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Recent News

This Week at the State Capitol - 02/16/18

Bill to expand uses of jail canteen funds goes to governor - 02/15/18

Senate gives final passage to organ donor bill - 02/15/18

Workers’ comp reform bill heads to House floor - 02/15/18

Senate committee examines child marriage - 02/15/18

Law enforcement protection measure goes to full House - 02/14/18

House OK’s hemp resolution - 02/14/18

Barber and hairdresser fee bill OK’d by House committee - 02/14/18

Senate passes bill directing money to jail security - 02/13/18

Eye bill clears House, rolls over to Senate - 02/13/18

Senate committee moves alcohol-licensing bill - 02/13/18

Resolution asks Congress to remove hemp from definition of marijuana - 02/13/18

This Week at the State Capitol - 02/09/18

Homeschool sports bill wins House approval, goes to Senate  - 02/09/18

School district relief bill advances to Senate - 02/09/18

Blow-drying bill passes Senate - 02/08/18

Senate bill addresses pregnant workers’ rights - 02/08/18

Net metering bill gets go-ahead by House panel - 02/08/18

Senate weighs in on feed truck regs  - 02/07/18

Gang violence legislation moves to House floor - 02/07/18

Senate moves accountability measure for cities - 02/07/18

Relief bill for ailing school districts clears House panel - 02/06/18

Bill to require teaching of Holocaust passes committee - 02/06/18

Essential skills bill approved by committee - 02/06/18

This Week at the State Capitol - 02/02/18

Bicycle helmet bill rolls on to Senate - 02/02/18

What’s in a name: It matters with state property - 02/01/18

Senate moves terrorism-related bill - 02/01/18

Eye bill focused on online technology clears House committee - 02/01/18

Financial literacy bill passes House, goes to Senate- 01/31/18

Bill seeks to relieve battered spouses of abuser’s legal fees - 01/31/18

General Assembly’s 2018 Session Calendar updated - 01/30/18

Bicycle helmet requirement approved by House committee - 01/30/18

Life behind the wheel: Bill would let some inmates drive - 01/30/18

Organ and tissue donation bill moves to Senate - 01/29/18

Electrician licensing bill flows through Senate - 01/25/18

Bill to address state regulatory process clears House- 01/25/18

Bill says abused spouse shouldn’t have to cover imprisoned abuser’s divorce costs - 01/25/18

Marsy’s Law approved by lawmakers; Ky. voters will decide on measure - 01/24/18

Senate passes bill requiring abstinence education - 01/24/18

Medical marijuana resolution clears House hurdle - 01/24/18

Bill regulating naming of state property advances - 01/24/18

Consumer credit protection bill passes House committee - 01/24/18

Bill to give local governments more revenue options OK’d by House - 01/23/18

Bill addressing electrician licenses goes to Senate - 01/23/18

Marsy’s Law proposal passes House committee - 01/22/18

House approves bills targeting child pornography, sex offenders - 01/19/18

Bill addressing opioid crisis goes to House- 01/18/18

Panel advances bill to give local governments more revenue options- 01/18/18

Bill would secure child pornography held in court proceedings - 01/18/18

This Week in Frankfort - 01/12/18

LRC to host legislative agent workshop - 01/12/18

State Senate and House will not convene Jan. 12 - 01/11/18

Bill places focus on rare diseases - 01/11/18

Bill to change how State Treasury is funded goes to House - 01/11/18

Senate advances bill to change election dates - 01/11/18

Senate panel addresses dogs and cats left in cars - 01/11/18

Senate moves to enshrine victims’ rights in KY - 01/10/18

Bill places focus on rare diseases - 01/10/18

Organ and tissue donation bill advances - 01/10/18

House panel advances two constitutional amendments - 01/08/18

This Week at the State Capitol - 01/05/18

 

February 16, 2018

 

This Week at the State Capitol

February 12-16, 2018

 

FRANKFORT -- The Kentucky General Assembly’s 2018 session reached its halfway point this week. While several bills have already been delivered to the governor to be signed in to law, much of lawmakers’ work so far has focused on laying the foundation for what’s to come in the second half of the session. 

Hundreds of bills are under consideration in the legislative committee system, which gives lawmakers a chance study bills and hear testimony from people across the state on how proposed changes to state law will affect them. At the same time, budget subcommittees have been extensively digging into details of the proposed state spending plan they received from the governor last month and are considering which changes they should make to the spending plan before it is finalized.

More than 20 bills received approval from either the full Senate or House this week while many more received favorable votes from committees. Legislation that advanced this week includes bills on the following topics:

    Jail security. House Bill 92 would allow jail canteen profits to be used for the enhancement of jail safety and security. With an 89-0 vote in the House to show agreement to the addition of an emergency clause to the legislation, the bill now goes to the governor for his signature. It would take effect immediately upon being signed.

 

    Hemp. House Concurrent Resolution 35 requests that Congress remove hemp from the definition of marijuana in the federal Controlled Substances Act. By allowing Kentucky farmers to use hemp to its full advantage as an agricultural crop, HCR 35 intends to benefit Kentucky’s economy. Passing the House by a vote of 93-2, it now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 

    Police protection. House Bill 193 would make it a felony to intentionally expose a law enforcement officer to bodily fluids or bodily waste. The legislation would carry stiffer penalties if the bodily fluids or waste carry—or could carry—a communicable disease. Both crimes would be considered felonies under the proposal. After being approved by the House Judiciary Committee this week, the bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

 

    Eye care. House Bill 191 would require that online eye exams and prescriptions offered in Kentucky be accompanied by a real-time visit with a Kentucky eye care provider. The bill was passed by the House with a 90-7 vote and is headed for the Senate for consideration. 

    Organ donation. House Bill 84 would require coroners or medical examiners to release identifying and other relevant information about a deceased person to Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates if the person’s wish to be an organ donor is known and the body is suitable for medical transplant or therapy. In hopes to save many lives, House Bill 84 has received final passage with a 30-0 vote. It now goes to the Governor for his signature.

 

    Alcohol. Senate Bill 110 would preserve the status quo in determining how many liquor licenses are issued in individual cities and counties throughout Kentucky. This measure limits the number of licenses available for retail package liquor stores and by-the-drink sales of liquor. Passing through a Senate committee meeting this week, it now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

If you’d like to offer feedback to state lawmakers on issues under consideration, please call the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. 

--END--

 

February 15, 2018

 

Bill to expand uses of jail canteen funds goes to governor

FRANKFORT—Proceeds from county jail canteens could be used to beef up safety and security at the facilities under a bill headed to the governor’s desk.  

House Bill 92, sponsored by Rep. Jill York, R-Grayson, received final passage by a vote of 89-0 today in the House. The bill would expand current law requiring jail canteen proceeds be used “for the benefit and to enhance the well-being of the prisoners. 

The Senate amended and passed HB 92 by a 34-2 vote on Tuesday.

Past purchases made with jail canteen proceeds in Kentucky have included recreational equipment for inmates. Under HB 92, future purchases may include items like metal detectors, which some cash-strapped jails say they have struggled to afford.

HB 92 now goes to the Governor for his signature. It would take effect immediately upon being signed.

--END--

 

February 15, 2018

  

Senate gives final passage to organ donor bill

FRANKFORT – The Senate gave final passage today to a measure designed to facilitate organ donations in Kentucky.

Known as House Bill 84, it would require coroners or medical examiners to release identifying and other relevant information about a deceased person to Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, or KODA, if the person’s wish to be an organ donor is known and the body is suitable for medical transplant or therapy. 

“This will save a lot of lives,” said Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, who presented HB 84 on the Senate floor.

Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, said HB 84 strengthens legislation passed in 2006 that enabled Kentucky residents to have their wishes documented through the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry.

“This closes a loophole in the current law,” he said. “Currently, organ and tissue procurement organization are often not being notified of a registered organ donor’s death if the death takes place out of a hospital. This means registered organ donors’ wishes are not always followed.”

That’s what happened with Courtney Flear, whose death inspired HB 84. The 19-year-old Caldwell County teenager died in a car wreck in January of 2015. No procurement organizations were notified of her death despite the fact she was a registered organ donor in Kentucky. Courtney had registered through the Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks’ Trust for Life when she renewed her driver’s license.

While her the traumatic nature of the wreck meant Courtney’s internal organs were not viable for donation, Ridley said Courtney’s parents believe she was a candidate for tissue donation that could have helped up to 50 people.

In most cases, an organ donor must die in a hospital setting while on life support for his or her organs to be viable for transplant. That is not the case, however, with heart valves, skin, bone, corneas and the large saphenous vein. Those can all be harvested within 24 hours of death.

HB 84 passed by a 30-0 vote. It now goes the governor for his signature.

-- END --

 

February 15, 2018

 

Workers’ comp reform bill heads to House floor 

FRANKFORT—A bill that would reduce employer costs through modernization of Kentucky’s workers’ compensation system has cleared a House committee.

House Bill 2, sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, would make several changes to the state’s workers’ compensation laws. Proposals in the bill to limit medical benefits to 15 years and allow termination of benefits at age 67 or two years after injury in future cases would benefit employers while other provisions – including an increase in the percentage paid of the average weekly wage from 100 percent to 110 percent – are among those that HB 2 supporters say would benefit injured workers.

Legal protections for employers whose workers’ injuries are due to drug use or “willful intention” for self-harm and limitations on when a claim can be reopened are also proposed in the bill, as are revised medical treatment guidelines and limits on attorney fees, among other provisions.

HB 2 is not expected by its supporters to reduce workers’ compensation benefits currently received by injured workers, something that was important to several members of the House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee before the panel voted today to approve HB 2.

Koenig told the committee that HB 2 would be the first modernization of Kentucky’s workers’ compensation statutes in 22 years, with earlier changes approved by the General Assembly back in 1983. 

“Every so often things change,” Koenig said. “We need to update and modernize our workers’ compensation law and that’s what we’re trying to do here.

Also speaking in support of the bill was Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Ashli Watts, who said HB 2 is important to Kentucky’s economic competitiveness.

“Taking these critical steps will improve Kentucky’s competitive position by reducing system costs while improving treatment and outcomes for injured workers, allowing a faster return to work,” said Watts.

Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville, who lost part of his arm in an accident in his 20s, said he is concerned how HB 2 would affect those with a “permanent partial disability” – the most common type of workers’ comp claim paid out to workers who aren’t totally disabled but have permanent impairment.

“Somebody testified here that we’re trying to control costs. We’re trying to minimize litigation… But we’re not trying to minimize medical liability for the injured worker,” said Gentry, who said the original intent of workers’ compensation was to give relief to the injured worker and protect the employer from liability.

“As we move forward, let’s remember that,” he said.  

HB 2 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

February 15, 2018

 

Senate committee examines child marriage

FRANKFORT – Legislation that would reign in child marriage across Kentucky was discussed in the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

Senate Bill 48 would prohibit anyone under the age of 17 from getting married. Another provision of SB 48 would require a district judge to approve the marriage of any 17-year-old.

While current law states 16- and 17-year-olds can be married with parental consent, a district judge can approve the marriage of a child below the age of 16 if the girl is pregnant

About 11,000 cases of “young marriages” have been reported in Kentucky – with some as young as 13 years of age, said Jeanne Smoot of the Tahirih Justice Center, a national non-profit organization that offers legal services to women who have survived domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. She testified before the committee that one of her biggest concerns was that it’s common for these marriages to be between a minor and an adult much older than the child.

Donna Pollard, who said she was 16 when she entered a marriage that resulted in domestic violence and sexual exploitation, joined Smoot to testify in support of SB 48. With her mother’s consent, Pollard said she agreed to marry a 30-year-old mental health technician that had been working at her behavioral health facility when she was a teenager.

“This should not have been a wedding,” she said. “This should have been a case of statutory rape.”

Smoot said the best way to prohibit vulnerable children from the consequences of marrying too young is to prohibit marriage before age 18 with no exceptions.

Although no vote was taken today, the bill may be heard again in the same committee.

“I’m optimistic that it’s not the last time we’re going to hear the bill,” Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, said in his closing remarks.

-- END --

 

February 14, 2018

  

Law enforcement protection measure goes to full House

FRANKFORT—A bill that would make it a felony to intentionally expose a law enforcement officer to bodily fluids or bodily waste was approved today by the House Judiciary Committee.

