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March 27, 2015

This Week at the State Capitol

To catch up on this week's legislative highlights, click here.
Legislative Calendar

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March 27, 2015
March 25, 2015
March 24, 2015
March 13, 2015
March 11, 2015
March 10, 2015
March 9, 2015
March 6, 2015
March 4, 2015
March 3, 2015
March 2, 2015
Feb. 27, 2015
Feb. 26, 2015
Feb. 25, 2015
Feb. 24, 2015
Feb. 23, 2015
Feb. 20, 2015
Feb. 19, 2015
Feb. 18, 2015
Feb. 16, 2015
Feb. 13, 2015
Feb. 12, 2015
Feb. 11, 2015
Feb. 10, 2015
Feb. 9, 2015
Feb. 6, 2015  
Feb. 5, 2015
Jan. 9, 2015
Jan. 8, 2015
Jan. 7, 2015
Jan. 6, 2015

March 25, 2015

General Assembly's 2015 session ends

The Kentucky General Assembly’s 2015 session came to a close tonight after Senate and House members reached an agreement on comprehensive anti-heroin legislation and a measure to expand protective orders to include dating violence victims

Lawmakers also gave late-night approval to a bill that will safeguard the revenue stream for the state’s road projects by limiting how far gas taxes can drop when fuel prices fall.

Bills approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor will go into effect as state law in 90 days from today’s adjournment, except for those that specify a different effective date or include an emergency clause that makes them effective as soon as they are signed into law.

Legislation approved by the 2015 General Assembly includes measures on the following topics:

To read more, click here.

 

March 25, 2015

Gas tax bill receives final passage

A bill designed to potentially save the state hundreds of millions of dollars in road funds received final passage in the state House tonight.

House Bill 299, sponsored by House Appropriations and Revenue Chairman Rick Rand, would set a 26-cent “floor,” or minimum, for the state gas tax. The gas tax rate is currently 27.5 cents a gallon, but is expected to fall on April 1 without the new floor due to changes in the average wholesale price of gasoline.

HB 299 received final passage in the House by a vote of 67-29. It passed the Senate earlier in the evening on a 29-9 vote. The bill now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

The 26-cent base rate will take effect immediately upon being signed into law by the governor.

The bill was called the “Road Fund stabilization plan” by Rand. “As we all know, our fuel tax has been in free fall, and this will help us stabilize that by setting a new floor,” he said.

To read more, click here.

March 24, 2015

Dating violence bill receives final passage, goes to governor

Legislation is on its way to the governor that would allow Kentuckians in dating relationships to go to court and get immediate civil protection against an abusive boyfriend or girlfriend.

House Bill 8, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, and Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, would allow dating violence victims—whether they are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking—to get a civil protective order of Jan. 1, 2016. An order could be erased from someone’s record if it is ever dismissed by the court.

Provisions relating to domestic violence would be distinguished from dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault in the bill under Senate language agreed to by the House.

Currently, victims of dating violence in Kentucky must file criminal charges against their partner in the hope of preventing ongoing abuse. Only victims who are married to, have a child with, or live with their abuser can seek civil protection from domestic violence or abuse, physical violence, or stalking as specified under Kentucky law.

To read more, click here.

March 25, 2015

Ignition interlock legislation heading to Governor

The state General Assembly passed a bill late last night that would expand the use of ignition interlocks for people caught driving under the influence of alcohol.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 133, would reduce the number of habitual drunken drivers, said Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville. SB 133 would supplement hardship licenses – special licenses allowing people with suspended licenses to drive to work, school and doctor’s appointments – with ignition interlocks.

An ignition interlock is a device about the size of a mobile phone that is wired into the ignition system of a vehicle. A person convicted driving under the influence must blow into the device in order to start their vehicle. If they have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, the vehicle will not start.

To read more, click here.

 

March 24, 2015

Anti-heroin bill passes General Assembly with bipartisan support

State lawmakers reached a compromise today on anti-heroin legislation that supporters said balanced the need for tough penalties for traffickers with treatment options for addicts.

“The people of Kentucky fighting for public safety and people fighting … addiction have been crying for help,” said Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville. “This is the help they need.”

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 192, passed the state Senate by a 34-4 vote. Earlier in the day, the state House had passed SB 192 by a 100-0 vote. The governor has said he will sign legislation tomorrow. Because it contains an emergency clause, it will take effect immediately upon being signed.

Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, called SB 192 a “comprehensive piece of legislation that will save lives.”

To read more, click here.

March 13, 2015

This Week at the State Capitol

To catch up on this week's legislative highlights, click here.

March 11, 2015

Lawmakers crack down on illegal gambling halls

Legislation that would shutter Internet cafes doubling as gambling halls received final passage today in the state Senate.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 28, included an amendment from the state House expressing legislative intent to remain neutral in a pending legal dispute regarding historical horse racing.

Internet cafes are for-profit businesses that sell Internet access for a chance to play computer-based, casino-style games, or sweepstakes, in which customers can win cash prizes, said SB 28 sponsor Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green. He said the cafes are located in buildings that contain banks of computers with Internet access. Each purchase at the cafe entitles a customer to a certain number of sweepstakes entries. The customer then determines whether the sweepstakes entries are winners by logging onto a computer.

Officials from Kentucky cities previously testified that they have seen an increase in these businesses throughout the state, often in cities bordering Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio – states that have cracked down on such business. One of the first Internet cafés in Kentucky opened in Bowling Green several years ago. In the last few months, an Internet café opened in Covington.

Wilson said the cafes advertise they are “better than bingo.” Non-profit bingos in his district have seen revenues decline as much as 40 percent because of the competition, he said.

March 11, 2015

Bill to define bees, address dog fighting returns to Senate for vote

Provisions to combat dog fighting were attached by the House today to a Senate agriculture bill.

Dog fighting is already illegal in Kentucky, but supporters of the House amendment say additional steps should be taken to prosecute those engaged in it. The amendment would classify the ownership, breeding, training, selling, possessing, or transferring or four-legged animals—including dogs—for the purpose of fighting as first-degree cruelty to animals.

To read more, click here.

March 11, 2015

House adds anti-heroin provisions to bill

Sweeping changes to the treatment and prosecution of those involved in Kentucky’s heroin trade were unanimously approved by the House tonight and returned to the Senate for consideration.

The Senate, which passed its own anti-heroin measure in January, swiftly voted against concurring with the House proposal, setting the stage for continued efforts to pass a bill that both chambers can agree on during the final days of the 2015 legislative session.

The House proposal, attached tonight to Senate Bill 192, includes essentially all of House Bill 213, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville. That bill, which passed the House 98-0 last month, contains substance abuse treatment options for addicts, tiered penalties for traffickers, “good Samaritan” immunity for those who call for emergency help in case of an overdose, better access to the rescue drug naloxone, and the option for local needle exchange programs authorized at the local government level, among other provisions.

Additionally, a second amendment was attached to the bill that would appropriate $10 million in state funds for substance abuse treatment and drug-related prosecution. The amendment, sponsored by House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, D-Paris, was added to the bill by voice vote.

The original provisions in SB 192, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, were removed by the House. Those provisions dealt with health care service contracts for inmates.

To read more, click here.

 

March 11, 2015

House approves child abuse prevention bill after adding ‘snow days’ provisions

A bill to require child abuse prevention and reporting training in Kentucky’s public schools and allow “snow days” to be waived in school districts hardest hit by this winter’s storms was approved today by the House.

SB 119, sponsored by Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, was passed by the Senate last month to require school administrators, teachers, office state, teaching assistants, coaches and other employed by a school district to receive child abuse and neglect prevention, recognition and reporting training through the state by Jan. 31, 2017 then every two years thereafter. Those hired after Jan. 31, 2017 would be required to complete the training within 90 days of being hired, then every two years.

