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The Senate introduced its signature bill, Senate Bill 1, this week which provides an academic achievement program that saves millions of dollars, reduces testing time and provides teachers and parents with valid and reliable information at the student level of children’s achievement and academic deficiencies. Senate Bill 1 will replace CATS with a national norm-referenced test in middle school and with the EPAS system (EXPLORE, PLAN, and SAT) in high school. I have heard concerns from both parents and teachers on the invasive quality of CATS regarding pressure to “teach to the test” and also alarm with the lack of academic instruction after the test is given. With Senate Bill 1, experts expect schools to gain up to 21 more instructional days. Further, the portfolio component is criticized for being too subjective. Senate Bill 1 will remove the portfolio from being graded but will require teachers to correct the writing samples so that children and parents can see progress. Senate Bill 1, which I support, will receive full hearings in the Education Committee next week. The Senate also tackled accountability in elections. We have read numerous stories about the so-called “527” groups who can spend endless, some would say obscene, amounts of cash on political races without accountability. Senate Bill 148 requires people or groups that spend more than $5,000 advocating for or against constitutional amendments to file frequent reports – weekly during legislative sessions and daily during the month prior to an election. This bill will help ensure that voters are aware of the interest groups pushing for or against a constitutional change. Candidates for public office must also show similar transparency. Senate Bill 8 requires candidates to file more frequent campaign finance reports. Those who raise over $25,000 must file electronically. Again, this is to help ensure transparency in government. The Senate’s interest in veterans’ issues is well-established. Members of the military and their families are facing longer and more frequent deployments, more than was ever imagined. We honor their sacrifice. House Bill 168 provides returning military servicemen and women a 90-day grace period to renew their driver’s license which may have expired while they were away defending our country. On a final note, the Senate passed Senate Bill 69, which I sponsored. This bill provides a tax rebate for companies utilizing recovered hazardous waste as fuel to supply energy to their facility. These companies are trying to do right by green standards and we in state government can do the same.As we enter the last half of the 2008 General Assembly Session, the pace of bills will increase. Please call me toll-free at 1/800-372-7181 with your opinion or log on at www.lrc.ky.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.
The views expressed in this column may not necessarily represent the views of The Oldham Era.