Kentucky jailers and some other officials are protected against someone intentionally causing them to come into contact with bodily fluids and waste, but that “there’s a gap in the law that doesn’t protect our police officers,” said Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, the sponsor of House Bill 193.

The legislation would carry stiffer penalties if the bodily fluids or waste carry—or could carry—a communicable disease, including hepatitis C virus or HIV. Both crimes would be considered felony assault under the proposal.

Fraternal Order of Police Bluegrass Lodge # 4 President Jason Rothermund told the committee creating a crime for intentionally forcing bodily fluids or waste onto a police or other law enforcement officer, with the increased penalty for communicable disease, will help prosecution of such acts. Current statutes for disorderly conduct and wanton endangerment are not adequate for prosecution, he said.

“We don’t want them (the officers) to have to go find some obscure charge,” said Rothermund, but instead want behavior specifically addressed in law. 

Lee said he would be willing to consider floor amendments that would ratchet down some of the bill’s penalties to misdemeanors after some lawmakers, including Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, expressed concern with the felony provisions.

Nemes, who has a brother who is a peace officer, said he believes more protection is needed but that he believes the penalties proposed in HB 193 are too harsh.

Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, had concerns that the scope of the bill is wider than it needs to be.

“Because there’s not a definition of what a communicable disease is and there’s no nexus between the exposure to the fluids and actual transmission of the disease, I’m going to have to vote no today,” she said.  

Among those voting for the bill was Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, who said the risk of transmitting communicable disease through bodily fluids and waste is real and carries consequences.

“Clearly there should be a consequence to putting that officer in harm’s way and making that officer go through a battery of testing and unknown situations with their spouse, etc.,” he said.

HB 193 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

  

February 14, 2018

 

House OK’s hemp resolution

FRANKFORT—The Kentucky House today voted to ask Congress to remove hemp from the definition of marijuana in the federal Controlled Substances Act.

The request would be made under House Concurrent Resolution 35, sponsored by Rep. DJ Johnson, R-Owensboro, who told the House that hemp, like marijuana, is a variety of the cannabis plant but is non-narcotic and legally produced on many Kentucky farms for industrial use.

Kentucky removed many hemp products from its definition of illegal substances in 2017, Johnson said. Removing hemp from the federal Controlled Substance Act “will allow Kentucky farmers and processors to take full advantage of this promising agricultural crop,” he added.

“Safe, non-narcotic hemp is an economically viable agricultural commodity,” said Johnson. “The benefits of a successful hemp program will touch literally every part of the economy in Kentucky.”

Kentucky hemp production increased from 33 acres in 2014 to 3,200 acres in 2017, according to HCR 35, with nearly 50 hemp processors now operating in the state. Johnson said production is expected to reach 4,000 to 6,000 acres with 56 processors this year.

As a concurrent resolution, HCR 35 would not become state law if passed by both the House and Senate. It would instead be forwarded to both Congress and the White House.  

HCR 35 passed the House by a vote of 93-2 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.  

--END--

February 14, 2018

Barber and hairdresser fee bill OK’d by House committee 

FRANKFORT—Licensing and renewal fees for barbers, cosmetologists and related trades would be set by regulation, not by law, under a bill that has passed a House committee.

Rep. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, sponsor of House Bill 260, said provisions removing existing fees from state law and allowing state boards to set their fees by administrative regulation is one of two substantive changes proposed by the bill. The other would allow board inspectors on the premises of shops and salons to review paperwork related to board-licensed activities.

Both changes are supported by the state Board of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists and the Board of Barbering, said Mills.

“These folks regulate and oversee thousands of licensees. I think it’s important for them to be able to make sure that public safety and rules are being followed by all the barbershops and salons,” Mills told the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee before it voted to approve the bill.

HB 260 would also include so-called clean-up language in other areas. It proposes changing the required training hours for estheticians and nail technicians and adds definitions for certain trades, among other provisions. 

Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Fort Wright, said she supports the bill, as does her hairdresser. 

“My hairdresser on Monday read through the bill while she was doing my hair,” St. Onge told the committee. “She was extremely pleased and very thankful for this bill.”

HB 260 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

February 13, 2018

 

Senate passes bill directing money to jail security

FRANKFORT – The Senate passed a measure today designed to enhance security at cash-strapped count jails.

Known as House Bill 92, the legislation would allow jail canteen profits to be used for the enhancement of jail safety and security. The current law states profits from the canteen must go toward the “well-being of the prisoners.”

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, a former county jailer, said a canteen is a store within a correctional facility from which inmates may buy things like hygiene products, stamps and snacks. In the past, he said jailers have used canteen profits to purchase recreational equipment for the inmates

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, stood in support of HB 92. She said the legislation arose out of Carter County’s struggle to purchase a metal detector to reduce the amount of contraband being smuggled into the local jail.

“It was frustrating to see what a challenge it was to get funds to do that,” Webb said. “We looked at grant opportunities and what other resources would be available to us.”

Sen. Perry B. Clark, D-Louisville, spoke against HB 92. He said it was the responsibility of government to provide safety and security in jails.

HB 92 passed by a 34-2 vote.

An amendment, in the form of a Senate committee substitute, added an emergency clause. That is a provision in a bill that it become effective immediately upon approval by the governor rather than 90 days after adjournment.

The measure now goes back to the House for consideration of the Senate amendment. 

-- END --

  

February 13, 2018

 

Eye bill clears House, rolls over to Senate 

FRANKFORT—Online eye exams and prescriptions offered in Kentucky would require a real-time visit with a Kentucky eye care provider under a bill approved today in the House.

House Bill 191 sponsor Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, said the bill is a patient protection measure. It was filed in response to a rise in online companies that allow individuals to get eye exams and prescriptions based on virtual eye exams taken with cell phone or computer apps.

Gooch said HB 191 would not prohibit the use of “safe technology” for online eye care in Kentucky, but would improve on it by requiring a “simultaneous,” or real-time, interaction between consumers and Kentucky-licensed optometrists or physicians who would then have to sign off on the prescription. The bill would also require someone seeking an online eye exam or prescription to have had an in-person eye exam within the previous 24 months, among other requirements.

HB 191 “permits the use of telehealth and it permits consumers to choose where they purchase their glasses and contact lenses,” Gooch told the House.

Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, challenged the idea of having a real-time online requirement, saying she doesn’t think “it’s realistic to expect a physician or an optometrist or optician will be available 24 hours a day.”

Moser proposed a floor amendment that would have changed HB 191 to allow simultaneous or non-simultaneous interaction between patients and their eye care provider, but the amendment was defeated on a vote of 13-74.

Gooch said HB 191 would not expect optometrists or physicians to be on call 24/7.

“We’re just saying when a consumer goes online, there would be someone on there who is a licensed provider,” he said.

Among those voting in favor of HB 191 was Rep. Russell Webber, who said a recent in-person eye exam may have saved his daughter’s eyesight. The examination revealed that his daughter has a detached retina – a condition that can cause blindness if left untreated.  

“I do not believe the technology is there that an online examination, or an online viewing, would have captured that,” said Webber, R-Shepherdsville. “It’s important that those who are having their eyes checked have that one-on-one time with their physician.”

HB 191 passed the House by a vote of 90-7. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

--END--

 

February 13, 2018

 

Senate committee moves alcohol-licensing bill

FRANKFORT – A Senate committee passed a measure today to preserve the status quo in determining how many liquor licenses are issued in individual cities and counties.

Senate Bill 110 would codify in law rules that limit the number of licenses available for retail package liquor stores and by-the-drink sales of liquor. The number of licenses is limited based on the population of a given community. That number is generally capped at one license per 2,300 people for package stores and one license per 2,500 people for drink sales.

Senate President Pro Tem Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, said regulators shouldn’t completely scrap the decades-old caps just because they need to be modernized.

Out of Kentucky’s 120 counties, 89 are wet or have wet cities. Higdon said five of those counties and 28 cities have reached their quota for retail package liquor stores. He added that three counties and three cities have reached their quota for by-the-drink sales of liquor.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, said he supported SB 110 because voters who backed ballot measures allowing liquor sales in their communities did so knowing how many liquor stores would be permitted under the quota system. He said those voters never anticipated that the state would later lift the caps on the number of alcohol licenses issued in any one city or county.

Jones said the removal of the regulation would also have “catastrophic consequences” for small businesses in rural communities. He said those local businesses would not be able to compete with national chains that could exploit the lifting of the caps by flooding the market with stores.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he didn’t support SB 110 because it goes against his core belief of removing artificial barriers to free enterprise. He said he was considering filing a number of amendments to the measure. One would direct the state ABC to eliminate all outdated quota systems.

The malt beverage administrator at the state Alcoholic Beverage Control, Carol Beth Martin, testified against the measure.

“SB 110 does not help with the regulation of alcohol,” she said. “It merely provides protection and a monopoly to a select sector of the alcohol industry in select areas of the state.”

Martin said there is no similar limitation on the more than 40 other existing license types administered by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control. In those cases, economic factors have determined the number of businesses that a community can support, she said.

 

-- END --

February 12, 2018

 

Resolution asks Congress to remove hemp from definition of marijuana

 

FRANKFORT—Legislation asking Congress to remove hemp from the definition of marijuana in the federal Controlled Substances Act has cleared a House committee.

House Concurrent Resolution 35 sponsor Rep. DJ Johnson, R-Owensboro, told the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee that hemp has proven economically viable since a hemp research pilot project began here in 2014. Hemp production increased from 33 acres in 2014 to 3,200 acres in 2017, according to HCR 35, with nearly 50 hemp processors now operating in the state.  

“It’s becoming obvious it would be a great help to the state of Kentucky” for Congress to remove hemp from the definition of marijuana under federal law, Johnson told the panel.

Kentucky amended its Controlled Substances Act in 2017 to exclude many hemp products from the state definition of marijuana.

As a concurrent resolution, HCR 35 would not become state law if passed by both the House and Senate. It would instead be a message forwarded to both Congress and the White House.

The legislation now goes to the full House for its consideration.  

--END--

 

February 9, 2018

 

This Week at the State Capitol

February 5-9, 2018

 

FRANKFORT -- It has been a reoccurring theme in recent years. In each legislative session, lawmakers take aim at the latest challenges posed by the state’s opioid epidemic. The ever-evolving nature of this crisis means that every time lawmakers meet there are emerging issues to consider as our state puts new laws on the books to keep drugs off the streets, support a strained criminal justice system, provide treatment to those who need it, and repair the damage caused to families and communities across the state. 

This year, lawmakers are considering increased spending to target the opioid crisis. While the budget plan proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin would prompt cuts to many parts of government, it would provide a $34 million spending increase to fight the state’s opioid addiction epidemic. Members of the Kentucky House of Representatives are currently considering the entire spending plan.

In addition to addressing the drug crisis through the budget, lawmakers are also studying bills that would help keep drugs off the streets, improve treatment opportunities, and offer more drug-prevention education. 

One of those measures took a step forward this week. House Bill 148 would help keep controlled substances like liquid morphine and fentanyl patches out of the hands of drug abusers by requiring the safe disposal of controlled substances by hospice providers or those providing palliative care or end-of-life service upon a patient’s death. The bill was approved by the House this week and has been delivered to the Senate for its consideration.

Bills on other issues that advanced this week include the following:

    House Bill 3 would require K-12 schools to incorporate basic workplace etiquette and skills into their curriculum beginning with the 2019-2020 school year. After being approved by the House Education Committee this week, it now goes to the full House for consideration.

 

    House Bill 128 would require public middle and high schools in Kentucky to teach students about the Holocaust. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

 

    House Bill 169 would crack down on the growing recruitment of criminal gang members in the state by making it a felony for adults to engage in criminal gang recruitment. Criminal gang recruitment by a minor would be a misdemeanor for a first offense but would rise to felony level for all other offenses under the bill. The bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee and now goes to the full House for consideration.

 

    Senate Bill 38 would modify current statutes regarding pregnant and nursing women in the workforce. With modified job options, frequent breaks and a private space for breastfeeding in the workplace, the goal of SB 38 is to ensure fair treatment and equal opportunities on the job. With a 9-0 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, the bill now goes to the Senate floor for further consideration.

    Senate Bill 106 would create a limited license for beauty salons to provide only blow-drying and styling services. Currently in Kentucky, these types of businesses must obtain a full salon license and employ only trained cosmetologists. With hopes to reduce regulations and increase opportunities, the bill has passed the Senate and has been sent to the House for consideration.