The House adopted those provisions (which mirror language in HB 301, passed by the House 94-0 last month) after adding the “snow days” provisions to the bill. Those provisions would give school districts until June 5 to complete all 1,062 school instructional hours required by the state. Any remaining hours that cannot be made up could be waived by the state.

The adding provisions also clarify that instructional days cannot exceed 7 hours, cannot include Saturdays, and that school districts can be open on primary election day if no school in a district is used as a polling place.

To read more, click here.

March 11, 2015

Senate passes bill to address growth of pain management clinics

A bill that would tightly control the expansion of pain management clinics received final passage today in the state Senate.

House Bill 329 would allow existing doctor-owned pain clinics to expand to the maximum of two additional facilities, said Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green.

He said the bill is needed because of the success of the 2012 “Pill Mill Bill” that cracked down on renegade pain management clinics that were accused of promoting the abuse of prescription pain pills.

Wilson said in the wake of the Pill Bill Mill, Kentucky was left with five legitimate pain clinics. He said as physicians weaned patients off narcotics to alternative therapies offered by these pain clinics, the clinics could not keep up with the demand.

 

March 11, 2015

Senate panel aims to heighten safety with booster seat bill

The Senate Transportation Committee unanimously approved a booster seat bill today.

House Bill 315, as amended by the committee, requires booster seats to be used by children who are less than eight and are between 40 and 57 inches in height. HB 315 also clarifies that a child of any age who is over 57 inches in height shall not be required to be in a booster seat.

Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, who sponsored the bill, said it just adds an additional year and seven inches to the current state law.

“The reasons we need to do this is because all the interested groups – like engineers, medical professionals and car manufacturers – tell us that our current height limit is just wrong,” Riggs said. “It needs to be fixed.”

To read more, click here.

March 10, 2015

State Senate passes bill to study teacher pension plan

The Senate voted today to establish a task force to examine the state’s underfunded teacher pension plan in lieu of issuing $3.3 billion in pension obligation bonds.

House Bill 4 passed with a 26-10 vote after the Senate adopted a committee substitute that removed language about the bonds and replaced it with language creating a bipartisan task force.

Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, said the committee substitute represented the “measured approach” that would ensure the pension plan would remain solvent in the long term. He said the bonding plan would be just a short-term fix that would not address the systemic problem of an underfunded plan.

To read more, click here.

March 10, 2015

House OKs tax check-offs for pediatric cancer research and rape crisis centers

State income tax refund check-offs to support pediatric cancer research and Kentucky’s rape crisis centers would be placed on state individual income tax forms beginning next tax year under a bill that cleared the Kentucky House today.

The bill is Senate Bill 82, sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, which passed the House by a vote of 97-0 and was returned to the Senate for consideration.

SB 82 was originally focused solely on creating a tax check-off to support pediatric cancer research. The House added an amendment today to include a check-off for rape crises centers.

The amendment was proposed by Rep. Chris Harris, D-Forest Hills, who sponsors a bill that passed the House last month aimed at creating a tax form check-off to fund rape crisis centers

The check-off boxes for pediatric cancer research and rape crisis centers would appear on tax forms for the 2015 tax year, should SB 82 become law.

 

March 10, 2015

Pension measure heading to governor

A bill that would allow certain employers to voluntarily leave the Kentucky Retirement Systems or be forced out if they no longer qualify to participate is on its way to becoming law.

House Bill 62, sponsored by House State Government Committee Chairman Brent Yonts, was amended with Senate changes and given final passage in the House by a vote of 96-1. The bill spells out a clear pathway for “nonstock nonprofit corporation” agencies—or nonprofit agencies not owned by stockholders—to voluntarily leave the state pension system or be forced out if they don’t meet qualifications determined by the KRS board of trustees.

“This is the buyout bill where an agency can buy its way out or finance its way out in case the Internal Revenue Service makes rulings that may put in jeopardy the status of some of the quasi-governmental agencies we have,” said Yonts, D-Greenville.

HB 62 was filed in response to federal bankruptcy protection awarded last year to Louisville-area mental health agency Seven Counties Services which allowed the agency to withdraw from the public pension system. KRS has since appealed the federal bankruptcy judge’s decision, arguing that the agency owes the pension system at least $90 million in “unfunded liabilities” along with unpaid retirement contributions. 

To protect employees of agencies that leave KRS, HB 62 would require agencies that leave KRS to set up another pension system in its place. It would also give those agencies as much as 20 years—up from 10 years originally proposed in HB 62—to buy their way out of KRS, with the understanding that the KRS may seek legal action against the agency to recoup any payments owed.

March 9, 2015

State Senate passes ignition interlock legislation

Saying it would reduce the number of habitual drunken drivers, a majority of state senators voted today for legislation that would expand the use of ignition interlocks for people caught driving under the influence of alcohol.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 133, would supplement hardship licenses – special licenses allowing people with suspended licenses to drive to work, school and doctor’s appointments – with ignition interlocks.

An ignition interlock is a device about the size of a mobile phone that is wired into the ignition system of a vehicle. A person convicted driving under the influence must blow into the device in order to start their vehicle. If they have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, the vehicle will not start.

To read more, click here.

March 6, 2015

This Week at the State Capitol

To catch up on this week's legislative highlights, click here.

March 6, 2015

Senate and House scheduled to convene Monday at 2 p.m.

 The Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives are each scheduled to convene at 2 p.m. on Monday, March 9. It will be the 24th day of the General Assembly’s 2015 session.

The schedule for Monday’s legislative committee meetings is available online (http://www.lrc.ky.gov/legislative_calendar/index.aspx) or by calling the General Assembly’s Calendar Line at 1-800-633-9650.

Legislative leaders agreed yesterday to adjust the 2015 legislative calendar in response to disruptions caused by the winter storm. The General Assembly is now scheduled to convene three days next week before starting a veto recess on March 12, with the final two legislative days of the 2015 session on March 23 and 24.

The revised 2015 Regular Session Calendar can be viewed online at http://www.lrc.ky.gov/calendars/15RS_calendar.pdf.

March 6, 2015

Kentucky Senate and House will not meet in session today

Due to the winter storm, power outages, concerns about hazardous road conditions and sub-zero temperatures, the Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives will not convene today, Friday, March 6, 2015

Today’s legislative committee meetings have been canceled.

Legislative Research Commission offices are open on today. Staff and legislators who can safely travel will be working in the Capitol and Capitol Annex offices.

Due to the disruption in the General Assembly’s schedule, legislative leaders have agreed to adjust the 2015 legislative calendar.  The General Assembly is now scheduled to meet on March 9, 10 and 11. The veto recess is scheduled to begin on March 12. Lawmakers will hold the final two days of the 2015 session on March 23 and 24.

March 4, 2015

State Senate says “cheers” to the beer distributor bill

The state Senate passed legislation today banning breweries from owning beer distribution networks – a move expected to force Anheuser-Busch to sell its two Kentucky distributorships.

The legislation, known as House Bill 168, passed with a 23-13 vote – ending what has been dubbed the “beer wars” in the General Assembly. HB 168 would affirm that the state’s three-tier system of regulating alcoholic beverage producers, distributors and retailers applies to beer.

“HB 186 is about the three-tier system in regards to alcohol distribution in the state of Kentucky,” said Sen. John Schickel, R-Union. “A three-tier system specifically prevents interlocking ownership between the tiers. The three-tier system prevents monopolies, but to be effective, the tiers must be independent of one another.”

To read more, click here.

March 4, 2015

Colorectal cancer screening bill receives final passage

Health insurers would have to cover the cost of follow-up procedures resulting from a colorectal cancer screening under a bill that is now on its way to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 61, sponsored by Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, received final passage by a 95-5 vote in the House today. It would require insurers to cover any follow-up colonoscopy resulting from a colorectal cancer screening without imposing additional deductible or coinsurance costs.

