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OPINION: LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: KAVIS update presenting challenges

Feb. 9—I want to begin this week's update with an issue impacting residents in every county. In January, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) initiated the conversion to an updated Kentucky Automated Vehicle Information System (KAVIS), aiming to modernize the database from 1978. However, county clerk offices statewide are still grappling with ongoing delays and challenges since KAVIS came online, impacting motor vehicle transactions. According to the Kentucky County Clerk's Association (KCCA), the conversion has yet to unfold as smoothly as anticipated, causing extended wait times for customers.

Following a statewide shutdown, all motor vehicle branches and locations have reopened after days of closure. Tabatha Clemons, president of the KCCA, expressed disappointment in the slower-than-expected progress, attributing it to issues from transferring millions of vehicle files into the new system. Transactions that once took minutes now require 20 to 25 minutes due to system shortcomings, affecting clerks' ability to meet their usual efficiency standards.

The Senate Transportation Committee, which I serve as co-chair, called on KYTC and KCCA to provide an update to the week five committee meeting. Chair Jimmy Higdon was sick most of the week, so I stepped in to chair the meeting.

Highlighting unexpected processing errors and delays caused by the new system, Clemons emphasized the need for customers to allocate additional time for motor vehicle transactions. To ensure a smoother experience at county clerk offices, customers must have their driver's license ready, provide proof of insurance (printed, emailed, or faxed), and bring all vehicle registrations or renewal cards.

I know it's caused some big headaches for customers. One significant concern is customers' inability to renew registrations and forcing some to drive on expired tags. This is leading to Kentucky State Police troopers issuing tickets. They are doing their job as best they can. My colleagues expressed this concern on behalf of constituents in their district. KYTC said they issued a memo to KSP to show grace for drivers given the KAVIS rollout issues. Officials with the cabinet and Kentucky County Clerk's Association said problems may compound in March as more renewals are needed.

I urge customers to be patient with local offices and staff as they do their best with the tools they have to serve them. To help speed up the process, if you head to the clerk's office to renew your registration, please bring the following:

—Driver's license or state-issued identification card.

—Renewal notice and the previous year's registration.

—Kentucky proof of insurance or refer to your county clerk if an insurance email address or fax number is available.

I encourage your patience with our local offices' staff and officials.

In the Kentucky Senate, our role is unique, particularly during the 60-day budget session. The Constitution of Kentucky clearly outlines any revenue-raising and appropriation measures that originate with the state House of Representatives. Traditionally, before the House submits a two-year state budget proposal, the executive branch provides its recommendations. After these initial proposals, the Senate then makes its contribution.

This process is beneficial as it allows the Senate to analyze and gain an understanding of the proposals thoroughly. Crucially, it will enable us to define our priorities and establish a clear vision for allocating taxpayer dollars. This constitutionally-mandated budgeting approach ensures the Senate remains focused on a disciplined and well-informed assessment. You can expect a thoughtful and sound approach from my colleagues and me as we craft our version of the commonwealth's two-year state budget, road plan, and other related appropriation and revenue bills.

I'm happy to report the AERO Act, which I detailed in last week's legislative update, cleared the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee in week five. It strives to address workforce needs and create pipelines for aviation and aerospace job opportunities. I'm partnering with my fellow legislative Aviation/Aerospace Caucus co-chair Ken Fleming, who has introduced mirror legislation in the state House of Representatives. For more details on the bill, review my week four legislative update or visit KYSenateRepublicans.com for a press release from the Senate Majority Caucus.

This week, the Senate passed various bills covering elections, bourbon industry regulations and more. The following bills were approved and now move to the House for consideration:

—SB 46 — Windshield Tinting: Brings relief to Kentucky drivers by allowing tinting on front windshields, benefiting those who spend long hours in vehicles. The measure, following federal safety standards, aims to potentially reduce cancer rates caused by UV rays and enhance driver comfort.

—SB 75 — Capitol Access: Reopens a portion of Capital Avenue in Frankfort, providing access to residents and tourists. The bill allows emergency responders and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to manage traffic on state Capitol grounds, addressing security concerns and reducing the risk of pedestrian injury.

—SB 80 — Election Integrity: Strengthens election integrity by refining Kentucky's voter ID laws. The bill removes student or employee IDs and credit or debit cards as a primary identification option, aligning with previous legislation focused on reasonable voter access. Student IDs will still be a secondary ID option students can use, sign an affidavit of their identity, and cast a vote.

—SB 125 — Off-Highway Vehicle Programs: Creates economic opportunities for eastern Kentucky by extending the ability for local governments to start off-highway vehicle pilot programs. The bill expands the definition of local government, opening the program to the entire state.

I signed on to a proposed resolution this week stating the Kentucky Senate's support of Governor Greg Abbott's efforts to secure the southern border and protect his residents and even ours from the unchecked entry of deadly drugs. There is much misinformation and omitted information surrounding the circumstances of Governor Abbott's efforts. A district court in Texas issued a ruling ordering the Biden administration to discontinue removing Texas government barriers along the border, even on private lands, and the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the court's order. Texas was not directed to discontinue its border security efforts. With the Supreme Court's lifting of the district court ruling, the federal government can legally resume removing barriers. I and many others contend this is a dereliction of duty by the Biden administration. In the absence of federal government leadership, state leadership in Texas is morally and legally obligated to take action to protect state residents and U.S. citizens.

Find the status of legislation by calling 866-840-2835, legislative meeting information at 800-633-9650, or leaving a message for lawmakers at 800-372-7181. You can watch and follow legislative activity at KET/org/legislature and Legislature.ky.gov.

Thank you for your continued engagement in the 2024 Regular Session. It is a privilege to represent you in Frankfort.

Sen. Brandon J. Storm, R-London, represents the 21st Senate District, including Casey, Lincoln, Laurel, and Rockcastle Counties.