 

    Senate Bill 91 would strengthen an existing law that requires Kentucky cities to have yearly audits by allowing the state to withhold money from a city that does not comply. Passing the Senate by a 37-0 vote, it now goes to the House for further consideration.

If you’d like to offer feedback to state lawmakers on issues under consideration, please call the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. 

--END--

 

 

February 9, 2018

 

Homeschool sports bill wins House approval, goes to Senate 

FRANKFORT—Homeschool students would be able to participate in state-sponsored interscholastic sports under a bill that has cleared the Kentucky House.  

Under House Bill 290, which passed the House today 76-8, homeschooled individuals or teams would be able to participate in any state-sponsored interscholastic athletic sport in Kentucky as long as the homeschool students and their coaches comply with set requirements.

The bill would not allow homeschool students to participate in sanctioned conferences or tournaments or be eligible for championship titles or other recognition sponsored by the state.

HB 290 sponsor and House Education Committee Chair Rep. John Carney, R-Campbellsville, said the bill would allow homeschool students to stay in Kentucky rather than having to go out of state to compete against other schools. Homeschool students could play against state-sponsored teams anywhere in the state should the bill become law, said Carney.

“We have a lot of cooperatives in the state that are going to Tennessee, Indiana … because they cannot find a place to participate in Kentucky,” said Carney.

HB 290 is based on talks with both homeschools and the KHSAA (Kentucky High School Athletic Association), the agency designated by the Kentucky Board of Education to oversee high school athletics in the Commonwealth.

The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

 

 

February 9, 2018

 

School district relief bill advances to Senate

FRANKFORT—Legislation that would set aside $7 million in surplus SEEK funds for emergency loans to financially-strapped school districts is on its way to the state Senate.   

The $7 million in excess 2017-2018 SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) – the main funding source for K-12 public schools—would be made available to around 12 school districts out of an existing but never-before-used state emergency revolving school loan fund account under House Education Committee Chair Rep. John Carney’s House Bill 141.

The loans would be limited to $500,000, and would have to be repaid within five years at zero interest, said Carney, R-Campbellsville. More than one loan could possibly be provided to a district, depending on the circumstances.  

Carney called HB 141 a “short term” solution for the districts, most of which are located in Eastern Kentucky counties hard hit by changes in the coal industry.

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, said a drop in the assessed value of unmined minerals in coal counties has left school districts in dire financial straits. Knott County in his district has lost over $1 million this year alone, Blanton said. Pike County, he said, will lose more than $3 million.

“It’s been a financial hardship. They’re making every cut they can until they can’t cut anymore,” said Blanton.

--END--

 

February 8, 2018 

 

Blow-drying bill passes Senate

FRANKFORT – The Senate passed legislation today that would loosen regulation on the burgeoning business of blow-dry-only hair salons.  

The measure, known as Senate Bill 106, would create a limited license for beauty salons to provide only blow-drying and styling services. Currently in Kentucky, these types of businesses must obtain a full salon license and employ only trained cosmetologists who have completed 1,500 hours of training.

“Senate Bill 106 is a game-changer in the industry,” said Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, who introduced the legislation.

Another provision of SB 106 would increase the cosmetology school instruction requirement for obtaining a blow drying services license from 300 hours to 450 hours. Harper Angel said that provision was added because training programs under 450 hours do not qualify for financial aid.

SB 106 would also establish the educational curriculum for blow-drying services by the end of the year

“By establishing a separate license for these businesses, we will help eliminate barriers to their expansion and growth,” said Harper Angel. “And by lowing the initial costs of entering into the field, we are reducing barriers to education and employment.”

Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, was a primary cosponsor of SB 106 along with Harper Angel and stood in support of the legislation 

“I’m in complete agreement ... that this is also an economic development bill,” she said. “I think less regulation equals more opportunity.”

Adams commended Harper Angel for continuing to strive to reduce regulations that throw up barriers to economic opportunity across the commonwealth.

-- END –

 

February 8, 2018

 

Senate bill addresses pregnant workers’ rights

FRANKFORT – A state Senate committee advanced a measure today dubbed the Kentucky Pregnant Workers’ Act.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 38, would modify current statutes regarding pregnant and nursing women in the workforce to ensure fair treatment and equal opportunities on the job, said the bill’s sponsor, Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington.

Lyndi Trischler, a police officer from the Northern Kentucky city of Florence, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the legislation.

During the later stages of her pregnancy in 2014, Trischler said she assumed that she would be temporarily transferred to a less hazardous position. She said she was surprised to learn she would be expected to continue with her regular patrol duties with a heavy gun belt and uncomfortably tight bulletproof vest when other suitable jobs were available.

Trischler said staying home without pay or health insurance was the only remaining option if she refused to the job assignment.

“No woman in Kentucky should have to choose between the health of her pregnancy and her job,” Kerr said.

With modified job options, frequent breaks and a private space for breastfeeding in the workplace, Kerr said the goal of SB 38 is to eliminate such a decision from ever having to be made.

SB 38 passed the committee by a 9-0 vote. The measure now goes to the Senate floor for further consideration

-- END --

 

February 8, 2018

 

Net metering bill gets go-ahead by House panel

FRANKFORT—Net metering—which gives retail credit for surplus solar or other renewable energy fed in to the electrical grid—would see changes under a bill approved by the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee today.

Under House Bill 227, sponsored by House Natural Resources and Energy Chair Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, net metering credit for surplus solar, wind or other renewable energy would have to be equal to the approved rate that retail electric suppliers pay for electricity generation by facilities with a rated capacity of no more to 100 kilowatts, effectively reducing compensation for net metering customers. Solar panels and other private electricity generators typically have a rated capacity of no more than 30 kilowatts.

An exemption would be carved out in the bill for current net metering customers, allowing them to keep their current contract for up to 25 years. The exemption would not apply, however, to future owners or lessees of the property where the net metering is taking place.

Lawmakers began looking more closely at the state’s net metering program last year in the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. Testifying on the issue in November was the Consumer Energy Alliance, or CEA, whose representatives told lawmakers that solar credits for net metering customers are nearly three times the competitive market rate, putting utility customers at a disadvantage.

Rep. Gooch said in a floor speech on the House floor on Wednesday that his legislation targets what he called “tax subsidies” for more affluent energy customers.

“I will never stand for the poor people who are less fortunate having to subsidize someone who has a little bit higher station in life,” he told his colleagues.

The committee’s vote today reflected differing views on the subject, with 14 voting for the bill, four voting against it, three passing on their vote, and one member abstaining. Of the 14 voting for the bill, some said they would like to see the bill amended on the House floor.

Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, voted for the bill in committee but said he will be filing amendments to the bill on the floor.

“I’m going to be very forthright, that if we don’t adopt an amendment, I will be a “no” vote on the floor,” he told the committee. 

Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, voted against the bill after speaking against its potential effect on the state’s energy sector.

“We’re bringing a sledgehammer to this diversifying economy at a time, too, when this state is proud of having an economy based on energy,” said Flood.  

HB 227 now goes to the full House for consideration by all members.

--END--

 

February 7, 2018

 

Senate weighs in on feed truck regs 

FRANKFORT – The Senate passed a measure today that would allow a weight variance for feed trucks in a move supporters claimed would make Kentucky more competitive when trying to attract and retain agricultural industries.

“We are just asking to make Kentucky a competitive field for the poultry industry,” said Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville.

While Kentucky’s No. 1 agricultural industry remains poultry, Hornback said the state missed out on two recent expansions in the industry.

Known as HB 153, the measure would allow all nine sections of a typical feed truck to be filled. The current law only allows eight of those sections to be filled at any one time.

Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, said HB 153 would allow some trucks to go over the 80,000-pound limit by as much as 20 percent.

“So I am very, very reluctant to let the camel put its nose under the tent and increase weight above 80,000 pounds unless there is a fee associated with that,” he said before explaining an amendment that would create an annual $150-per-truck fee for the trucks.

The amendment was adopted before HB 153 passed by a 32-5 vote. 

The bill now goes back to the House for consideration of the Senate change.

-- END --

  

February 7, 2018

 

Gang violence legislation moves to House floor

FRANKFORT—The first significant revision of Kentucky’s criminal gang laws since Prohibition received the approval of a House committee today.

House Bill 169, sponsored by Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, would crack down on the growing recruitment of criminal gang members in the state by making it a felony for adults to engage in criminal gang recruitment. Benvenuti told the House Judiciary Committee, which approved the bill, that the crime is now a misdemeanor but that stronger penalties are needed.

“Right now, we have 18, 19, 20-year-old men aggressively recruiting young children ages 8, 9, 10, and 11 into gangs,” said the Lexington lawmaker, who filed similar legislation in 2017 under HB 315. “They also recruit women, and they traffic those young women.”

Criminal gang recruitment by a minor would be a misdemeanor for a first offense but would rise to felony level for all other offenses under the bill. 

Other sections of HB 169 would define “criminal gang”, “pattern of criminal gang activity,” change the number of people considered to be a “criminal gang syndicate” from five to three or more to mirror federal law, and outline judicial treatment of criminal gang-related cases.

“We have put many, many protections in place in this bill, but we retain the most important protections for the citizens of the Commonwealth,” Benvenuti told the committee.

Many believe that gang violence is a big-city issue, he said. But Benvenuti said criminal gangs are found across Kentucky. 

“This bill is aimed at making sure that those folks who do that are held to a true criminal standard and, importantly, we believe will deter folks from coming in and preying on our children,” Benvenuti stated.

Among those who shared their concerns with HB 169 was the Rev. Dr. Donald K. Gillett with the Kentucky Council of Churches. Rev. Gillett said the “wider net” cast by HB 169 to crack down on criminal gangs could have the unintended consequence of incriminating someone based largely on where they live or who they know.  

He called the bill “a criminal justice maze with few ways out.”

Several law enforcement officers, however, spoke in favor of the bill. Joining them was Fayette Commonwealth Attorney Lou Anna Red Corn who called HB 169 “specific,” with a heavy burden of proof.

“But in those cases where people need to be prosecuted for their actions, this will help,” Red Corn said.

HB 169 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

February 6, 2018

 

Senate moves accountability measure for cities

FRANKFORT – A bill that would strengthen an existing law that requires Kentucky cities to have yearly audits passed the Senate today.

Known as Senate Bill 91, the legislation would add “teeth” to the audit requirement by allowing the state to withhold money from a city that didn’t comply, said Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green.

“This is a transparency bill and accountability bill,” said Wilson, who sponsored SB 91. “Most cities already follow the law and submit audits on a timely basis. This bill is aimed at a few who do not comply.”

The second provision of SB 91 exempts cities with less than 2,000 residents from the yearly audit requirement. Those cities would be allowed to have biennial audits. Under current law, only cities with less than 1,000 can legally skip a year in the audit cycle.

Wilson said changing the audit requirements to every other year would provide significant financial savings to about 60 of Kentucky’s smallest cities. He said those municipalities pay around $10,000 per year on the audit. And that does not include mandatory publishing requirements or the amount of staff time it takes to work with an auditor.

“That’s very expensive for these small cities,” Wilson said.

The one-year audit requirement would still apply to any municipality that receives certain grants or federal funds.

Other provisions of SB 91 clarify some outdated and ambiguous language in the current audit requirements, Wilson said. The measure would remove a mandate that a paper copy of the audit be sent to the Department for Local Government. The audit could instead be filed electronically. SB 91 also clarifies the timing for posting notice of the completion of a financial statement.

SB 91 passed by a 37-0 vote. It now goes to the House for further consideration. 

-- END --

 

February 6, 2018

 

Relief bill for ailing school districts clears House panel

FRANKFORT—A total of $7 million in surplus SEEK funds would go to 12 financially-strapped public school districts to help them make payroll this year under a House proposal.

The $7 million in fiscal year 2017-2018 SEEK (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky) – the main source of K-12 public education funding in Kentucky—would be loaned to the districts out of an existing but never-before-used state emergency revolving school loan fund account under House Bill 141, sponsored by Rep. John Carney, R-Campbellsville.

“HB 141 will, I think, be one of the most significant things we do this session,” he told the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee before it voted to approve the bill.

The loans would be limited to $500,000, and would have to be repaid within five years at zero interest, said Carney.

Carney called HB 141 a “short term” solution to the financial issues of the 12 districts, located mostly in Eastern Kentucky. Carney said the districts are “legitimately in a difficult financial situation due to circumstances really outside of their control.”