To read more, click here.

 

March 4, 2015

Stroke care bill heading to governor

A bill that would require the state to post a list of all Kentucky stroke hospitals and stroke centers online and distribute the list to local emergency services providers is on its way to becoming law.

Senate Bill 10, sponsored by Sen. Stan Humphries, R-Cadiz, and Senate President Pro Tem David Givens, R-Greensburg, received final passage in by a vote of 99-0 in the House. It now goes to the governor for his signature.

The bill would require that a list of all acute stroke ready hospitals, comprehensive stroke centers, and primary stroke centers in Kentucky be posted to the web site of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and be distributed to emergency medical services providers, whose directors would be required to create protocols for assessment and treatment of stroke patients before the patients reach the hospital. 

The bill would also expand the types of stroke-care certification available to hospitals across the Commonwealth, building on a 2010 law that requires Kentucky to recognize certified primary stroke centers.

To read more, click here.

 

March 4, 2015

Senate panel approves a range of transportation bills

The state Senate Committee on Transportation approved three state House bill today on topics ranging from special license plates, classic cars and mobile methamphetamine labs.

To read more, click here.

 

March 3, 2015

End-of-life care bill goes to governor

An end-of-life order known as a “medical order for scope of treatment,” or MOST, would be allowed in Kentucky under a bill that is on its way to becoming law.

Senate Bill 77, sponsored by Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, received final passage in the House on an 87-8 vote and now goes to the governor for his signature.

A MOST spells out a patient’s wishes for their end-of-life care. Unlike advance directives, the orders are considered to be physician’s orders and are signed by both the patient or patient’s legal surrogate, and the patient’s physician. SB 77 would allow the use of MOST in Kentucky, and require the state Board of Medical Licensure to create a standard form for the orders to use statewide.

To read more, click here.

 

March 3, 2015

Senate passes funding bill for UK research building

The state Senate reopened Kentucky’s spending plan during a non-budget year today and passed legislation to fund a multi-million dollar research building at the University of Kentucky.

The legislation, known as House Bill 298, would authorize the issuance of $132.5 million in bonds for the construction of the building, said Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington. UK would pay for the other half of the $265 million building that would sit along South Limestone, near the College of Pharmacy, in Lexington.

The building would house teams of scientists from different disciplines working together to reduce presentable deaths from medical disorders that disproportionately afflict Kentuckians – such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“The life expectancy of our citizens is lower than that of other citizens in other states,” Kerr said. “We know that is unacceptable. We have to do something. UK is uniquely positioned to tackle these problems with this major academic medical center.”

She said the research center would create 1,623 jobs, have an annual economic impact of $116.2 million, and an annual state and local tax impact of $5.6 million.

To read more, click here.

March 3, 2015

Senate panel approves bill promoting use of ignition interlocks

The state Senate Committee on Judiciary approved legislation today designed to crack down on motorists driving on suspended licenses.

Known as Senate Bill 133, it would supplement hardship licenses – special licenses allowing people with suspended licenses to drive to work, school and doctor’s appointments – with ignition interlocks.

An ignition interlock is a device about the size of a mobile phone that is wired into the ignition system of a vehicle. A person convicted of driving under the influence must blow into the device in order to start their vehicle. If they have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, the vehicle will not start.

“I don’t want to skip over how effective this bill has been in the 25 states that have passed it,” said Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, adding that it has led to a 30 percent decrease in drunken driving fatalities.

McGarvey and Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, are the primary sponsors of SB 133.

To read more, click here.

March 3, 2015

Senate panel approves expanding dating violence protections

Upset his 19-year-old college girlfriend didn’t answer her phone one night, a man scaled a three-story building and crawled into her bedroom window. He slammed the woman into her bedroom wall, put his hand around her throat and said, “Remember this the next time you don’t answer your phone.”

The man, who she had met in class, then stalked the woman the following day and hid in the back of her vehicle.

She tried to get an emergency protective order, but she wasn’t eligible for one under current Kentucky law because she wasn’t married to her stalker, didn’t live with him and didn’t have a child with him, said Marion Brown, executive director of Sanctuary Inc., a nonprofit serving victims of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence in the Pennyrile region.

Brown recounted this woman’s story while testifying today before the state Senate Committee on Judiciary. She was there in support of legislation that would allow dating couples to get civil protection from domestic violence, sexual abuse or stalking in the form of a protective order.

The legislation, known as House Bill 8, would also streamline the process to obtain protective orders for other victims, and would allow an order to be expunged from someone’s record if the order is dismissed by a judge, said Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, who sponsors the bill.

To read more, click here.

 

March 2, 2015

Telecom deregulation bill heading to governor’s desk

Legislation to reform telecommunication regulations passed the state Senate today, making it the first bill to pass both chambers during the 2015 General Assembly.

House Bill 152, sponsored by Rick Rand, D-Bedford, received final passage by a 30-3 vote. It would remove requirements that telephone companies offer basic landline service in urban areas so the money used to maintain that old technology can be spent on Internet and mobile phone expansion, said Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville. He had sponsored similar legislation for the last several years.

To read more, click here.

March 2, 2015

‘Robotripping’ bill approved by House on 93-1 vote

A bill intended to prevent youth from misusing certain cough medicines to get high -- sometimes called “robotripping” -- passed the Kentucky House of Representatives today by a 93-1 vote.

House Bill 24 would restrict minors’ access to products like Robitussin-DM that contain dextromethorphan.

Rep. Fitz Steele, the sponsor of HB 24, said young people are using a simple method to extract dextromethorphan, also known as DXM, from cough medicine to experience a hallucinogenic effect. The only way to detect whether a person has consumed DXM is by a blood test “after you have to take them to the emergency room,” said Steele, D-Hazard. 

HB 24 would outlaw the possession of a gram or more of DXM in its pure or extracted form by non-approved individuals and ban the selling of DXM-based products to minors. Proof of age would be required to buy products containing DXM if the buyer is suspected to be under age 18. Minors who misrepresent their age to get products that contain DXM would face legal action.   

Those who violate the provisions of HB 24 could be fined between $25 and $1,000 for a first violation, depending on the offense, and $100-$200 up to $2,500 for each subsequent violation, depending on the offense.

HB 24 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

February 27, 2015

This Week at the State Capitol

To catch up on this week's legislative highlights, click here.

February 27, 2015

Senate passes bill to curb state debt

Saying they want to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, a majority of state Senators today voted in favor of capping Kentucky’s dept.

Known as Senate Bill 94, the legislation would limit general fund supported debt to 6 percent of general fund revenue, said Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, who sponsored the bill with Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill.

“John Adams said there were only two ways to conquer and enslave a nation: One is by the sword, and the other is by debt,” Bowen said. “Kentucky owes more than it owns.”

The road fund is not included, agency debt is not included and there is a provision allowing the governor to declare a state of emergency to go over the debt limit, he said.

To read more, click here.

February 27, 2015

Human trafficking, Alicia’s Law bills head to Senate

FRANKFORT—Bills aimed at protecting victims of human trafficking and child rape passed the Kentucky House today without a dissenting vote.

The bills are House Bill 515, sponsored by House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, D-Paris, and HB 427, sponsored by House Judiciary Chair John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville. The bills passed by votes of 90-0 and 93-0 respectively.

HB 515 is designed to improve protections for child victims of human trafficking by prohibiting someone who pays for sex with a child from having a legal defense that they didn’t know the child’s age.

“Too often, the buyers of these children are not being charged,” Overly said. “Unless we combat the demand for child trafficking, we will not be able to stop the exploitation of our children. We must focus on the buyers.”

