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Wise, Upchurch hold Town Hall

By Greg Bird

Senator Max Wise and Representative Ken Upchurch held a Town Hall meeting at the McCreary County Public Library last Thursday to provide their constituents an update on issues expected to arise during the 2019 Legislative session in Frankfort that began this week.
As this will be a “short session,” lasting only 30 days there will be less budgetary issues on the table as any bills that raise revenue, appropriate funds or establish a debt must be passed by 60 percent of each chamber, as opposed to the 50 percent plus one in the long sessions of even-numbered years.
Wise and Upchurch did say they expect there to be some debate on the pension reform bill, passed last year but rejected by the Kentucky Supreme Court due to how it was passed. But most of the legislation will look to work on tax reform and other public issues.
One of the topics this session, said Senator Wise, would be looking in to welfare reform to make it more difficult for able-bodied individuals to collect welfare instead of working.
“Sixty-five percent of Kentuckians who can work, choose not to,” Wise said. “We have to change the culture, but legislation may have to be the answer.”
The Senator said he would not be in favor of expanding legalized sports betting beyond the existing laws covering pari-mutuel betting at horse parks.
Likewise, he is against legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Wise stated both options are being touted as a means to solve the pension crisis, but neither would produce the revenue needed to do so.
On legalizing recreational use of the drug, Wise said if the Legislature looked to tax it, they would also have to tax prescription medication – an option he was not willing to consider.
On medical use of marijuana, however, Wise said he would be open to looking further into the subject. He said the idea needed to be studied, but would only consider passing legislation for patients who are considered suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, terminal or at the end of their lives.
The Senator noted discussions could possibly be held on increasing the gasoline tax, but would want to make sure more of the money generated in the state would go to the rural areas as opposed to the big cities.
Representative Upchurch, Chair of the State Transportation Committee, echoed the statement, noting that there are thousands of bridges and other infrastructure in Kentucky that needed repair.
He said the state will have to deal with a loss of funding from the federal government for roads, and the money will have to come from somewhere, but wants to ensure that any increase is fair, and that the benefits would be spread out equally.
Wise said he would also support a fetal heartbeat abortion ban.
“Society is Crumbling because we are not standing up for life,” he said.
Wise stated he is in favor of restoring voting rights to felons, but only for those convicted of non-violent crimes, and photo identification for voting.
The legislators also said they hoped to pass a bill moving the Governor and state officers election to even numbered years, saving Kentucky counties money by not having to hold an extra election.
The current session is scheduled to end on March 13, with the 10-day veto process following.

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