House Republicans to offer public assistance reform bill

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican leaders in the Kentucky House are preparing to unveil legislation aimed at increasing the state's workforce by offering transitional support to ease people off public assistance.

The measure is expected to be introduced next week and will be House Bill 1, House Speaker David Osborne said Friday. The bill designation signals it's one of the top priorities for House GOP leaders.

The measure is intended to tackle "systemic problems" that can discourage people from taking jobs out of fear of losing public benefits, Osborne said. The result is that people remain locked in poverty.

The goal is to encourage people to enter the workforce by helping them overcome such barriers as health insurance and child care costs, Osborne told reporters.

"It's more about getting people back into the workforce and giving them the tools they need to get back into the workforce without being punitive," he said.

The measure takes aim at at fundamental problem: Kentucky has one of the country's worst labor-force participation rates.
Osborne has said the bill won't attempt to kick people off public assistance.

Details of the bill will be revealed when it's introduced next week, Osborne said.

The push to bring public assistance to the forefront comes after a bipartisan group of Kentucky lawmakers studied the issue ahead of this year's legislative session.

Another House GOP priority bill still being crafted will offer proposals to combat human trafficking. State Reps. Suzanne Miles and Jason Petrie are working with Attorney General Daniel Cameron on the legislation.

In the Senate, priority issues for the GOP majority include immigration and election security. The immigration bill would prevent sanctuary policies at Kentucky's local level and require most public employees to use their "best efforts" to help enforce federal immigration laws. The election bill would require that people present official photo identification to vote.

The biggest looming challenge in this year's legislative session will be passing a new two-year state budget. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear will present his budget plan to lawmakers later this month.

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