HB 427, known as the “Alicia’s Law” bill, would add $10 to court costs paid in Kentucky’s criminal cases to increase funding for the Kentucky State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Tilley said the task force works to prevent crimes like those suffered by Alicia Kozakiewicz, for whom Alicia’s Law is named.

Now a child advocate her 20s, Kozakiewicz was abducted at age 13 then raped and tortured for days via live Internet streaming before she was rescued.  She is now working to get bills like HB 427 passed in states across the country.

Tilley said passage of HB 427 would make Kentucky the ninth state to pass Alicia’s Law.

Both HB 515 and HB 427 now go to the Senate for consideration.

February 27, 2015 

Charitable gaming hits BINGO with passage of Senate bill

The state Senate voted 25-10 today in favor of legislation that would allow electronic pull tabs at bingo halls across Kentucky.

Known as Senate Bill 33, the legislation would legalize the electronic versions of pull-tab bingo tickets that have become staples of church festivals and other charity events across Kentucky for decades, said sponsor Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville.

“An electronic pull-tab game is not a slot machine,” he said. “It is something about the size of iPad that would be made available inside that charitable hall.”

Buford said charities have reported losing about $60 million in the last few years to legalized gambling such as casinos in the neighboring states of Indiana and Ohio.

“By allowing the use of these electronic pull tabs, we are giving charities an additional option to raise funds for their charitable purposes,” he said.

SB 33 now goes to the state House for consideration.

 

February 27, 2015

Senate passes the transgender student bathroom bill

FRANKFORT – The state Senate passed legislation today to regulate where transgender students may use the restroom in public schools.

The legislation would require public school students to use the restrooms of their biological sex or seek special accommodations, said Sen. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown, who sponsored the bill.

Known as Senate Bill 76, the legislation passed by a 27-9 vote after a lengthy floor debate.

To read more, click here.

 

February 26, 2015

State Senate passes bill banning Internet sweepstakes

FRANKFORT – Online sweepstakes offered across Kentucky at businesses advertised as “Internet cafes” would be outlawed under legislation unanimously passed by the state Senate today.

Known as Senate Bill 28, the legislation would make it clear in the law that so-called Internet cafes are illegal, said sponsor Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green. The cafes are for-profit businesses that sell Internet access for a chance to play computer-based, casino-style games, or sweepstakes, in which customers can win cash prizes.

Supporters of SB 28 said Internet cafes are located in buildings that contain banks of computers with Internet access. Each purchase at the cafe entitles a customer to a certain number of sweepstakes entries. The customer then determines whether the sweepstakes entries are winners by logging onto a computer.

Officials from Kentucky cities previously testified that they have seen an increase in these businesses throughout the state, often in cities bordering Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio – states that have cracked down on such business.

 

February 26, 2015

Gold Star Siblings license plate bill advances to Senate

A bill to create a Gold Star Siblings special license plate for Kentuckians whose brother or sister died in active U.S. military service has passed the state House.

House Bill 209, sponsored by Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Lakeside Park, and Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, advanced to the Senate on a vote of 94-0. 

The bill “allows siblings who have lost their loved ones in active service in the military, in the service of this country, to honor them with a Gold Star Siblings license plate much the same as a Gold Star Spouse, Gold Star Mother, Gold Star Father license plate” which are already available in Kentucky, said St. Onge.

The initial fee for a Gold Star Siblings license plate would be $25 and the renewal fee would be $20, with $10 of the initial fee and $5 of the renewal fee dedicated to the state’s Veterans’ Program Trust Fund, according to HB 209. Proof of eligibility for the plate would be determined by the state Transportation Cabinet regulation.

HB 209 would take effect Jan. 1, 2016 if it becomes law.

February 26, 2015

State Senate unanimously passes new ‘fracking’ regs

FRANKFORT – The state Senate today passed legislation that would modernize Kentucky’s regulations on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as “fracking,” for the first time in more than two decades.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 186, would mandate energy companies notify nearby landowners of any planned fracking process, clean up the well before abandoning it and disclose of the chemicals used in the fracking process, said Sen. Julian M. Carroll, D-Frankfort, the sponsor of the bill. He added that the bill would apply to new drilling operations.

“We haven’t really changed our laws or regulations in 20 years,” said Carroll. “During that time, technology has advanced that could essentially make Kentucky energy independent if we will go after our (energy) reserves. We are already doing that in the area of gas. This moves us in that direction with oil.”

Similar legislation passed the state House on Wednesday. The House bill, HB 386, is sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook.

Fracking is an oil and gas well development process that typically involves injecting water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into a bedrock formation, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The technique is used commonly in low-permeability rocks like tight sandstone, shale and some coal beds to release oils and gasses.

To read more, click here.

February 25, 2015

P3 bill passes House, heading to Senate

The House voted 84-13 today to advance a bill that would provide oversight and regulations to public-private partnerships, so-called “P3s,” for state government and major transportation projects in Kentucky.

House Bill 443, sponsored by Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, and House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, D-Paris, would allow state government and major transportation projects to partner with private companies to complete public infrastructure, transportation and other needs.

To read more, click here.

 

February 25, 2015

Ignition interlock device bill heads to Senate

A bill that would replace hardship licenses for DUI offenders with an “ignition interlock license” if an ignition interlock device is installed on an offender’s vehicle passed the House today by a vote of 96-0.

House Bill 60, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder, now goes to the Senate for consideration.

An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer-type device installed in a dashboard that keeps a vehicle from starting if the driver’s breath alcohol concentration level meets or exceeds 0.02.

Before being eligible for a license tied to an ignition interlock device—which the DUI offender would have to pay for—an offender would have to be enrolled in, or already have completed, an alcohol abuse treatment program. Anyone who has been incarcerated for DUI for any period of time would be allowed to apply for an ignition interlock license, according to the bill.

To read more, click here.

February 25, 2015

Senate approves KEES award bill

FRANKFORT -- A bill that would allow students to use Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) money during high school was unanimously approved by the Senate today.

Senate Bill 110, sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, would allow Kentucky juniors and seniors earning college credit through dual-credit courses to use KEES money they’ve earned to pay for up to six college credit hours.

Making a dual-credit course more readily available provides many benefits, Wise said.

“It can improve college and career readiness,” he said. “It can increase participation in postsecondary education. It can reduce postsecondary degree time. And it also can increase participation among low income and underserved populations.”

SB 110 passed the Senate unanimously. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

February 25, 2015

Human trafficking bill approved by House committee

FRANKFORT—A bill that would step up prosecution of those who pay for sex with Kentucky’s child human trafficking victims was approved today by the House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 515 sponsor House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, D-Paris, said prosecution of those who pay for sex with child human trafficking victims is difficult because abusers often claim they thought the child was over age 18—an adult, under the law--to avoid prosecution under the state’s human trafficking laws. 

HB 515 would change that, ensuring those who pay for sex with a child prostitute cannot claim ignorance of the child’s age as a defense from prosecution for human trafficking.

To read more, click here.

 

February 24, 2015

Phone deregulation bill clears House

FRANKFORT—A landline phone deregulation bill that supporters believe will lead to more investment in broadband and advance communication networks in Kentucky has cleared the House on a vote of 71-25.

House Bill 152 sponsor Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, described the legislation as a “business-friendly” bill that would encourage investment modern technology.

“It does move Kentucky forward,” said Rand of HB 152. “It moves Kentucky in the right direction in encouraging increased investment in our state’s broadband infrastructure—investment that is vital to economic development, competitiveness, and job creation.”

Rand told the House that HB 152 would end Public Service Commission landline regulation in urban areas where newer technologies are widely available, ensure voice service is available in rural areas, and allow customers in rural areas to keep basic landline service or transition to newer voice technologies.

To read more, click here.

February 24, 2015

Distributor bill moves to Senate

FRANKFORT— A bill passed the House by a vote of 67-31 today that would affirm that the state’s three-tier system of regulating alcoholic beverage producers, distributors and retailers applies to beer.

