In an email interview this week, Republican District 18 Rep. Samara Heavrin discussed her priorities for the ongoing legislative session, as well as her response to Gov. Andy Beshear's budget proposal. 

While crafting the state's two-year budget remains a priority, Heavrin has also so far filed a number of pieces of legislation relating to other issues, such as workforce development (House Bill 331) and assisting veterans and their families (House Bills 276 and 277).

HB 331 would permit money saved through 529 education savings plans to be spent on apprenticeship program expenses, such as tuition, books, and equipment.

"Workforce development was an issue that I ran on in 2019, and am committed to addressing," she said. "In Kentucky, we have some of the lowest workforce participation rates in the entire country. We must continue to work to develop our current and future workforce in the 18th District. If we are able to accomplish this, we will see benefits to our economy and the ability to attract business and industry to our rural communities."

HB 277 would waive the initial and renewal fee required for a special military license plate for a veteran when they are paid at the 100 percent disability rate due to service connected disabilities, and HB 276 would allow the surviving spouse of a member of the U.S Armed Forces to be eligible for a special military license.

"The 18th District is home to many veterans and military personnel," said Heavrin. "With my grandfather being a Korean War Veteran, it was important to me to introduce legislation that helps our local heroes that have sacrificed so much for us to enjoy our freedoms. The least that we can do in the General Assembly is to make it easier for veterans to acquire license plates that showcase their military service."

Regarding Beshear's proposed budget, which prioritizes increases for public education, Heavrin said she was disappointed the budget was not shared with state legislators prior to the Democratic governor's address this week.

"While we are still reviewing the comprehensive documents that dictate how the state spends its resources, I was disappointed that the governor did not share the budget proposal with either the majority nor minority caucus in both the House and Senate chambers prior to his Budget Address," Heavrin said. "In the governor’s address, he made a lot of similar promises to those he spoke about on the campaign trail. My fear is that he has made promises and commitments to Kentuckians that are not attainable. It is our constitutional duty as members of the Kentucky House to pass a balanced budget, and I am honored to be the voice representing the 18th District during this process."

One of the most important issues facing the Kentucky state legislature, other than the budget, is the Commonwealth’s Road Plan, according to Heavrin.

"Kentucky is ranked seventh in having the most dangerous back roads in the country," she said. "As a member of the House Committee on Transportation and the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation, I look forward to working on this road plan with my colleagues. Infrastructure plays an important part in economic development, workforce development, and keeping our families safe while traveling."

As legislators conclude the fourth week of the 2020 General Assembly, Heavrin said much work still awaits, as over 400 Senate and House bills have been filed.

"Beyond passing a balanced budget, the majority caucus is looking to focus on public assistance reform and bringing awareness to the victims of human trafficking," she said. "During the session, I personally plan to continue protecting our second amendment rights, promoting pro-life legislation, and introducing or co-sponsoring commonsense legislation that helps my friends and neighbors in the 18th District of Grayson and Hardin Counties."

In an effort to garner more feedback from her 18th District constituents, Heavrin recently posted a survey online asking for input on the most pressing issues of the day.

She said this is typical for many legislators, but since she was sworn in so close to the beginning of the session, she was unable to mail out surveys.

Nevertheless, Heavrin said she received "great" responses to the online survey, and appreciates those who took part in it.

After reviewing responses, Heavrin came to the following conclusions:

· Constituents felt that jobs and the economy should be a top priority for legislators during the 2020 session.

· Constituents felt that infrastructure, including roads and bridges, should be a priority area for state spending in the 2020 session. A close second was education.

· Over 92 percent of constituents that responded to the survey were in favor of increasing the tax on electronic cigarettes and other vaping products to the same level as regular cigarettes.

· Over half of the constituents supported increasing the gasoline tax, which would be spent on building and maintaining roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

"I plan on addressing these issues by introducing or co-sponsoring legislation that fit these priorities for the 18th District," she said. "I will also take this information into consideration when voting on legislation that comes up for a vote on the Kentucky House floor. Community feedback is incredibly important to make decisions on behalf of the people in the 18th District."