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A new governor, a new era

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By The Staff

With the 2007 elections now behind us, it is time to turn our attention back to the business of the Commonwealth.

Last Tuesday, Steve Beshear was sworn in as governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. With the administration of that oath comes the inevitable change associated with a new administration in Frankfort. At this point, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what form that change will take. Some change will be dictated by financial constraints. Others will be dictated by the policy directions of the new governor.

On Jan. 8 we will convene the 2008 regular session of the General Assembly, which will run through April 15. As this is a budget year, the most important piece of legislation that we will consider is a budget bill itself, which will direct state spending for the next two years. Complicating the usual wrangling over too few dollars and too many demands is the fact that we have seen a previously-forecasted budget surplus devoured by yet another Medicaid deficit. While we have made unprecedented strides in Medicaid reform, and have become a model for other states, this deficit shows that we still have work to do. Additionally, problems with the state retirement system continue to mount and pose a real threat to the financial future of the Commonwealth. We can no longer afford to simply discuss the issue; tough decisions must be made and solutions to the problems must be developed during the session. The consequences of our failure are unthinkable. Without action there will be little money left for other projects, including those that are so important to Oldham County.

Adding to the spirited debates, this year will include a few particularly divisive topics. Leading the way will be the heightened debate over expanded gaming. Although this has long been a widely discussed topic, the governors support for the initiative combined with the publics increasing desire to vote on the issues and our financial woes will add a new twist to the arguments for and against. Additionally, controversial topics such as medical malpractice reform and domestic partner benefits at universities are sure to make the session contentious.

Over the next four months you will hear fervent pleas and infuriating propaganda on all sides of these issues. I understand that sorting though the noise of special interest groups can be difficult. Many people will be frightened, intimidated, and outraged over things that they will hear. As opposed to falling prey to sound bites and news clips, be patient and open-minded and become informed about the issues. If you are ever concerned over reports from Frankfort, please take a minute to contact me. You can also access updated legislative information on the Internet at www.lrc.ky.gov and through the bill status line at 1 (877) 257-5541.

While we all have strong views and opinions, it is important to be educated about each issue and receptive to alternate points of view. Only with a full understanding can we make good and well-reasoned decisions. It is nearly certain that we will disagree on some issue throughout the session. Even though we may disagree, I will always respect and fully consider your position; I ask the same in return.

I encourage everyone to participate in the process. I have just sent out my legislative questionnaire and I urge you to complete it. If you have not received one, please let me know and I will get one to you.

I also invite you to see Frankfort and the legislature, first-hand. School groups, civic organizations, families and individuals are always welcome. I am happy to make arrangements for you to tour the Capitol, Governor's Mansion and History Center as well as see the legislature in action. I also encourage students to participate in the Legislative Page Program. Pages must be at least 12 years of age and accompanied by a guardian. Please let me know if you would like additional information.

As we remember the many things for which we have to be thankful, let us be grateful for the opportunity to live in a country with a government that allows us the freedom to debate, disagree and resolve conflict. During this holiday season, especially, let us be mindful of the sacrifice that so many have made for our

freedom.

It remains a distinct honor to serve as your state representative. As always, feel free to contact me regarding issues of importance to you and our Commonwealth. I can be contacted by e-mail at David.Osborne@lrc.ky.gov, by mail at State Capitol Annex, Room 457, Frankfort, KY 40601, or by calling the toll-free message line at 1 (800) 372-7181.

The views expressed in this column may not necessarily represent the views of The Oldham Era.