“All this bill does, when boiled down to its simplest terms, is bring into compliance with current law that exists for wine and distilled spirits that law that would deal with distribution of beer,” said House Bill 168 sponsor House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

Stumbo called the bill a “re-regulation bill” prompted by a recent court decision. That decision has allowed Anheuser-Busch to retain its distributorships in both Louisville and Owensboro. Stumbo said HB 168 would ensure the three-tiered system—which requires that the production, wholesaling/distribution, and retailing of beer, wine, and spirits be separated—applies to all beer brewers.

“The three-tier system isn’t being applied equally and fairly,” said Stumbo.

To read more, click here.

February 24, 2015

Animal cruelty bill heading to House floor

Failing to provide adequate shelter and potable water for domestic pets would be considered second-degree animal cruelty under a bill that passed the House Judiciary Committee today

House Bill 177, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, would not affect hunting, fishing, field dog trials, and several other activities included in the bill.  It would also not change standards governing the shelter of livestock, which is regulated by the state Board of Agriculture.

Second-degree cruelty to animals is a misdemeanor crime in Kentucky.

HB 177 now goes to the full House for its consideration.

 

February 23, 2015

KTRS bond bill clears House, heads to Senate

A House proposal to authorize $3.3 billion in bonds to reduce the unfunded liability of the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System’s pension fund is heading to the Senate.

House Bill 4, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, was approved in the House today on a 62-31 vote. The bill needed 60 votes to pass the House because it proposes authorization of funds in an odd-year, or non-budget, legislative session.

The bill would authorize the Kentucky Asset/ Liability Commission to issue the bonds in fiscal year 2015-2016 to reduce the system’s growing $14 billion unfunded liability. Supporters say the bonds, along $116.7 million already budgeted for now-completed state improvements, would help the teachers’ pension system pay off its unfunded liability over 30 years.

Stumbo said before a committee vote on HB 4 earlier this month that the bill is expected to guarantee the solvency of the pension fund to 2035 and beyond.

To read more, click here.

 

February 23, 2015

Early childhood ratings bill passes House

Early care and education programs would be mandated to follow a state quality-based rating system under a bill passed today by the Kentucky House of Representatives.

House Bill 234, sponsored House Education Chair Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, would require state agencies to work with early care and education providers to develop and fully phase in the system for child-care and certified family child-care homes, state funded preschool, and Head Start by June 30, 2017.

Funding for the program would come from the state’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant. Graham explained that the bill would require a report be submitted annually to state lawmakers which, among other things, would include recommendations for the “long-term viability” of the system when federal grant dollars run out.

To read more, click here.

 

February 23, 2015

Accident victim solicitation bill clears House panel

The House Labor and Industry Committee today approved a bill that would prohibit health care providers or their agents from soliciting business from motor vehicle accident victims in the days immediately following a wreck.  

Violators of House Bill 153, should it become law, would face sanctions from their licensing or regulatory agencies according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Gooch, D-Providence.

To read more, click here.

 

February 20, 2015

This Week at the State Capitol

To catch up on this week's legislative highlights, click here.

February 20, 2015

Senate passes bill promoting computer programming

Linux 2.6.10-grsec+gg3+e+fhs6b+nfs+gr0501+++p3+c4a+gr2b-reslog-v6.189.

This sample of basic computer code might look like gibberish to many, but Sen. David P. Givens wants to ensure Kentucky’s youth can read it.

The Republican from Greensburg was the sponsor of Senate Bill 16, which passed the state Senate today by a unanimous vote. Givens said the goal of his legislation is to focus educators on improving resources and support for computer programming in public schools.

To read more, click here.

 

February 20, 2015

State Senate passes judicial redistricting bill

FRANKFORT – The state Senate passed legislation yesterday that would bring the most significant change to the state judiciary since 1976 reforms created a unified state court system that was a model for the nation.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 49, would ensure judges are assigned to courthouses with the highest volume of cases in the most populous area, said sponsor Sen. John Schickel, R-Union. SB 49 would require the Kentucky Supreme Court to conduct judicial redistricting, based on population and caseloads, on the same years as legislative redistricting.

To read more, click here.

 

February 19, 2015

Electronic gaming issues taken up by Senate panel

How technology is revolutionizing gambling and threatening traditional bingo and state lotteries was evident today at a hearing of a state Senate committee designated to examine such issues.

The Senate Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations approved three bills designed to do everything from curtail online gaming to allowing nonprofit bingos to compete in the computer age. The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.

To read more, click here.

 

February 19, 2015

Senate passes bill targeting Kentucky’s high rate of colon cancer

In what has been described as Kentucky’s “prescription” to save lives and money, the state Senate passed a bill today designed to remove barriers to colorectal cancer screening.

Known as Senate Bill 61, it would clarify that a fecal test to screen for colon cancer, and any follow-up colonoscopy, is preventive care and should be covered by medical insurers, said Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, the sponsor of the bill.

Similar legislation is moving through the state House.

Alvarado, who is a family physician, said the problem is that insurers often do not pay their share for follow-up colonoscopies if blood is detected in the preventive-care fecal testing. He called that ironic because the same insurers will pay the more expensive and evasive colonoscopy if a patient opts not to do a fecal test.

February 18, 2015 

Weather prompts change to Legislative Calendar

Concerns about the winter storm and hazardous driving conditions have prompted a change in the Kentucky General Assembly’s Legislative Calendar for Thursday, February 19.

Under the change, the House of Representatives is not scheduled to convene tomorrow.

The Senate is scheduled to go into session tomorrow at 2 p.m.

Up-to-date Legislative Calendar information can be found online at www.lrc.ky.gov/legislative_calendar/index.aspx.

 

February 16, 2015

Kentucky Senate and House will not meet in session tomorrow

FRANKFORT – Due to inclement weather and concerns about hazardous road conditions, the Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives will not convene on Tuesday, February 17.

Tuesday’s legislative committee meetings have also been canceled.

As of now, both chambers are scheduled to convene on Wednesday, February 18, with the Senate going into session at 2 p.m. and the House at 4 p.m.

 

February 13, 2015

This Week at the State Capitol

To catch up on this week's legislative highlights, click here.

February 13, 2015

Smoking ban bill clears House hurdle

A bill that would ban smoking and use of e-cigarettes both indoors or within 15 feet of public places and workplaces statewide passed the Kentucky House today by a vote of 51-46.  It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

“I’m acutely aware that the issues we vote on in this General Assembly impact not just the people in our backyard but throughout the entire state,” said House Bill 145 primary sponsor Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, who told her colleagues that she rejected the idea of statewide smoking restrictions 14 years ago in her early years as a state lawmaker.

Westrom said the fact that 950 people die each year in Kentucky from illnesses cause by second-hand smoke helped change her mind, leading her to begin filing smoke-free bills five years ago.

“This bill just requests that a smoker step outside 15 feet (from a workplace or public building). Fifteen feet isn’t too much to ask,” she said.

To read more, click here.

 

February 13, 2015

House heroin bill heading to Senate

FRANKFORT— A bill that would use both treatment and incarceration to reduce the devastating effects of the heroin trade in Kentucky today passed the House by a vote of 98-0. The bill now goes to the Senate.

House Bill 213 would create more treatment options for addicts while establishing tiered penalties for traffickers, with the greatest prison time for those felons who sell over a kilo of the drug. The bill also includes a “good Samaritan” provision that gives immunity to both those who call for emergency help to help someone who overdoses.

The bill also makes the rescue drug nalozone more readily available. The drug can reverse the effects of a herion overdose if promptly administered.

The bills also would and allow local governments to set up needle exchange programs to stave off Hepatitis C and HIV infection from shared needles.

The Senate has also taken up an anti-heroin measure this year. The chamber approved Senate Bill 5 on Jan. 8 and sent the measure to the House for consideration.