Rep. Tim Couch, R-Hyden, said his home county of Leslie is losing population along with revenues from unmined minerals due to lower assessments.

“So we appreciate it,” he said of HB 141. “Our future is our kids. We cannot say that enough.”

Rep. Jim Wayne, voted for the bill, saying the state needs more revenue to ensure education needs are met.

“This state is in a major, major crisis situation,” said Wayne, D-Louisville. “It’s important that we not pass a budget unless we have new revenue to address situations like you’re presenting today.”

Any funds not used would go to the state’s permanent pension fund under current law, added House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Steven Rudy, R-Paducah.

HB 141 now goes to the full House for its consideration.

--END--

 

February 6, 2018

Bill to require teaching of Holocaust passes committee

FRANKFORT— Public middle and high schools in Kentucky would teach students about the Holocaust under a bill approved today by a House committee.

Kentucky passed legislation in 2008 that required the state to develop a Holocaust curriculum for schools but did not mandate that it be taught. House Bill 128, sponsored by House Education Committee Chair John Carney, R-Campbellsville, and Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, would require instruction on the Holocaust and other acts of genocide that have been recognized by an international court of law. The House Education Committee gave its approval to the legislation today.

Several lawmakers said during today’s meeting that it is important that no one deny, nor forget, the mass murder of an estimated 6 million Jewish people during the Holocaust of the 1930s and 1940s. The genocide and mass atrocities, also called the Shoah, was orchestrated by the German Nazi regime led by Adolph Hitler.

“In my lifetime I’ve been lucky to know three Holocaust survivors” said HB 128 co-sponsor Rep. Mark Hart, R-Falmouth. He said the bill is necessary “so we, as a society and as human race, don’t repeat what has happened in the past. If we don’t teach it, it could be repeated.”

Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, thanked the sponsors of the bill for what he called “a teachable moment for all of us here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Several eighth grade students from Louisville’s parochial St. Francis of Assisi School spoke about their instruction on the Holocaust and how it has improved their lives. They were joined by Fred Gross, a Holocaust survivor and educator who has taught hundreds of students over the decades.

“I’ve spoken to school children for the past 25 years, invited by teachers who took it upon themselves to teach the Holocaust,” said Gross. Letters he has received from students tell of lives changed, he said, including the life of a student from St. Francis of Assisi School.

“Since you’ve begun talking to my class, all of your wisdom has already helped me in my day to day life. I know I will carry these teachings with me for the rest of my life,” the letter read.

HB 128 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

 

February 6, 2018

 

Essential skills bill approved by committee

FRANKFORT—Showing up to work on time and working well with others are among so-called soft skills that students would be learning in public schools statewide under a new House bill.

House Bill 3, sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, would require K-12 schools to incorporate basic workplace etiquette and skills, called “essential skills” in the bill, into their curriculum beginning with the 2019-2020 school year. The bill was approved by the House Education Committee today.

Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, lauded the approach HB 3 would take to teach basic workplace skills in schools.

“We’ve referred to these as soft skills, essential skills … I’m not so sure they’re not critical skills going forward,” said Tipton.

Essential skills criteria would be developed by the Department of Education in collaboration with other groups, including a Council on Essential Skills that would be created by HB 3. Skills learned would be rewarded with certificates in middle and high school based on set criteria.

One school that has already implemented an essential skills curriculum is Garrard County High School, where Principal Diana Hart said personal responsibility, attendance, academic performance and persistence are among eight main standards that are taught.

“When we work with kids it’s a privilege, and I feel like it’s our moral obligation to make sure they’re ready for whatever is next in life,” said Hart. “We not only want our kids to meet the readiness standards that you guys have set but also to exceed them.”

Garrard County requires students to write resumes, practice interviewing with real employers, apply to colleges and complete other tasks as part of its work ethics certification program, Hart said.

HB 3 would also require the state to work with the new Council on Essential Skills and other groups to develop “age-appropriate” drug prevention and awareness standards for K-12 students. Instruction based on the standards may be delivered through a program developed at the school or district level. 

Garrard County has partnered with groups to raise funds for random drug testing for students engaged in extracurricular activities as part of its larger program. But Shell said drug testing is an option under HB 3, not a mandate.

“The drug testing that is talked about in this bill is completely optional,” said Shell. “This is not a mandatory drug testing for any school or any student in the state of Kentucky.”

HB 3 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

 February 2, 2018

 

This Week at the State Capitol (Jan. 29 - Feb. 2)

FRANKFORT – As legislators enter the second month of the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2018 session, action already has been taken on a number of fronts that could have affects across the state.

Lawmakers have approved a measure to allow Kentuckians to vote in November on a proposed state constitutional amendment to create what’s been referred to as a “bill of rights” for crime victims

Budget subcommittees are digging into the details of the governor’s proposed spending plan to fully understand the potential impact of proposed cuts, as well as certain areas where spending increases are proposed. In the coming weeks, lawmakers will begin weighing which parts of the budget plan they want to adjust to make sure the final plan is one that matches their priorities for the state.

Meanwhile, almost 300 bills have been introduced for consideration in the Senate and House. The amount of legislation moving through the process will continue growing each day up as more bills are filed and shepherded through the legislative committee system.

Bills that took steps forward this week include:

    Senate Bill 37 would allow some nonviolent federal prisoners to get driver’s licenses so they can work outside of prison walls. SB 37 would also amend current law to included federal prisoners under existing regulations that allow state prisoners to receive driver’s licenses or identification cards upon release. SB 37 passed the Senate by a 36-0 vote. The measure now goes to the House for further consideration.

 

    House Bill 52 would require any child under age 12 to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. While the bill does not impose fines for not wearing a helmet, the intent is to increase safety for children while cycling. After passing the House Transportation Committee, HB 52 now goes to the full House for consideration.

 

    Under House Bill 84, coroners or medical examiners would be required to verify the organ and tissue donation wishes of a deceased person in their care. Such information is now released by coroners and medical examiners to Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates upon the group’s request, but the intent of this bill is to increase urgency in this process. HB 84 passed the House by a vote of 88-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 

    Senate Bill 68 would clarify that a victim of domestic violence is not required to pay divorce costs of a spouse locked up for crimes against the petitioner. Under current state law, someone seeking a divorce against an incarcerated person can be held responsible for paying the incarcerated person’s court-appointed lawyer, even when the imprisonment is the result of spousal abuse. This bill was passed by the Senate this week by a 37-0 vote and has been delivered to the House.

 

    House Bill 132 would require Kentucky public high school students to fulfill a financial literacy requirement to graduate. The bill was approved this week by a vote of 68-24 in the state House and now goes to the Senate.

 

     Senate Bill 72 would curtail the naming of state buildings, roads and bridges after living politicians in Kentucky with the intent to take the politics out of these naming decisions. Passing with a 35-3 vote in the Senate, it now goes to the state House for further consideration.

 

Legislators are eager to receive feedback on the issues confronting our state. To share your thoughts and ideas with state lawmakers, please call the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at (800) 372-7181.

--END--

 

 

February 2, 2018

 

 

Bicycle helmet bill rolls on to Senate

FRANKFORT—TJ Floyd and his family watched in the back of the House chamber as the votes were cast on House Bill 52.  

It was not the first time the Floyds had been to the State Capitol asking for passage of the legislation, which would require children under age 12 to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. The Oldham County family had worked for years on the requirement that they believe may have prevented a traumatic brain injury then seven-year-old TJ sustained when he fell off his bicycle in 2010.

As the votes for HB 52—known as “TJ’s Bill”—continued to roll in on the House floor, bill sponsor Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, recognized the Floyds amid booming applause. Huff had worked with TJ’s mother Heather Floyd on both HB 52 and nearly identical legislation filed as HB 122 in 2017.

“Many of you have met TJ Floyd,” said Huff. “At seven years old, his independence for the rest of his life was taken.” She said traumatic brain injuries like the one TJ sustained could be prevented with a helmet requirement, adding that helmets are more than 84 percent effective at preventing brain injuries.

HB 52 would not fine someone if a child doesn’t wear a helmet. The bill was amended by the House to clarify that violations would not be subject to fines if the bill become law. 

The Kentucky House has considered passing a bicycle helmet law for children under age 12 for at least three years, with 2017 HB 122 passing the House by a vote of 90-6. One lawmaker voting in favor of last year’s bill was Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville. He also voted for HB 52 today.

“I have three grandchildren under the age of 12, and we always make them wear helmets” when cycling, Miller said. “It’s so easy to have a tragedy.”

After floor applause for the Floyds faded, a 77-5 vote in favor of HB 52 was in the books. The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

 

February 1, 2018

 

What’s in a name: It matters with state property

FRANKFORT – The Senate approved a bill today that would curtail the naming of state buildings, roads and bridges after living politicians in Kentucky.

“What I tried to accomplish with this bill is ... to take the politics out of these naming decisions,” said sponsor Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris. “You are all aware that putting someone’s name on a building can have tremendous political implications.”

Known as Senate Bill 72, the legislation would specifically prohibit the naming of any state building, transportation project, program or initiative after a living statewide current or former constitutional officer, state legislator, state judge or state employee. It passed by a 35-3 vote.

A floor amendment adopted would exempt public universities from the restrictions on naming state properties. West said that he didn’t want to hamper fundraising efforts by those schools.

West said SB 72 would also eliminate the possibility of uncomfortable and embarrassing situations of having properties named after living people who go on to commit disgraceful acts.

The measure wouldn’t exclude federal officials if they have never held an elected officer in Kentucky or been a state employee. SB 72 would also not be retroactive, meaning property already named after a living current or former elected officer or state employee would not be renamed.

SB 72 now goes to the state House for further consideration.

-- END --

 

February 1, 2018

 

Senate moves terrorism-related bill

FRANKFORT – A self-proclaimed terrorist living in Arkansas targeted a military recruiting center nine years ago in the Northern Kentucky city of Florence. The terrorist aborted his attack only because the center was closed when he arrived.

That’s an example of why the General Assembly needs to approve Senate Bill 57, said Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who sponsored the legislation. The measure would allow a person injured by an act of terrorism to file a claim for damages against the terrorist. SB 57 would also establish the crime of terrorism as one punishable by imprisonment for life without probation or parole.

SB 57 is commonly referred to as Andy’s Law, after Pfc. Andy Long. He was fatally shot in 2009 outside of a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting office – by the same self-proclaimed terrorist 

The Senate passed SB 57 today by a 38-0 vote. It goes to the House for consideration. Similar measures are now law in numerous states, including Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and neighboring Tennessee.

The self-proclaimed terrorist, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, was born Carlos Leon Bledsoe. He was one of nine siblings from a middle-class Baptist family in Memphis, Tenn., where his father owned a bus tour company. He was described by his parents and peers as a very athletic and outgoing young man.

“However, his family noticed a different Carlos, after his first year of studies at Tennessee State University ... in the fall of 2003,” Wise said. “It was there Bledsoe’s father, Melvin, believes that his son became radicalized at the Islamic center in Nashville. And it was there Carlos listened and watched online lectures and teaching from a digital jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki.”

Awlaki's, who has since died in a targeted drone strike in Yemen, was known to have contact with the underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, and Time Square foiled bomber Faisal Shahzad.

In 2007, Muhammad flew to Yemen where he planned to study Arabic and grow more as a Muslin. While there, he was arrested by Yemeni police for possession of a fake Somali identification card. The police found literature from Awlaki about manuals referencing bomb-making materials. Muhammad’s cell phone contained contacts to several Al-Qaeda militants. Muhammad was incarcerated with very harden jihadists.

“It was there he hatched his plan to unleash a holy war inside the United States,” Wise said.

When Muhammad was eventually released in Yeman, he was allowed to move to Arkansas.  Wise said the FBI “dropped the ball” by not keeping an eye on him 

“He began stockpiling weapons, ammo. Paying in cash. Making small purchases at a time. He bought one semi-automatic rifle from an acquaintance. Bought one pistol off the street,” Wise said. “He also wanted to test FBI surveillance so he went to a Walmart and there he bought a 22 semi-automatic over-the-counter at that particular Walmart. Leaving there, he noticed that no one popped up on his radar. The FBI didn’t stop him. Nothing was done.

“He thought, ‘I’m not under surveillance. Game on.’”

Wise said it this is an example of what is known as leaderless jihad – those that don’t formally belong to a group but act on their own because they have become radicalized

Muhammad is now serving multiple life sentences in federal prison.

