by members of our military, do you favor allowing military voters to return their completed ballots via e-mail? Yes -- 71%    No -- 14%   Unsure -- 13%   No Answer -- 2%

11.  Should the General Assembly allow for the expanded use of public-private partnerships in the construction of infrastructure projects? Yes -- 48%    No -- 12%   Unsure -- 39%   No Answer -- 1%

12.  Currently, the unlawful trafficking in synthetic drugs is a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense, and second and additional offenses are punishable as a Class D felony.  Do you support toughening the penalty for unlawful trafficking in synthetic drugs, making it a Class D felony punishable by one to five years in prison? Yes -- 50%    No -- 27%   Unsure -- 21%   No Answer -- 2%

13.  Should non-violent felons have their voting rights automatically restored after they have served their sentences? Yes -- 81%    No -- 10%   Unsure -- 7%   No Answer -- 2%

14.  Do you support a statewide smoking ban in public places? Yes -- 87%    No -- 8%   Unsure -- 3%   No Answer -- 2%

15.  Should electronic cigarettes be included in a smoking ban? Yes -- 69%    No -- 16%   Unsure -- 13%   No Answer -- 2%

16.  Do you favor allowing the people of Kentucky to vote on a constitutional amendment concerning expanded gaming in Kentucky? Yes -- 77%    No -- 11%   Unsure -- 10%   No Answer -- 2%

17.  If tax modernization requires a change in the state’s sales or income taxes, would you support expanding the base to include services (such as dry cleaning and physician fees) rather than increasing sales or income tax rates? Yes -- 34%    No -- 36%   Unsure -- 28%   No Answer -- 2%

18.  Do you support legislation that would permit public money to be used for public charter schools that would be granted special permits to operate outside usual state regulations?  Yes -- 20%    No -- 58%   Unsure -- 20%   No Answer -- 2%

19.  There has been research showing that marijuana has positive medical benefits for patients dealing with illnesses like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS.  Do you support legislation that would make marijuana a Schedule II drug thus legal for doctors to prescribe?  Yes -- 81%    No -- 9%   Unsure -- 9%   No Answer -- 1%

20.  Many Kentuckians get into a debt trap by misusing payday lending services.  Do you support capping the interest rates these lenders can charge and imposing penalties for violating the caps? Yes -- 93%    No -- 3%   Unsure -- 3%   No Answer -- 1%

21.  Do you support a three-day sales and use tax holiday during the first weekend in August each year to exempt clothing, school supplies, school art supplies, computers, and school computer supplies? Yes -- 61%    No -- 22%   Unsure -- 14%   No Answer -- 3%

22.  Should the General Assembly establish a regulatory structure for the manufacture and use of drones? Yes -- 69%    No -- 10%   Unsure -- 18%   No Answer -- 3%

Of course, many other issues large and small will arise before this 60-day session concludes. To help me do that work, I encourage you to stay in contact. The General Assembly has a number of ways for you to stay informed.

The Kentucky Legislature Home Page (www.lrc.ky.gov) provides information on each of Kentucky’s senators and representatives, including our phone numbers, addresses, and legislative committee assignments. The home page also provides summaries and texts of bills, as well as information on the progress each bill has made through the legislative process.