Recent news reports indicate that there were nearly 200 deaths caused by heroin overdose in the Commonwealth in the first nine months of 2014.

 

February 13, 2015

KY Senate places bet on horse racing themed lottery

A bill authorizing the Kentucky Lottery to begin selling a game of chance based on the results of live horse racing cleared the state Senate today.

“There is no secret that our signature horse race industry has experienced serious decline over the last two decades due to the lack of exposure,” said Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, who sponsored the legislation, known as Senate Bill 74. “Even in Kentucky it is not readily accessible. Online wagering does not reach beyond the committed horse player, and most Kentuckians do not live near a race track … .”

For $2, players would receive one ticket containing three numbers randomly selected by a computer, Adams said. The winner would be determined by the outcome of a predetermined horse race and not ping-pong balls falling randomly down the chute.

To read more, click here.

February 12, 2015

Major House proposals forwarded to Senate

FRANKFORT—Two proposed amendments to the Kentucky Constitution and a bill to give immediate protections to dating violence victims passed the state House tonight and are on their way to the Senate.

House Bill 1, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, is a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow statewide voters to authorize state lawmakers to give local voters the right to approve up to a one-cent temporary sales tax on agreed-to local projects. The other, HB 70, sponsored by Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, and Rep. George Brown, Jr., D-Lexington, would allow statewide voters to decide on the automatic restoration of voting rights for certain non-violent felons who have served their sentence.

HB 8, sponsored by Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, and Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, would, for the first time under Kentucky law, allow dating couples to receive immediate civil protection from domestic violence, sexual abuse, or stalking in the form of an “interpersonal” protective order. It would also streamline the process to obtain protective orders for other victims, and would allow an order to be expunged from someone’s record if the order is dismissed by a judge.

To read more, click here.

 

February 12, 2015

Pediatric cancer research bill personal for one Senator

October 16, 2006, was supposed to be a great day for Sen. Max Wise’s family. His wife was having the grand opening of her dental office in Campbellsville.

It was also the day Wise had to take his 6-month-old son, Carter, to the pediatrician. Two days before, Wise’s wife had found a golf ball-size budge on Charter’s abdomen while bathing the infant. Wise wasn’t too worried; Carter just received a clean bill of health during a routine checkup.

After examining the budge, however, the pediatrician looked up at Wise and said, “Does cancer or tumors run in your family?”

That is how Wise, who began his first term in the state Senate last month, described finding out Carter had cancer. Wise, R-Campbellsville, was speaking today before the full Senate in support of Senate Bill 82. The legislation, which Wise sponsored, would allow state residents to donate their income tax returns directly to pediatric cancer research via a check box on the front of state tax forms. 

To read more, click here.

 

February 12, 2015

Senate bill toughens DUI penalties

The state Senate passed a bill today that would strengthen penalties for habitual drunken drivers.

Senate Bill 34, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, would change what is known in legal circles as the “look back period” to 10 years from five years. What that means is that if someone is convicted of drunken driving multiple times in a 10-year period the penalties for the crimes can be increased.

“I think this is an excellent tool … for public safety across Kentucky,” said Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, a cosponsor of the bill. “As a former prosecutor myself, I’ve seen these types of cases. I think this is a much needed change.”

If the bill becomes law, it would be named the Brianna Taylor Act. Brianna was 17 when she died in a car wreck eight months ago in Hardin County. The Elizabethtown High School graduate was on her way home from a fishing trip at the time of the crash.

The driver of the other vehicle is awaiting trial on charges of driving under the influence, two counts of assault and murder. It was the seventh time he had been charged with driving under the influence, but because his last drunken-driving conviction happened more than five years ago, the latest charge is considered his first under the legal definition of Kentucky current criminal statutes.

The bill will now go to the state House for consideration.

February 11, 2015 

Senate panel answers call for telecommunications reform

A bill to reform telecommunication regulations to reflect the declining use of landlines in favor of new technologies passed the Senate Committee on State and Local Government today.

Known as Senate Bill 3, the legislation would remove requirements that telephone companies offer basic landline service to everyone so the money used to maintain that old technology can be used to increase Internet and mobile phone access, said Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville. He sponsored the bill along with Majority Floor Leader Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

To read more, click here.

  

February 11, 2015

Senate panel approves ‘prescription’ for reducing colon cancer

A state Senate committee today approved legislation designed to remove barriers to colorectal cancer screening.

Senate Bill 61 would clarify that a fecal test to screen for colon cancer, and any follow-up colonoscopy, is preventive care and should be covered by medical insurers, said Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, the sponsor of the bill. He told the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare that his legislation mirrors a sister bill in the state House.

Alvarado, who is a family physician, said the problem is that insurers often not pay their share for follow-up colonoscopies if blood is detected in the preventive-care fecal testing. He called that ironic because the same insurers will pay the more expensive and evasive colonoscopy if a patient opts not to do a fecal test.

Dr. Whitney Jones testified that SB 61 was a “prescription” to save lives and money in Kentucky. He said over the last decade colon cancer diagnoses are down by more than 25 percent in Kentucky but that the state still leads the nation in colon cancer.

“The sole purpose of this legislation is to create a clarifying law that serves as an unequivocal guide to all parties involved … about what is and what is not covered in colon cancer screening services,” said Jones, a gastroenterologist from Louisville.  “Kentucky citizens deserve a broader more accessible access to screening not a narrow restrictive policy that supports other people’s interests.”

SB 61 now returns to the full Senate for consideration.

February 10, 2015 

Minimum wage bill approved by House

The Kentucky House voted along largely party lines today to pass legislation that would gradually raise Kentucky’s government-mandated minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by July 2017.

House Bill 2, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, passed 56-43. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Kentucky’s current minimum wage, which is tied to the federal minimum wage, is now $7.25 an hour. HB 2 would increase that rate to $8.20 this July, $9.15 in July 2016, and the final rate of $10.10 the following year.

Stumbo said over 390,000 Kentuckians make less than $10.10 an hour, and that most of those earners are women. He wants to raise the wage gradually to what he called a “living wage” rate of $10.10 an hour as 29 other states and Washington D.C. have done, he told fellow House members. Businesses that gross less than $500,000 a year (up from the current threshold of $95,000 annually) would be exempt from the wage increase.

To read more, click here.


February 10, 2015

Bill promotes donation of game meat to charities

The state Senate passed a bill today to ensure the continued operation of a nonprofit dedicated alleviating hunger and malnutrition in Kentucky.

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, who sponsored the legislation known as Senate Bill 55, said it would prevent any city, county or any public health department for disallowing the practice of donating game meat. She said the nonprofit Kentucky Hunters for The Hungry already provides 60,000 pounds to 70,000 pounds of mostly deer meat every year that allows food kitchens to serve an additional 560,000 meals.

“This is a wonderful and best use of the resources God gave us,” Webb said.

She said the bill ensures the game meat is harvested in Kentucky, properly field dressed and taken to processors certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

To read more, click here.

February 10, 2015

Lottery game based on horse racing advances

Legislation authorizing the Kentucky Lottery to begin selling a game of chance based on live horse racing cleared the Senate Committee on Licensing, Occupation and Administrative Regulations today.

Senate Bill 74, sponsored by Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, could pave the way for Kentucky to become the first state to sell EquiLottery tickets. It is like most lottery games, except the winning numbers are determined by the outcome of a horse race and not by ping pong balls falling randomly down a chute. For the EquiLottery to remain a pure game of chance, players cannot pick their own numbers. They are randomly picked by a computer, known as a “quick pick” in the lottery industry.

“I’ve never bought a lottery ticket in my life but maybe if it is tied to the given results of a horse race I might,” said Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, a cosponsor of the bill. “For decades now, horse racing, which is regulated by government, has had to compete with the state government and seen its market share declined because of … the proliferation of the lottery long before there were casinos.”