“I don’t want to paint a picture of disparaging the Muslim faith,” said Wise, a former FBI analyst who teaches graduate-level terrorism studies at the University of Kentucky. “That is not what I’m here to do today. I could also present to you many other situations of young men who became involved in similar background stories that became radicalized to white supremacy and also to far-right radicalism.” 

-- END --

 

 

February 1, 2018

 

Eye bill focused on online technology clears House committee

FRANKFORT—Prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses shipped to or sold in Kentucky would require a real-time meeting with a Kentucky licensed medical provider under legislation that passed a House committee today.

Key provisions of HB 191, sponsored by Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, would require that eye assessments be read diagnostically by a Kentucky licensed optometrist or physician, that there be “simultaneous interaction” between the patient and the Kentucky provider, and that patients getting a prescription received an in-person eye exam within the previous 24 months. The bill was approved today by the House Health and Family Services Committee.

Gooch said HB 191 is not intended to keep online eye care technology out of Kentucky, but rather “set reasonable standards for its operation.”

“These standards will help ensure patient safety, and these standards will help make sure that Kentucky patients have the same protections whether they use technology to get their contacts or glasses or whether they see an eye care provider in person,” Gooch told the committee.

Kentucky optometrist Dr. Ben Gaddie testified that there are currently no standards in Kentucky regarding online eye care technology. Should HB 191 pass into law, Kentucky would be the first state with such standards.

Speaking in opposition to HB 191 in committee was Pete Horkan of Opternative, an online prescription eye care service that advertises “The anywhere, anytime vision test”. Horkan said HB 191 would prevent companies like his from doing business in Kentucky.

“What you’re requiring is a real-time interaction,” said Horkan. That requirement, he said, would make online eye care more expensive than an in-person visit with an eye doctor. “And that’s why it bans us,” he told the committee. 

Some lawmakers said they would like to see the legislation improved, especially relative to medical licensure. One of those lawmakers was Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, who passed on the committee vote but said he would consider voting for the bill later pending certain tweaks.

“I think the bill has some really good parts to it,” said Benvenuti. “I do think there are some issues when we’re encroaching upon medical licensure. I also think we want to make sure, for Kentuckians that choose to use telehealth, that we’re not making that more restrictive.”

HB 191 now goes to the full House for further consideration.

--END--

 

January 31, 2018

 

Financial literacy bill passes House, goes to Senate

FRANKFORT—Kentucky public high school students would need to fulfill a financial literacy requirement to graduate under a bill approved today by a vote of 68-24 in the state House.

Completion of courses or programs that meet set financial literacy standards would become a graduation requirement beginning with students entering ninth grade in 2020-2021 under House Bill 132, sponsored by Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, and Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville.

The guidance that would be provided to students under HB 132 would ensure that every high school graduate be taught how to budget, save and invest, said DuPlessis.

“If we want to fix financial illiteracy, we must get away from the notion that it is a privilege to know how money works,” DuPlessis stated in his floor speech on HB 132.

The Kentucky Board of Education would be responsible for establishing the standards and graduation requirement for financial literacy, according to the bill. It would be the purview of the local school-based decision making council or high school principal to choose course offerings that align with state standards, with direction from the Department of Education.

Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, said he favors financial literacy for students but has concerns about what he called HB 132’s “unfunded mandate” on education in a tough budget cycle.

“I’m worried about us using unfunded mandates at this time when we’re trying to get a budget that’s going to be very, very tight,” said Riley.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, also expressed concerns that the bill included an unfunded mandate, but said her past experience working with debt-strapped college students led her to vote for the bill.

“I cannot tell you how many students got into problems because they accepted financial aid, they didn’t do well in school, they took out student loans, and they would leave with no degree and debts of $10,000 to $30,000,” said Jenkins.

HB 132 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.  

--END--

  

January 31, 2018

 

Bill seeks to relieve battered spouses of abuser’s legal fees

FRANKFORT -- A bill clarifying that a victim of domestic violence is not required to pay divorce costs of a spouse locked up for crimes against the petitioner passed the Senate today by a 37-0 vote.

Under current state law, someone seeking a divorce against an incarcerated person can be held responsible for paying the incarcerated person’s court-appointed lawyer, even when the imprisonment is the result of spousal abuse.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 68, would take away that burden, said its sponsor, Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville. He said the bill would help with “closing a loophole” in current statutes for victims of domestic violence.

Sen. Danny Carrol, R-Paducah, spoke in favor of this bill by telling of his encounters with victims of abuse when he was a law enforcement official.

“Simply put, I think this bill is a way … we can break the cycle of violence,” he said.

A floor amendment that was adopted states that the act will be referred to as Jeanette’s Law. It’s named after Jeanette McCue of Washington County, who testified that she had to pay her ex-husband’s divorce costs while he was imprisoned for abusing her.

SB 68 now goes to the House for consideration 

-- END --

 

January 30, 2018

 

General Assembly’s 2018 Session Calendar updated

FRANKFORT -- The Kentucky General Assembly’s 2018 Regular Session Calendar has been updated to reflect that the chambers were not gaveled into session on January 12. (Concerns about inclement weather and hazardous driving conditions canceled that day’s proceedings.)

The calendar change means that deadlines to introduce bills in the Senate and House have moved back by one day. February 27 is now the last day for new House bills and March 1 is the last day for new Senate bills.

The session’s scheduled April 13 adjournment date has not changed.

The 2018 Regular Session Calendar can be viewed here.

--END--

 

January 30, 2018

 

Life behind the wheel: Bill would let some inmates drive 

FRANKFORT – In an initiative to reduce recidivism rates, the state Senate passed a bill today that would allow some nonviolent federal prisoners to get driver’s licenses so they can work outside of prison walls. 

Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, said the goal of the legislation, known as Senate Bill 37, is for prisoners to learn employable skills so they are less likely to re-offend. He said SB 37 was introduced at the request of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The bureau operates five institutions in Kentucky.

SB 37 would also amend current law to included federal prisoners under existing regulations that allow state prisoners to receive driver’s licenses or identification cards upon release. 

While the U.S. Census Bureau counts federal inmates as residents of the county where they are incarcerated, Kentucky officials currently do not allow inmates to use their prison address when applying for a driver’s license. Harris said SB 37 would eliminate that bureaucratic hurdle.

SB 37 passed the Senate by a 36-0 vote. The measure now goes to the House for further consideration.

SB 37 contains an emergency clause, a provision allowing a bill to become effective immediately upon approval by the governor rather than 90 days after adjournment of the General Assembly.

-- END --

 

January 30, 2018

 

Bicycle helmet requirement approved by House committee

FRANKFORT—Children under age 12 would be required to wear helmets while riding bicycles under a bill that has passed the House Transportation Committee.   

House Bill 52 sponsor Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, filed the bill in honor of TJ Floyd, an Oldham County teenager who sustained a traumatic brain injury when he fell off his bike at age seven. TJ was not wearing a helmet when the accident occurred, according to news reports.

“We just want to make sure no one else has to suffer and endure the life-altering accident that TJ has,” said Huff.

HB 52 would not impose fines for not wearing a helmet, said Huff. The intent of the bill is to make cycling safer for children, she said, adding that bicycle helmets are 84 percent effective at protecting the brain from traumatic injury when used properly. 

TJ’s mother Heather Floyd told the committee that her son endured multiple surgeries and has cognitive issues as a result of his bicycling accident. She urged passage of HB 52 to prevent similar injuries from happening to other children.

“We aren’t saying don’t let kids play and have fun. They should. But please be safe while doing so,” Floyd said.

HB 52 is identical to Huff’s HB 122, filed last year. That bill passed the House 90-6 but did not become law.

HB 52 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

January 29, 2018

 

Organ and tissue donation bill moves to Senate

FRANKFORT— Coroners or medical examiners would be required to verify the organ and tissue donation wishes of a deceased person in their care under a bill passed today by the House.

House Bill 84, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, would require coroners or medical examiners to release identifying and other relevant information about the person to Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, or KODA, if the person’s body is suitable for medical transplant or therapy. 

Such information is now released by coroners and medical examiners upon KODA’s request, but Bechler said more urgency is needed. 

“Timing is critical—once a person’s heart stops beating, the vital organs quickly become unusable for transplantation, which means that timing is of the essence,” he said. 

Bechler filed HB 84 in honor and memory of the late Courtney Flear, a 19-year-old Princeton woman who was killed in a traffic wreck in 2015. Although Flear had signed up to be an organ donor on her driver’s license, Bechler said KODA was never contacted upon her death.

A provision in HB 84 would allow the bill to be cited as Courtney’s Law in honor of Flear.

Concerns about whether HB 84 would require KODA to be contacted before the family of the deceased were raised by Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, who ultimately voted for the bill. “I’m a bigsupporter of organ donation,” Rand told his House colleagues, “but I believe the wishes of the family are primary.”

Nothing in the bill would preclude coroners from notifying the family of the deceased at any time, Bechler said. 

HB 84 passed the House by a vote of 88-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

--END--

Jan. 25, 2018

 

Electrician licensing bill flows through Senate

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate passed legislation designed to address a shortage of entry-level electricians across the Bluegrass State by a 26-10 vote today.

“Everyone agrees that we do not have enough electricians,” said Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, who sponsored the measure, known as Senate Bill 78. “Every year we lose more electricians than we gain.”

SB 78 would allow an applicant to sit for the electrician-licensing exam if the applicant has four years of experience or two years of experience plus an acceptable training course in electrical work. Under the current law, the qualifications to sit for the exam are greater.

The second clause in SB 78 would also create a nonrenewable provisional license for an applicant with a minimum of six years of experience in the trade. The provisional license holder would then have one year to pass the exam.

And a third clause would allow an electrician, whose license has lapsed, to retake the exam and get their license reinstated.

SB 78 now goes to the House for further consideration. 

-- END --

 

 

Jan. 25, 2018

  

Bill to address state regulatory process clears House


FRANKFORT—A bill that would make it easier for state lawmakers to act on regulations found inadequate – or “deficient,” as written in law – the previous year has passed the Kentucky House.

House Bill 130, sponsored by Rep. Ken Upchurch, R-Monticello, would require the staff of the state legislative Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee to report each calendar year on all administrative regulations found deficient that year. A bill could then be drafted in the next regular session that, if passed, would void the regulations or amend statute to address the deficiencies.

Upchurch said HB 130 is needed to keep up with the number of administrative regulations that come through the legislative branch each year.

“It just gives us a little bit more authority over the legislative process,” Upchurch told the House before the vote on HB 130.

Speaking in favor of the bill was Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville. The former House Local Government Committee chair said he required his committee staff to flag regulations for the committee’s review as a rule.

“Having this branch look at those administrative regs, and spend more time with them and take them seriously, is so critical because we’re the only ones who usually hear the complaints,” said Riggs. “The more we can review them … the better off we are as a body.”

The bill would also give legislative subcommittees 60 days, instead of the current 30, to take action on an administrative regulation and extend the life of an emergency administrative regulation from 180 to 210 days.

HB 130 passed the House by a vote of 91-1. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.  

--END--

 

 Jan. 25, 2018

 

Bill says abused spouse shouldn’t have to cover abuser’s divorce costs

FRANKFORT -- The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved a bill to clarify that a victim of domestic violence is not required to pay the legal fees of a spouse in a divorce action when the spouse is incarcerated for crimes against the petitioner.

Testifying in favor of Senate Bill 68, Jeanette McCue of Washington County said she was stuck with her husband’s divorce costs after he severely beat her and held a gun to her head. After filing for an emergency protective order and for a divorce, she learned she would be held responsible for the legal fees of her husband due to his incarceration.

“That was a smack in the face,” she said.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, the sponsor of SB 28, said McCue’s testimony in favor of the bill places her among those who “have the courage to use the power of their voice to get something done.”

Under current state law, someone seeking a divorce against an incarcerated person can be held responsible for paying the incarcerated person’s court-appointed lawyer, even when the imprisonment is the result of spousal abuse. SB 68 would take away this burden. 

The bill was approved unanimously by the committee and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

--END--

January 24, 2018

 

Marsy’s Law approved by lawmakers; Ky. voters will decide on measure

FRANKFORT—A constitutional crime victims’ “bill of rights” amendment edged closer to this fall’s statewide election ballot with today’s final passage of a bill proposing the change.

