Richard Nelson, Director of the Commonwealth Policy Center was in studio Tuesday morning to talk to WPKY about several things going on in Frankfort.

Richard started out by telling listeners that the Commonwealth Policy Center is a non-profit, non-partisan, public policy group that started in 2012 to help place conservative candidates into office throughout the state. One of their main priorities is to build up those of like mind to work in legislation so that they might make an impact in the state using conservative values. Through their work, a major goal, to have a conservative majority in the Kentucky House of Representatives, was accomplished in 2016 when a super majority was voted in. During that time five pro-life bills, two religious freedom bills, and several bills that have made Kentucky more business friendly have been passed into law.

Richard then took some time to talk about one of the most controversial issues of the recent general assembly, the pension reform. He stated that pension reform needs to fix the failing pension system and that more structure changes are still needed to get the pension system where it should to be. He told listeners that much of the newly passed pension reform didn’t change pension plans for current teachers or other state workers but instead placed any new hires into a hybrid 401K style plan. The only significant change to current workers’ pensions is that after December 2018 employees will no longer be able to use unused sick days to count toward their retirement. He then said that 80% of the state’s pension issues were caused by structural issues, only a slight percentage was due to underfunding, but did note that the pension system has only been fully funded 7 out of the past 22 years. New retirees were added without changes to the structure of the system, returns on investments made were not what were originally expected, and the system suffered from “double dipping.” Richard stated that “double dipping” means that a state worker would retire after 27 years, begin to collect their retirement and would then get another state job and start building up new retirement. Richard went on to say that all of these incidents lead to the crumble of the pension system and that a reform of the system’s structure is needed if the system is to recover.

Richard then mentioned that since this year is an election year it’s imperative that citizens ask their legislators and potential legislators what they’re doing, or plan on doing, to fix this issue and others affecting the state. He implored listeners to research and find out more about who is running and what they stand for. He then mentioned that there is voter information on state wide candidates available at commonwealthpolicycenter.org that includes where all current candidates stand on the various issues facing Kentucky today.

Richard then told listeners of some recent bills that were passed into law, stating that the recent general assembly wasn’t a failure like most were lead to believe. House Bill One, which streamlines the adoption process and brought major changes to the foster care system, was signed into law. Legislators were also able to pass large increases for social workers, adding $60 million to the budget to hire new social workers throughout the state. Education funding was also passed at an all time high as SEEK funding is now $4,000 per student. Marsy’s Law, which states that crime victims should have the right to be notified if the perpetrator is up for parole or if they’ll be released from prison, will now be included on the general election ballot in November for the citizens of Kentucky to approve. House Bill 169 puts extra penalties on gang criminal activity. House Bill 152 increases human trafficking laws by requiring all commercial vehicle operators to take training to help identify human trafficking. Telemed abortions, which means a doctor can advise a woman on how to complete a chemical abortion using medications over the phone, has now been banned. Doctors must now advise only face to face with their patients. House Bill 454 now bans dismemberment abortions and all abortions past 11 weeks. Richard did state that HB 454 has been appealed in court, but that if it passes and becomes law it will make Kentucky the most pro-life state in the country. Senate Bill 71, which requires all sex-ed classes in Kentucky public schools to also teach abstinence and that marriage is between a man and a woman, was also recently signed into law.

Richard then mentioned that Governor Matt Bevin also recently passed stipulations to the state’s Medicade system; all able bodied 18 to 59 year olds must either go to school or work at least 20 hours per week to keep their health coverage. These stipulations would not affect primary caregivers of children or other family members, among other things. In total it would impact 100,000 people, which in turn has contributed to Kentucky’s current unemployment level of 4%, an all time low. Richard also said that recent legislation making Kentucky more business friendly has also had a major impact on the state’s unemployment level.

Lastly Richard told listeners that the Commonwealth Policy Center will be having a candidate training day on June 2nd at Brothers BBQ in Madisonville from 8:30AM to 1PM for all area candidates who wish to learn ways to campaign more effectively. More information can be found online at commonwealthpolicycenter.org.

You can catch the full interview with Richard Nelson below. You can also listen to his Commonwealth Minute every Sunday and weekdays before WPKY’s morning newscast.

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