He called EquiLottery an innovative idea to “marry” horse racing and lotteries.

To read more, click here.

February 10, 2015

Dating violence bill clears House panel

A proposal that would allow dating couples to seek civil protective orders in cases of domestic violence, abuse, sex abuse, or stalking has passed the House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 8, sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, and Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, now goes to the full House for consideration.

To read more, click here.

 

February 10, 2015

KTRS bond bill clears House budget committee

A proposal to authorize up to $3.3 billion in bonds to reduce the growing $14 billion unfunded liability of the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System’s pension fund cleared the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee today.

House Bill 4, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, would authorize the Kentucky Asset/ Liability Commission to issue the bonds in fiscal year 2015-2016 to reduce the system’s unfunded liability. Combined with existing KTRS funds to pay off bond debt service, the bond issue is expected to help the pension system pay off its unfunded liability over a 30-year period, say the bill’s supporters.

To read more, click here.

 

February 10, 2015

Local option sales tax proposal clears House committee

A House committee has approved a proposed local option sales tax constitutional amendment that, if approved by the state’s voters, could help cities and counties fund local building and infrastructure projects.

House Bill 1, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, was approved this morning by the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. It now goes to the full House for consideration. 

If passed, the bill would place a constitutional amendment on a statewide ballot allowing state lawmakers to give local governments the power to levy up to a penny of local option sales and use tax for specific projects with local voter approval. The tax would be eliminated when the project is paid off.

“It’s fairly simple,” said Stumbo. “It allows local people to choose whether they want to be taxed. It allows them to make the decision and dedicate the funding sources to a particular project. When the bonds are satisfied then that particular tax goes away.”

To read more, click here.

February 9, 2015

Colorectal screening bill goes to Senate

The House today voted 66-29 to require health plans to cover complete colorectal cancer screenings and lab tests without deductible or coinsurance costs if performed by participating health providers.

House Bill 69, sponsored by House Health and Welfare Chairman Tom Burch, D-Louisville, would apply to health benefit plans issued or renewed as of Jan. 1, 2016 that cover individuals who are age 50 or older or under age 50 with a “high risk for colorectal cancer,” per American Cancer Society guidelines.

“Screening is a low cost alternative to colonoscopy with a follow-up colonoscopy only needed if indicated. However, some people are being charged copays for the follow-up colonoscopy,” which can lead to huge bills for preventative screening, said Burch. His bill, he said, specifies that plans are required to cover the “complete” colorectal exams without additional costs.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, questioned why the legislation—which will increase “the total cost of health care in the Commonwealth,” according to a financial impact statement attached to the bill—applies only to private health plans and not the state employee health plan.

“If this is good public policy, then it should apply not only to private health care plans but to the state employee plan as well,” he said. “If the science supports this bill, and if it’s (in your all’s opinion) good to impost an additional covered requirement on insurance companies which you know will raise to some extent premiums, then it ought to be good enough for our state employee plan.”

Benvenuti wanted the House to consider a floor amendment to address that issue, but his motion to suspend the rules to consider the amendment failed on a 45-45 vote.

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, who is a nurse, said screening colonoscopies are considered an “essential benefit” under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and delivered to patients without deductible or coinsurance costs to patients. There is often an additional cost, however, if a polyp is found and removed.

“Often it is coded incorrectly and you may get an $800 bill for that,” said Marzian. “So the issue is the (screening) is covered and, if a polyp is removed, that should also be covered, is what the physicians testified is what is happening.” 

HB 69 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

 

February 6, 2015

This Week at the State Capitol

To catch up on this week's legislative highlights, click here.

February 6, 2015

State Senate passes pro charter school legislation

Legislation to allow charter schools in Louisville and Lexington passed the state Senate today after supporters of the bill said it would help close the achievement gap in those urban areas.

Senate Bill 8 would set up a five-year pilot program for as many as five charter schools in Louisville and Lexington, said Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, who sponsored the bill along with Sen. David P. Givens, R-Greensburg. The aim of the bill, the sponsors said, is to help give poor and minority children assistance in improving test scores and closing the achievement gap.

The schools would be funded on a per-pupil basis out of state money, Wilson said. If the charter schools did not meet set accountability goals after five years, they could be shuttered. Wilson said for-profit companies could manage the schools, but the students would have to be taught by certified teachers.

Kentucky is only one of eight states that do not have charter schools, Wilson added.

Sen. Ray. S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, explained why he was one of 12 senators who voted against SB 8.

“Given the lack of funding we have in our public schools … it would be irresponsible to create a system of charter schools that would siphon much needed resources from our public schools,” he said. “To siphon those funds away from our existing school systems would be financially irresponsible. 

SB 8 now goes before the state House for consideration.

February 5, 2015

Ultrasound bill clears state Senate

FRANKFORT – The state Senate passed a bill today by a 31-5 vote that would change the informed consent process required prior to an abortion.

Senate Bill 7 would require a medical doctor to perform an ultrasound prior to a woman giving informed consent to having an abortion, said Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, who sponsored the bill along with Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville.

“Full disclosure is so important to the health of the mother and her baby,” Adams said. “Kentucky women deserve no less. In closing, we need to stop chipping away at the right for Kentucky women to receive the healthcare and the answers they deserve.”

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, explained his vote against SB7.

“This is my third session here in the state Senate and I don’t think anyone’s opinion has been changed by the debate on this floor in those three years,” he said. “We talked a lot today about the court decisions and what those mean. We didn’t talk about what is actually in the bill. The one thing I would like to point out, in explaining my ‘no’ vote, is that do not see any exceptions for women who have been the victim of rape … .”

SB 7 now goes before the state House for consideration.

February 5, 2015

Legislation takes aim at Kentucky’s high stroke rate

FRANKFORT – The state Senate unanimously passed legislation on Thursday designed to improve care for stroke victims in rural areas of Kentucky and promote preventive care for the deadly cardiovascular disease.

The goal of the Senate Bill 10 is to continue the development of a stroke system of care in Kentucky that facilitates timely access to an appropriate level of care for stroke patients, said Sen. Stan Humphries, R-Cadiz, who is sponsoring the bill with Sen. David P. Givens, R-Greensburg. Humphries testified before the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare.

It builds on 2010 legislation that required the state to recognize certified primary stroke centers. The 2010 legislation was introduced after a study showed Kentucky had the 12th highest rate for strokes in the nation with 2,500 people dying every year.

SB10 would add comprehensive stroke centers and acute stroke-rated hospitals to the state’s existing primary stroke centers designation program, formalize the state’s responsibility for what to do with the information and require local emergency medical service providers to develop pre-hospital assessment, treatment and transport protocols for suspected stroke patients. 

The measure now goes to the House for consideration.

February 5, 2015

State minimum wage bill passed House Labor and Industry

A bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 over the next three years has passed the House Labor and Industry Committee.

House Bill 2, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, would raise the state minimum wage incrementally to $8.20 on July 1, 2015, $9.15 on July 1, 2016, and $10.10 on July 1, 2017. Retail and service industries with gross annual sales of less than $500,000 would be exempt. The current sales threshold for state minimum wage is $95,000, said Stumbo.

The legislation also includes pay equity provisions that address wage discrimination on the basis of sex, race, or national origin “by prohibiting wage differentials for employees who perform equivalent jobs” with exceptions based on merit, seniority, or productivity. Stumbo said most minimum wage earners in Kentucky are women, adding that many are single working mothers.

Twenty nine states and Washington D.C. now have a minimum wage above the federal level, which is the same amount as Kentucky’s current minimum wage. “I believe it’s a bipartisan thing---you see people on both sides of the political spectrum who support this because these dollars go back into the local economies,” said Stumbo.