Senate Bill 3—widely known as Marsy’s Law—sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, will place the proposed amendment before voters this November. Kentucky currently has crime victims’ rights listed in statute, but not in the state’s constitution 

Some of the rights that would be added to the constitution with the passage of the proposed amendment are the right to notice of proceedings, the right to reasonable protection from the accused, and the right to legal “standing,” which would give victims the constitutional right to assert their rights in court.

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, said the rights that crime victims now have in statute are limited. Constitutional rights for victims would help level the field between victims and accused criminals, who already have constitutional-protected rights, he said.

“Senate Bill 3 would let the voters of Kentucky decide,” whether crime victims should have their own constitutional rights, said Blanton.

SB 3 received final passage by a vote of 87-3 in the House after passing the Senate 34-1 earlier this month. Proposed constitutional amendments in Kentucky require approval of three-fifths of the members of the House and Senate.

The proposed amendment now goes to the Office of the Secretary of State to be prepared for the November ballot.

Marsy’s Law is named for Marsy Nicholas, a California college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Marsy’s laws have passed in at least six states to date.

--END--

 

Jan. 24, 2018

 

Senate passes bill requiring abstinence education

FRANKFORT – A bill that would require the inclusion of abstinence education in any human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases curriculum passed the Senate by a 32-5 vote today.

“Abstinence is the only measure which is 100 percent effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies and contracting sexually-transmitted diseases,” said bill sponsor Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield. “In choosing not to be in a monogamous relationship increases the probability of contracting a sexually-transmitted disease exponentially with each new partner.”

Responding to opposition to the legislation, known as Senate Bill 71, Meredith emphasized it would not limit sex education to an abstinence-only curriculum. He said he just wanted to make sure abstinence is included in comprehensive sex education.

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, stood in support of SB 71.

“This bill is a very simple bill,” he said. “It is 11 lines. It is very simple to read. It is very simple to understand. There is nothing in this bill that suggests abstinence only.”

President Pro Tem Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, also stood in support of the bill. He said that if SB 71 becomes law it will be included in comprehensive sexual health education standards that are currently under review by public education officials.

Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, spoke against SB 71. She said she was fearful that only abstinence would be taught in some school districts if the bill becomes law – despite whatever curriculum standards are developed.

 “I think we all know information is power,” Harper said. “I would like to know why we don’t want to empower our young folks with all the information they need to make good decisions about their bodies. What are we afraid of? No matter what we legislate, sex outside marriage is going to happen.”

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, voted for SB 71.

“This bill does nothing to limit what is taught in sex education classes in schools,” he said. “As a society, if we don’t set firm baselines for our kids to follow, where are we headed? 

-- END --

 

January 24, 2018

 

Medical marijuana resolution clears House hurdle

FRANKFORT—The Kentucky House wants the federal government to accelerate research on the “safety and effectiveness” of medical marijuana.

That is at least one message found in House Concurrent Resolution 34 sponsored by Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, a licensed pharmacist who cautioned his House colleagues against adopting drug policy without thorough study. Doing so can have serious consequences, he said, citing birth defects caused by the drug thalidomide in the 1950s and1960s as one example.

“When we have not had the most careful study, we have ended up with unintended consequences,” Bentley said.

The drug at the focus of HCR 34 is medical marijuana, or medical cannabis, which has been approved in some form in 29 states and the District of Columbia. At least one bill to establish a medical cannabis program in Kentucky has been filed this session.

Under HCR 34, the General Assembly would ask federal drug control agencies to “expedite research on the safety and effectiveness of the use of marijuana for certain health purposes.” That research could help guide the General Assembly in developing “evidence-based and scientifically sound” medical marijuana policy, according to the resolution. 

“How can we as a legislators make a responsible decision? The fact is we can’t,” without comprehensive research, said Bentley.

Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, who voted for the resolution, said he believes research on medical marijuana is needed but questioned the policies of the Federal Drug Administration, or FDA, one of the agencies called upon for guidance in HCR 34. He said it is the FDA that has “time and time again” approved opioid drugs which have left many Kentucky communities in crisis.

“I think we need a similar resolution that says the FDA needs to get these dangerous, lethal opiates in check,” said Kay.

HCR 34 passed the House 73-5 and now goes to the Senate for consideration. If approved by both chambers and the governor, the resolution would be sent to the FDA, National Institute on Drug Abuse and Drug Enforcement Administration.

--END--

  

Jan. 24, 2018

 

Bill regulating naming of state property advances

FRANKFORT – The time-honored tradition of naming state buildings and roads after living politicians in Kentucky would be curtailed under a bill approved by a state Senate committee today.

“It also reminds us that when we make decisions on using public funds to build things those funds were provided through the sweat and toil of the citizenry,” bill sponsor Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, said while testifying before the Senate State and Local Government Committee. “When we appropriate money, we are simply moving money over to build these things that were paid for by the people.

“We really don’t need any special recognition for that. We are just doing our job.”

Known as Senate Bill 72, the legislation would specifically prohibit the naming of any state building, transportation project, program or initiative after a living statewide current or former constitutional officer, state legislator, state judge or state employee.

“As we are all aware, putting someone’s name on a building or public infrastructure can have a huge political impact,” West said. “There is nothing like going into your district and unveiling that new building.”

He said that SB 72 takes the politics out of these naming decisions.

“It is easy, up here, when we make these decisions for us to somehow think we are entitled to that,” West said. “This bills aims to do away with that.”

He said the bill also eliminates the possibility of unintended consequences. West asked committee members to imagine the embarrassment that would come from naming a courthouse after a judge who would go on to commit a heinous crime.

“That is just one hypothetical but you could extrapolate this out to numerous situations for crimes and even noncriminal activity,” West said.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, spoke in support of the bill but asked if former or current federal office holders were included in the prohibition. West said they were not included in the ban.

Majority Floor Leader Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, also spoke in favor of the bill but too had a question. He wanted to know if the legislation would be retroactive. West said it would not be retroactive.

SB 72 now goes to the Senate floor for further consideration.

-- END --

 

January 24, 2018

 

Consumer credit protection bill passes House committee

FRANKFORT—A bill that would allow a security freeze to remain on a person’s credit indefinitely has passed the House Banking and Insurance Committee.

Current state law allows consumer reporting agencies like Equifax, TransUnion and Experian to remove security freezes on a person’s credit after seven years or at the consumer’s request, in most cases. House Bill 46, sponsored by Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, and House Banking and Insurance Chair Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville, would remove the seven-year limit, giving consumers more protection.

Fischer said questions about the seven-year limit were raised by one of his constituents following last year’s Equifax cyber security breach, which gave unauthorized access to personal data of over 145 million Equifax consumers.

The constituent uncovered the seven-year limit while seeking a security freeze on his credit, said Fischer.

“He requested me to propose a bill that would allow an indefinite freeze, as it is in most states,” he told the committee.

An emergency clause included in HB 46 would require the legislation to take effect immediately after it is signed by the governor or otherwise becomes law. The bill cites “the prevalence of security breaches containing sensitive identifying information on consumers” and the risk of identity theft from those breaches as reasons for the emergency clause.

HB 46 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

January 24, 2018

 

Senate panel moves bill to let some prisoners drive

FRANKFORT – Some prisoners in work programs or re-entry initiatives could soon be behind the wheel on Kentucky’s roadways if a bill a state Senate committee approved today becomes law.

Known as Senate Bill 37, the legislation would allow federal and state prisoners to get driver’s licenses so they could participate in work programs or re-entry initiatives outside of prison walls. SB 37 would also amend current law to included federal prisoners under existing regulations that allow state prisoners to receive driver’s licenses or identification cards upon release.

When SB 37 was presented to the Senate transportation Committee, Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, asked if federal inmates locked up in Kentucky are counted as state residents.

U.S. Bureau of Prisons official Scott Butcher, who testified in support of the bill, said the U.S. Census Bureau counts federal inmates as residents of the county where they are incarcerated. He added that Kentucky, however, doesn’t currently allow prisoners to use their prison address when applying for a driver’s license 

The five institutions the bureau operates in Kentucky are the U.S. Penitentiary at Big Sandy, U.S. Penitentiary at McCreary, Federal Correctional Institution at Manchester, Federal Correctional Institution at Ashland and Federal Medical Center at Lexington.

Ridley also asked why SB 37 contained an emergency clause, a provision allowing a bill to become effective immediately upon approval by the governor rather than 90 days after adjournment of the General Assembly 

Butcher said the emergency clause was added because licensed prisoners are vital to the smooth operations of bureau facilitates in Kentucky. Prisoners are used to perform essential tasks such as driving maintenance vehicles. In the event that SB 37 becomes law, Butcher added that federal officials are already working with the state Transportation Cabinet to get the necessary regulations in place to issue driver’s licenses to prisoners.

Committee Chairman Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, sponsored the bill. He said the Senate passed a similar bill last year but that it did not become law.

Butcher previously testified before an interim joint committee that another goal of the change in law was to allow prisoners to drive to off-site jobs to learn employable skills and earn taxable incomes. Butcher said that would reduce the rate of recidivism or the likelihood of returning to prison. Currently, one in three people released from federal prison will return.

SB 37 now goes to the Senate floor for further consideration.

-- END --

 

January 23, 2018

 

Bill to give local governments more revenue options OK’d by House

FRANKFORT—A bill that would give local governments more ways to increase revenue is on its way to the Senate after passing the House by 95-0 vote.  

House Bill 75, sponsored by Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, would allow cities, counties and other local entities to pursue more aggressive investment through mutual, closed-end and exchange-traded funds and high-quality corporate bonds, all within certain limits and under the guidance of a professional investment adviser.

Riggs said he expects local government investment returns to increase fivefold under the bill. He said local government investment returns are now only around half of 1 percent due to outdated laws.

Improving returns, he said, will improve revenues “which, in turn, keeps the pressure off any need they might have to raise taxes – it stops that from happening,” said Riggs.

Local governments “like the idea of being allowed to improve their investment portfolios to improve the return on the deposits that they make,” he said.

HB 75 would also tighten requirements for credit rating agencies that rate securities and other investments currently used by local government entities, or may be used by those entities should HB 75 become law.

--END--

 

January 23, 2018

 

Bill addressing electrician licenses goes to Senate

FRANKFORT – Easing a shortage of licensed electricians across Kentucky is a goal of a bill approved today by the Senate Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations.

Known as Senate Bill 78, the legislation would create a provisional electrician license for people with a minimum of six years of experience in the trade. The provisional license holder would then have two years to pass a state exam and get a regular license. The provisional license would also expire after two years and would be nonrenewable.

Electrician Mark Gary of Hopkinsville testified about the difficulty of hiring licensed electricians. He said Kentucky has 2,220 licensed electricians and 9,117 of the more experienced master electricians as of July of last year. That is a less than half the number Kentucky had just 14 years ago.

“Having that provisional license would create some immediate relief for folks, like Mark and others, who are struggling to find adequate numbers of staff to do their work,” said bill sponsor Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville.

Steve Willinghurst, who trains electricians in Kentucky, was one of three people who testified in opposition to SB 78.

“Having been a training director for 20 years, I have not seen apprentices with two years of experience ... qualified to take an exam for an electrical license,” he said.

Westerfield testified that he wouldn’t have sponsored the bill if he did not think there was a legitimate need for the legislation.

Committee Chairman Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said an interim joint committee he co-chaired also heard testimony last summer in Georgetown on the shortage of electricians 

“There has been a lot of hard work put in on this, a lot of input from all sides,” Schickel said. “This is the first step ... but I want to thank the bill sponsor, and for those on both sides of this issue, for working so hard.

“There is one thing we cannot debate. I hear it every day. There is a shortage of all the skilled trades.”

SB 78 now goes to the full Senate for further consideration. 

-- END --

January 22, 2018

 

Marsy’s Law proposal passes House committee 

FRANKFORT—Kentucky voters are one step closer to being allowed to vote on a constitutional crime victims’ “bill of rights” with the passage of a bill today in a House committee.  

Senate Bill 3—also known as Marsy’s Law—would allow the question of state constitutional rights for crime victims to go on Kentucky’s statewide ballot this fall. SB 3 chief sponsor Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, read all ten proposed rights for members of the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, which voted 11-1 this afternoon to approve the bill. 

Kentucky currently has crime victims’ rights listed in statute, but not in the state’s constitution. Supporters of SB 3 say they want to give constitutional rights to victims equal to the constitutional rights given to those accused or convicted of crimes.

