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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.

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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.

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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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