Among lawmakers opposing the bill in committee was Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, who said many of those earning minimum wage are teenagers.

“We’re decreasing the buying power of every family in Kentucky with this,” he said.

The last increase in the state minimum wage in Kentucky was passed by the 2007 Kentucky General Assembly.

February 5, 2015

Phone deregulation bill clears House panel

Supporters of a bill approved by a House Economic Development Committee today say the measure will help lead to growth in Kentucky’s broadband network through deregulation of landline service.

House Bill 152 sponsor Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, said he rarely receives calls about landline service but is often asked if an area has broadband. He said his bill would enable telecommunications companies to move away from investment in landline and toward more investment in broadband, wireless, and voice-over Internet protocol technologies.

“It is a big change. And I think change really is what this bill is about,” said Rand.  A similar bill, Senate Bill 99, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, passed the Senate last year but died in the House at session’s end.

HB 152 would end Public Service Commission regulation over phone exchanges that include over 15,000 homes and reduce PSC jurisdiction in rural areas, while ending PSC authority over cell phone and broadband complaints from consumers.

“If you live in a rural area and have a traditional phone line you can keep it, period.  If you live in an urban area you also have significant layers of protection under this bill,” AT&T Kentucky President Hood Harris told the committee.

Speaking with Rand in favor of the bill was Harris and Lee County Schools Superintendent Jim Evans, who told lawmakers that broadband in Lee County is unavailable outside of the schools but is needed in the broader community. Speaking against the bill was Kentucky Resources Council head Tom FitzGerald, who said HB 152 would allow AT&T and other basic exchange carriers to discontinue landline service to communities with over 15,000 homes.

“The day this bill becomes effective, (landline utilities) AT&T, Windstream … and Cincinnati Bell could immediately stop offering stand-alone basic telephone service to new and existing customers in any exchange with over 15,000 housing units,” said FitzGerald. He said landline service in rural areas would also be compromised unless a customer moves to a home that already has landlines installed. 

HB 152 now goes to the full House for consideration.

 

Jan. 9, 2015
5:30 p.m.


This Week at the State Capitol

To catch up on this week's legislative highlights, click here.

4:30 p.m.

Senate approves informed consent legislation

The state Senate passed an abortion-related measure by a 30-5 vote today.

Senate Bill 4, introduced by Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, calls for a face-to-face meeting between the pregnant woman and a healthcare provider at least 24-hours before an abortion takes place.

Adams said current law states a physician, licensed nurse, physician assistant or social worker must verbally inform the woman of the medical risks and abortion alternatives at least 24-hours before an abortion, but it does not specify that the information be given in a face-to face meeting. She said it is sometimes done via a recorded telephone message.

“The importance of a face-to-face medical consultation prior to consenting to a surgical procedure is a widely accepted medical standard of care – and Kentucky woman deserve no less,” Raque said.

To read more, click here.


2:40 p.m.

Administrative regulations measure advances

The state Senate today passed a bill that its supporters said would curtail overreaching administrative regulation from being enacted while the General Assembly is not in session.

“No matter if the governor is a Republican or Democrat, we don’t need an emperor in Frankfort,” Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington said in support of the bill. “We need a two-party system with three branches.”

She was among 24 senators who voted for the legislation, designated Senate Bill 2. Eleven senators voted against it.

Bill sponsor Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, said the legislation is a proposed constitutional amendment that would ultimately need to be approved by voters before being enacted. SB 1 grants the General Assembly the power to, by statute, delegate the authority to halt regulations found to be deficient, he said.

To read more, click here.

Jan. 8, 2015
5:55 p.m.

‘Right-to-work Act’ passes Senate after lengthy debate

The state Senate today passed a bill – dubbed the Kentucky Right to Work Act – to allow people to work at unionized shops without paying dues to an organized labor group.

State Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said it isn’t state government’s role to create jobs, adding that was for the private sector.

“But it is the job of government to create an environment where jobs can flourish, where we have current employers wanting to stay in Kentucky and expand their operations and, of course, to attract employers from other states and countries to come here to Kentucky,” he said. “There is no question in my mind that the passage of SB 1 is the absolute best step this General Assembly and governor can take to create a better environment for the creation and retention of jobs here in the commonwealth."

Thayer said nine of the top 10 states experiencing job growth and economic expansion at a greater rate than Kentucky are right-to-work states.

The legislation, designated Senate Bill 1, passed on a 24-12 vote.

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, spoke out against the legislation during the debate. He said the states with the highest quality of life are not right-to-work states and states with the lowest quality of life are right-to-work states.

“My biggest fear is if we pass this legislation, are we again encouraging a race to the bottom by Kentucky – that we want people to be paid less, earn less, have less money to spend on their families, spend for education, spend for healthcare,” said Thomas. “Isn’t that what we are doing by passing this legislation?”

Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, said many of the states listed as having a high quality of life have the distinction of also having some of the highest cost-of-living prices in the nation. He cited a 560-square-foot flat in New York that recently sold $325,000 as an example of out-of-control cost-of-living prices.

“One thing I can tell you … is that when you look at where the jobs are being created … one of the main factors is whether you are a right-to-work state. That’s not an assumption. That is a reality.”

The bill will now go to the state House for consideration.
5:05 p.m.

Anti-heroin bill passes state Senate

Saying they’ve heard the call to fix Kentucky’s exploding heroin epidemic, state Senate members passed a bill without opposition Thursday that would provide more treatment for abusers while increasing penalties for dealers.

“It is no secret to the members of this body, those in the audience or the people of the commonwealth that heroin use has reached epidemic levels here in Kentucky,” said Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, who introduced the legislation known as Senate Bill 5. “Its use and distribution has become a major issue for our citizens, our employers and our families. We frequently cite the fact that heroin-related overdoses have more than tripled in the past three years. What we don’t is the unspoken path of additional destruction.

“We don’t talk about the careers that are ruined, parents and spouses who are left hopeless and bankrupt trying to help their loved ones. And we don’t talk about the hundreds of children without one, and in some cases, both parents.”

To read more, click here.

Jan. 7, 2015
2:05 p.m.

Legislative leaders to offer reaction to governor’s speech

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, will be available in Room 327 of the State Capitol to answer reporters’ questions following Gov. Steve Beshear’s State of the Commonwealth address this evening.

The governor’s speech is scheduled to begin in the House chamber at 7 p.m..

Jan. 6, 2015
2:05 p.m.

General Assembly’s 2015 session under way

With gavel strikes in the Senate and House chambers, the Kentucky General Assembly convened a session today scheduled to last 30 working days.

Kentuckians have numerous ways to follow legislative action throughout the session, including seeing legislative action in person in the State Capitol’s legislative chambers and committee meeting rooms, which are open to the public.

People throughout the state can stay connected to the work of the General Assembly through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page, which is updated daily to provide the latest legislative information. Web surfers can view the issues before lawmakers by browsing through bill summaries, amendments, and resolutions. The website is regularly updated to indicate each bill’s status in the legislative process, as well as the next day’s committee-meeting schedule and agendas.

In addition to general information about the legislative process, the website also provides information on each of Kentucky’s senators and representatives, including their phone numbers, addresses, and legislative committee assignments.

The Kentucky General Assembly also maintains toll-free phone lines to help citizens follow legislative action and offer their input.

People who want to give lawmakers feedback on issues under consideration can call the Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181. Those who prefer to offer their feedback in Spanish can call the General Assembly's Spanish Line at 866-840-6574. Citizens with hearing impairments can use the TTY Message Line at 800-896-0305.

A taped message containing information on the daily schedule for legislative committee meetings is available by calling the Legislative Calendar Line at 800-633-9650.

Citizens can write to any legislator by sending a letter with a lawmaker's name on it to: Legislative Offices, 702 Capitol Ave., Frankfort, KY 40601.

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