“This is an important part of criminal justice reform that we haven’t done yet,” said Westerfield. “It’s time to put a real face and a real voice to Kentucky’s victims.”

A few of the rights that would be enshrined in the constitution if the proposed amendment is ultimately approved are the right to notice of proceedings, the right to reasonable protection from the accused, and the right to legal “standing,” which would give victims the constitutional right to assert their rights in court.

Speaking in favor of SB 3 was Melissa Buchanan, the founder of the Facebook group Hope After Homicide, whose brother, Charlie Prater, was murdered in Lewis County in 2000. Buchanan said giving crime victims information, presence and a voice in court “will ensure consistency across the state and help families feel satisfied with the response of our justice system.”

SB 3, which passed the Senate by a 34-1 vote on Jan. 10, now goes to the full House for its consideration.

Westerfield has filed another bill, SB 30, which would make specific changes to state’s statutory Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. That bill is now before the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

Marsy’s Laws are named for Marsy Nicholas, a California college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. The laws have passed in at least six states. 

--END--

 

January 19, 2018

  

House approves bills targeting child pornography, sex offenders

FRANKFORT— Bills that would more tightly secure child pornography held as part of court proceedings and further restrict communications by registered sex offenders passed the state House today.

House Bill 120, sponsored by Rep. Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown, would prohibit a defendant from duplicating anything constituting child pornography or sexual performance by a minor that is part of a criminal or civil court proceeding.

HB 70, sponsored by House Judiciary Chair Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, would prohibit registered sex offenders from purposely using cell phones and other electronic communications to solicit, communicate with or collect information about a minor, with some exceptions if the minor is the child of the registrant. Violation would be a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500 

Fischer’s bill would amend current law, which prevents a registered sex offender from purposely using social networking sites, instant messaging or chat rooms if those programs or sites are accessible to minors. Violation of the current law is also a Class A misdemeanor.

Both bills were approved by consent on a vote of 89-0 and now go to the Senate for consideration.

--END--

 

January 18, 2018

 

Bill addressing opioid crisis goes to House

FRANKFORT—Attacking the opioid crisis through better state substance use disorder treatment and recovery program standards is at the core of a bill approved by a House committee.

House Bill 124, which was approved today by the House Health and Family Services Committee would require enhanced licensure and quality standards for substance use disorder treatment and recovery after a state review of current standards used statewide. The enhanced standards would cover residential, outpatient and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) services, according to the bill.

The legislation is sponsored by House Health and Family Services Committee Chair Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, and Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill.

Wuchner said she has traveled the state visiting treatment and recovery centers and found that some programs have “a lot of dynamics and a lot of differences.”

“That doesn’t mean that every program has to be the same, but there should be components of that program that are consistent with best practices,” said Wuchner.

HB 124 would help Kentucky examine access to treatment and ensure modernized state licensure and quality standards for the best treatment outcomes, said Dr. Allen Brenzel of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Department of Behavioral Health.

“There are now some nationally-recognized models that describe different levels of treatment. Some are medically intensive and more supervised, some are residential with some medical supervision, and others are more community-based,” Brenzel said. “Right now, our licensure categories don’t reflect that.”

The bill could also potentially reduce the regulatory burden on providers, bringing more providers on board, said Brenzel.

House Bill 124 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

January 18, 2018

 

 

Bill would secure child pornography held in court proceedings

FRANKFORT— Child pornography held as part of state court proceedings would be tightly protected under a bill headed to floor of the Kentucky House.

Any material constitutes child pornography or a sexual performance by a minor would not be allowed to be duplicated in a criminal or civil proceeding by the defendant per House Bill 120, sponsored by Rep. Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown and approved unanimously yesterday by the House Judiciary Committee. Such material would instead be secured and kept in the custody of the court, prosecutor or law enforcement involved.

“This bill is designed to protect the most innocent among us, our children – the ones who have been exploited,” said McCoy.  

He said his bill “draws a line” by not allowing child pornography held in criminal or civil cases to be copied or reproduced in any way.

“So, in a criminal or civil proceeding, if you’re the defendant, you’ve got to go see the court,’ McCoy told the committee.

The prohibition would not keep such material from being made “reasonably available” to the defense by the prosecution at “a designated facility” for viewing and inspection, according to the bill. McCoy said he hopes such accommodations would be made sparingly. 

“I would hope we would be very circumspect in doing that,” he said. “But we have not tied (the courts’) hands.”

Speaking against the bill was Rebecca DiLoreto with the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. DiLoreto said her organization believes that HB 120 would limit defense access to evidence.

“Our judges are elected to exercise discretion in terms or how evidence will be viewed,” she said.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

January 18, 2018

 

 

Panel advances bill to give local governments more revenue options

FRANKFORT—Cities, counties, school districts and other local government entities would have new ways to increase investment revenue under a bill approved today by the House Local Government Committee.  

House Bill 75 sponsor Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, said most local governments now rely on investments like securities and certificates of deposit, often at a poor rate of return. HB 75 would allow them to pursue more aggressive investment through mutual, closed-end and exchange-traded funds and through high-quality corporate bonds, all within certain limits and under the guidance of a professional investment adviser.

The new options would help local governments significantly increase revenues at a time when less money is available from the state and federal government, said Riggs.

“And it allows them to increase revenue without raising taxes,” said Riggs.

He said he generally expects local government investment returns to increase “fivefold” under the proposal.

“The idea is that this is an innovative way for local governments who provide services to the public to increase revenue while keeping the pressure off taxpayers,” said Riggs. “And all within certain limits.”

The bill would also tighten requirements for credit rating agencies that rate securities and other investments currently used by local government entities, or may be used by those entities should HB 75 become law.

HB 75 now goes to the full House for its consideration.

--END--

 

 

January 12, 2018

 

This Week in Frankfort

January 8-11

 

FRANKFORT -- The General Assembly’s 2018 session passed one of its early milestones this week as the first bill to clear a chamber this year was approved by the Kentucky Senate on Wednesday.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 3, brought back an issue lawmakers have considered before: adding language to the state constitution that specifies certain rights that should be afforded to crime victims. These rights would include notice of all criminal court proceedings involving the accused, reasonable protection from the accused, timely notice of the release or escape of the accused and the right to full restitution to be paid by the convicted.

If Senate Bill 3 is approved by lawmakers, then Kentucky voters would get to decide whether this change is made to the state constitution.

The legislation is part of a national movement to establish Marsy’s Laws, named in memory of Marsy Nicholas, who was killed in the 1980s by her ex-boyfriend in California.

Another top issue this week focused on the possibility of moving the election of Kentucky’s governor and other statewide officers to even-numbered years.  Supporters say this would save the state money on election costs and increase voter turnout.  A House Committee has approved House Bill 23 on this matter, while the full Senate has approved similar legislation, Senate Bill 4.

If either bill is approved by both chambers, a proposed constitutional amendment on the matter would be decided on by Kentucky voters.

Other bills that took steps forward this week include:

Senate Bill 7, which would establish the Kentucky Rare Disease Advisory Council and Trust Fund to promote research, treatment and education on rare diseases. The bill was approved by the Senate on Thursday and sent to the House for consideration 

House Bill 88, approved by the House State Government Committee on Thursday, would allow unclaimed state property to be the only source of funding for operation of the Office of the State Treasurer. The measure is aimed at giving some relief to the state budget. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

HB 84 would improve efforts to accommodate the wishes of people who want to be organ and tissue donors. The bill would require coroners and medical examiners to contact the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates if a deceased person’s body is suitable for organ or tissue donation. The bill was approved Wednesday by the House Licensing, Occupations & Administrative Regulations Committee and now goes to the House for consideration.

Senate Bill 8 would provide civil immunity for damaging a vehicle if a person enters the vehicle with the reasonable, good-faith belief that a dog or cat is in immediate danger of death if not removed. The legislation passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday and now heads to the full senate for consideration.

The Senate and House will not convene on Monday, January 15th in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Lawmakers will return to the Capitol on Tuesday, January 16.  That same day the governor will give his State of the Commonwealth address in which he is expected to lay out details on his proposed budget.  The biennial budget is a top priority this session and once the governor hands over his proposal, the House and Senate will begin making changes so that the final budget proposal reflects their priorities.

If you’d like to share feedback on issues under consideration with state lawmakers, please call the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

 

--END--

 

January 12, 2018

  

LRC to host legislative agent workshop

FRANKFORT -- The Legislative Research Commission will hold a Jan. 19 orientation session for lobbyists who will be working in Frankfort during the Kentucky General Assembly's 2018 session.

The orientation will last from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Capitol Annex, Room 154 

The session is aimed primarily at assisting legislative agents who are new to the Kentucky General Assembly or those interested in a refresher course on the legislature's operating procedures. Those attending will have an opportunity to listen to presentations from legislative leaders, staff members of the Legislative Research Commission and a veteran lobbyist on the inner workings of the legislative process and the role that legislative agents play in that process 

The Legislative Ethics Commission will also offer a presentation 

There is no charge for attending the orientation session and no pre-registration is required.

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January 11, 2018

  

State Senate and House will not convene Jan. 12

Winter Weather Advisory prompts adjustment to 2018 session calendar

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives will not convene on Friday, January 12, due to a Winter Weather Advisory and forecasts of hazardous travel conditions in Kentucky.

 The chambers are scheduled to reconvene on Tuesday, January 16.

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January 11, 2018

Bill places focus on rare diseases

FRANKFORT – A bill that would promote research, treatment and education on rare diseases passed the state Senate today by a 32-0 vote.

Known as Senate Bill 7, the legislation would establish the Kentucky Rare Disease Advisory Council & Trust Fund, said Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, who sponsored the bill. She said the council would seek funding from federal grants, private foundations and donations instead of asking for state tax dollars.

A rare disease, sometimes referred to as an orphan disease, would be defined in the legislation as a disease that affects fewer than 200,000 people. Adams said that there are 7,000 rare diseases affecting about 30 million people across the nation.

The council would consist of at least 14 members appointed by the governor and include doctors, nurses, hospital officials, insurance officials, medical researchers and people diagnosed with rare diseases, as outlined in SB 7. The members would meet at least three times a year, be unpaid for their work on the council and serve four-year terms.

SB 7 now goes to the state House for consideration.

If it becomes law, the council and trust fund would be dissolved on Dec. 1, 2028, unless otherwise reestablished by the General Assembly. 

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January 11, 2018

 

 

Bill to change how State Treasury is funded goes to House

FRANKFORT— Unclaimed state property could be the only source of funding for operation of the Office of the State Treasury under a bill approved today by a legislative committee.

State Treasurer Allison Ball appeared before the House State Government Committee today with Rep. Ken Fleming, R-Louisville, in support of House Bill 88. Sponsored by Fleming, the bill would allow all expenses for the Office of the State Treasurer to be paid out of the state’s abandoned property fund, freeing up the agency’s remaining state General Fund and Road Fund appropriations for other budget needs.

The agency currently receives approximately $2 million in General Fund dollars each fiscal year and approximately $250,000 from the Road Fund, said Ball.

“In the grand scheme it’s not an enormous amount of money, but every penny helps,” she said.

Ball hopes to make changes quickly, should HB 88 become law. The bill includes an emergency clause, requiring it to take effect immediately upon being signed by the governor or otherwise becoming law.

“You all are tasked with fixing the pension problem, so we wanted this to operate immediately,” she told the committee. 

The Office of the State Treasurer now gets about half its funding from the state’s abandoned property fund, a nearly 80-year-old fund worth nearly half a billion dollars that collects unclaimed assets from dormant bank accounts and other sources, said Ball. It collects roughly $30 million to $37 million over what it returns to claimants every fiscal year.

The size of the abandoned property fund piqued the interest of Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, who asked Ball how her office gets the word out about the fund’s existence. Ball called her office’s campaign to return unclaimed property to its owners “aggressive,” with over 41 percent of unclaimed property returned in recent years.

“We have been very aggressive, as you can see by the numbers,” she said, adding that the return rate exceeds the national average.

“We’ve gotten to the point now where we are actually taking our own initiative to identity (entities) that have unclaimed property,” including school boards, nonprofits and others, Ball said.

HB 88 passed the House State Government Committee and now goes to the full House for consideration.

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Jan. 11, 2018

 

Senate advances bill to change election dates

FRANKFORT – Legislation that would move the election of Kentucky’s governor and other statewide officers to even-numbered years passed the state Senate today by a 24-11 vote.

Senate Bill 4 sponsor Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, said the legislation would save about $15.5 million in taxpayer money, triple voter turnout in downballot races and simplify the election system by aligning Kentucky’s election cycle with presidential elections.

McDaniel said it is at least the fifth session a bill to change Kentucky’s election cycle has been filed in the last decade.

“While it might have a little bit of a different number every time we see it, the principles remain the same,” he said in reference to the different bill numbers the legislation has been assigned over the years.

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, spoke against the bill. He said SB 4 would blur the line between state and federal issues.

“I don’t think we should confuse who is running for president ... with who is going to be our governor,” Thomas said. “This bill goes the wrong direction. 

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, stood to explain his vote in favor of the SB 4.

“There was a gentleman named Charles de Gaulle who said, ‘Politics is too serious of a matter to be left to politicians.’ Let’s let the people decide what they want for a change.”

Since SB 4 is a constitutional amendment, the legislation will require a supermajority in the state House before it could be placed on the ballot in November to be decided upon by the people.

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Jan. 11, 2018

  

Senate panel addresses dogs and cats left in cars

FRANKFORT – Veterinarian Consuela Reinhart closed her small-animal practice in Louisville today to drive here to testify on Senate Bill 8, legislation that would protect dogs and cats left locked in cars during extreme weather conditions.

“I have witnessed, first hand, how these animals suffer being a veterinarian on the frontlines,” Reinhart said while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee for even stronger protections than what would be extended to dogs in cats by SB 8. “This allows Kentucky to raise our standard ... for the protection of animals. This is so important.”

Sponsor Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, said SB 8 would provide civil immunity for damaging a vehicle if a person enters the vehicle with the reasonable, good-faith belief that a dog or cat is in immediate danger of death if not removed.

He said SB 8 is an extension of Senate Bill 16 from the 2016 session, dubbed the look-before-you-lock bill. SB 16 became law and now protects prospective rescuers from being sued for any property damage caused in pursuit of saving the life of a child left in a locked vehicle.

In response to Reinhart’s request for even stronger safeguards for dogs and cats, Carroll said he would love the add protections but that as a veteran lawmaker he has learned that “you got to be careful asking for too much or you will get nothing.”

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, thanked Carroll for narrowly defining some of the language in the bill to remove the opportunity for “mischief” by thieves or “animal extremists.” She said legislators must be careful not to give individuals a “pass” to break into cars to steal people’s pets.

“What we have to do here, and I think this bill does, is have a rational standard of protection of the animal in a potential neglect situation,” Webb said.

She also added that Kentucky’s southern neighbor, Tennessee, was the first state to pass such legislation.

Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, asked if municipalities in Kentucky were looking at adopting ordinances that would provide similar protections to people rescuing dogs and cats locked in cars.

Carroll said Louisville Metro Council passed a resolution encouraging the General Assembly to extend the look-before-you-lock provisions to animals.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, said he has had people call him who think SB 8 discriminates against other domesticated animals, such as hamsters and ferrets.

“This has been sort of like a law school exam question,” he said of the discussions on how to craft language in the bill as to not impede on people’s property rights or extend animals personhood status.

SB 8 unanimously passed out of the committee. It now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.

“I know this isn’t an earth-shattering piece of legislation but our dogs and cats are very important to us,” Carroll said. “I’m convinced these animals ... are God’s gift to man. It is just a small way we can protect our dogs and cats.”

 

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January 10, 2018

 

Senate moves to enshrine victims’ rights in KY

FRANKFORT – Twenty-three thousand seven hundred eighty-five is the total number of felony cases that resulted in convictions last year alone in Kentucky.

“For every one of those almost 24,000 cases there is at least one victim,” Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, said before the Kentucky Senate passed Senate Bill 3 – dubbed the crime victims’ bill of rights – by a 34-1 vote this afternoon. “And for many of those, there is more than one victim. And right now in Kentucky, those victims have inadequate rights or no rights at all in a criminal justice system that is designed to do justice.”

Westerfield, who introduced SB 3, said some of the rights it seeks to enshrine in the state constitution include the right to notice of all criminal court proceedings involving the accused, reasonable protection from the accused, timely notice of the release or escape of the accused and the right to full restitution to be paid by the convicted.

“There are some who say this destroys the rights of the accused,” Westerfield said in response to previously voiced opposition of SB 3. “I’m assuming they haven’t read the current version of the bill because it actually preserves those rights.”

After the floor vote, Majority Floor Leader Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said Westerfield had worked on the bill for more than two years.

“It is not without symbolism that it is the first bill passed by the Senate this session,” Thayer said. The vote comes on the seventh workday of a 60-day session where the state’s 24-month budget will be crafted.

Thayer also acknowledged several crime victims and their families gathered in the Senate gallery to witness the vote on SB 3. At a meeting of the Senate State & Local Government Committee earlier in the day, one of those family members testified about how the murder of her brother in 2000 changed the trajectory of her life.

“My family and I had to stumble our way through the justice system for each of the four who participated in the murder,” said Melissa Buchanan, sister of murder victim Marvin Charlie Prater. “Our local newspaperman was my victim’s advocate because that is how I learned of court dates.”

She said she wasn’t even notified when some of the defendants were released pending trial.

“They began calling my home and threatening me and my family,” said Buchanan, adding that she was pregnant at the time. “I was told that there was nothing that could be done.”

She said all four were found guilty but two have already been released from custody.

Testifying against SB 3 at the committee hearing was Rebecca Ballard DiLoreto of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

“This bill will not hold the (justice) system accountable but will reduce the constitutional rights of accused persons,” she said. “What we ought to do is make sure prosecutors enforce the laws already on the books designed to protect the rights of victims.”

SB 3 is part of a national movement to pass so-called Marsy’s Laws. Marsy Nicholas was killed in the 1980s by her ex-boyfriend in California.

SB 3 now goes to the state House for consideration. If it is approved by both chambers, it would still need to be approved by voters in November before being enacted.

 

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January 10, 2018

 

Bill places focus on rare diseases

FRANKFORT – A bill that would promote research, treatment and education on rare diseases advanced out of the state Senate Committee on Health & Welfare this morning.

Known as Senate Bill 7, the legislation would establish the Kentucky Rare Disease Advisory Council and Trust Fund, said Committee Chair and sponsor Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville.

In response to a question by Sen. David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, Adams said the council would not receive state tax dollars. Adams said the council would seek out federal grants, donations and money from private foundations to pay for outreach and research.

Pat Dunegan, whose wife has an unusual gastrointestinal disease, testified that people with rare diseases struggle to obtain correct diagnoses, find medical specialists and get access to new and experimental therapies and medications. He said he hoped SB 7 would give a voice to those who battle these diseases.

Pat, and his wife, Jennifer, were later honored on the Senate floor 

A rare disease, sometimes referred to as an orphan disease, would be defined in the legislation as a disease that affects fewer than 200,000 people. Adams said that there are 7,000 rare diseases affecting about 30 million people across the nation. SB 7 states 80 percent of rare diseases are genetic in origin and can be linked to mutations in a single gene or in multiple genes which can be passed down from generation to generation.

The council would consist of at least 14 members appointed by the governor and include doctors, nurses, hospital officials, insurance officials, medical researchers and people diagnosed with rare diseases, as outlined in SB 7. The members would meet at least three times a year, be unpaid for their work on the council and serve four-year terms.

Givens said he liked a committee substitute that amended SB 7 to eliminate some old commissions that no longer meet or have outlived their stated purposes. The substitute also corrected some language in existing statutes such as updating the name of some departments or agencies.

Givens also praised the bill for including a sunset clause. If it becomes law, the council and trust fund would be dissolved on Dec. 1, 2028, unless otherwise reestablished by the General Assembly.

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January 10, 2018

 

Organ and tissue donation bill advances

FRANKFORT— Supporters of organ and tissue donation hope a proposed change to Kentucky law will save more lives while fully honoring the wishes of donors.

House Bill 84, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, would require coroners and medical examiners to contact the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, or KODA, if a deceased person’s body is in any way medically suitable for organ or tissue donation. The bill was approved today without dissent by the House Licensing, Occupations & Administrative Regulations.

Hospitals routinely contact KODA to determine if someone is an organ donor, Bechler told the committee, but donors who die outside of a hospital setting can have their wishes overlooked.

That is what happened to the late Courtney Flear, a 19-year-old Princeton woman killed in a traffic accident in 2015. Although Flear had signed her driver’s license indicating that she wanted to be an organ donor, KODA was never contacted, said Bechler.

“Had the proposed changes that are in HB 84 been law at the time of Courtney’s death, one or more lives may have been saved,” he said. 

Should HB 84 become law, a provision in the bill would allow it to be cited as Courtney’s Law in honor of Flear. 

The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.

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January 8, 2018

 

House panel advances two constitutional amendments

FRANKFORT—The election of Kentucky’s Governor and other statewide officers would move to even-numbered years in 2024 under a proposed state constitutional amendment approved today by a House committee. 

The proposed amendment in House Bill 23, sponsored by House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee Chair Kenny Imes, R-Murray, would move the election of all statewide constitutional officers to even-numbered years starting in 2024 if the amendment is approved by Kentucky voters next fall. Terms of statewide constitutional officers elected next year – the Governor, Attorney General and others – would be extended by one year to accommodate the change under the amendment.

The move is expected to save the taxpayers a total of $13.5 million, with counties benefiting the most, said Imes.

Smaller counties like Calloway – which is Imes’ home county -- could save as much as $100,000 every four years while larger counties like Jefferson could save well over $1 million in the same period, Imes said.

“This costs the taxpayers of Kentucky, especially the counties, a tremendous amount of money. This would be a savings to the counties,” he said. 

HB 23 is identical to 2017 HB 81, which proposed the change in the last regular session.

Another proposed constitutional amendment approved by the committee is HB 10, sponsored by Imes and Rep. Scott Wells, R-West Liberty. If ratified by voters next fall, the amendment would allow the General Assembly or its designee to “review, approve, or disapprove” any state regulation without delay. Disapproval of a regulation would make the regulation “void and unenforceable,” according to HB 10.

Currently, if a state regulation is found "deficient" by the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee or another legislative committee, the finding is not binding and the executive branch can still choose to put the regulation into effect.

 

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January 5, 2018

 

This Week at the State Capitol   

FRANKFORT -- Lawmakers returned to the State Capitol this week to begin a General Assembly session that’s sure to tackle a wide range of issues. But Capitol observers say there are two issues this year that will likely dominate many discussions: public pension reform and the state budget 

Issues concerning the unfunded liabilities associated with the state’s pension systems for public employees received growing attention last year with much speculation on whether lawmakers would be called into a special legislative session to deal with the matter. Those challenges are still in focus as lawmakers move into the early stages of the current session while working to ensure that a consensus is reached on the issue. 

While pension reform would most directly impact current and future public retirees, it’s fair to say this issue touches all state citizens. As pension costs grow and liabilities increase, it becomes harder to fund Kentuckians’ other priorities, like education, public protection, and workforce development 

Such consequences are why any action lawmakers take on pension reform is certain to have a big impact on the other top issue of the legislative session, the state budget. Every two years lawmakers create a biennial state budget, so now’s the time to craft the plan that will guide state spending for the next two fiscal years that begin on July 1.

The budget process will take a big step forward on Jan. 16 when Gov. Matt Bevin presents his proposed spending plan in a speech to lawmakers that will be broadcast to a statewide audience on Kentucky Educational Television. Soon after, lawmakers on budget subcommittees will begin digging into the plan and considering the changes they want to make to ensure that the final spending plan reflects their priorities for the state.

While pensions and the budget will receive much attention in the days ahead, there’s a growing list of bills on other matters that lawmakers will study in-depth. More than 100 bills have already been introduced this year on matters including child protection, tax reform, drones, and drug treatment.

That makes this an important time for citizens to stay in touch with lawmakers and share views on the issues that will be voting on during the remainder of the session. There are several easy ways citizens can stay in touch with the General Assembly.

The Kentucky Legislature Home Page, www.lrc.ky.gov, provides information on each of the Commonwealth’s senators and representatives, including phone numbers, addressees, and committee assignments. The site also provides bill texts, a bill-tracking service, and committee meeting schedules.

To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s Message Line at 800-372-7181. People with hearing difficulties may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the TTY Message Line at 800-896-0305.

You may also write any legislator by sending a letter with the lawmaker’s name to: Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601. 

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