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Recent News

Senate pension transparency bill nears final passage - 02/23/17

Bill to fund state’s fifth veterans’ nursing home advances - 02/23/17

Senate approves performance-based funding formula for universities- 02/23/17

House votes to give landlords relief under state dog bite law- 02/22/17

Senate panel approves measure to increase options for kids who need homes- 02/22/17

Senate panel approves bill to make some military surplus vehicles street legal - 02/22/17

Opioid education bill passes House, heads to Senate - 02/21/17

Bill to fund new veterans’ nursing home clears committee - 02/21/17

This Week at the State Capitol - 02/17/17

Education reform passes the Senate’s test - 02/17/17

Accessible parking abuser: You may lose your spot- 02/16/17

Fentanyl crackdown bill clears House committee - 02/16/17

Senate moves to snuff out smoking in schools - 02/15/17

Foster youth driver’s license bill heads to Senate- 02/15/17

Public benefit corporation bill heads to Senate- 02/14/17

House panel OKs school-based opioid abuse prevention bill- 02/14/17

Bill to make attacks on first responders a hate crime clears panel - 02/08/17

Bill to make attacks on first responders a hate crime clears panel - 02/09/17

“Big Four” agriculture programs receive big support from state - 1/07/17

This Week at the State Capitol - 01/07/17

Seven bills passed today by General Assembly, sent to governor - 01/07/17

Lawmakers adjust 2017 session calendar; will meet in session on Saturday- 01/06/17

Senate committee advances right-to-work bill - 01/06/17

Right to work bill, repeal of prevailing wage pass House - 01/05/17

Senate approves ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy - 01/05/17

Ultrasound bill passes KY House, goes to Senate - 01/05/17

Repeal of prevailing wage law gets House panel's OK - 01/04/17

Right to Work bill passes House panel - 01/04/17

 

 

February 23, 2017

 

Senate pension transparency bill nears final passage

FRANKFORT—A bill that could slow the financial hemorrhaging of the state’s public pension systems by improving system transparency and performance advanced today after passing the Kentucky House 99-0.

Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, would provide better oversight of those serving on state retirement system boards, tighten requirements for investment experience, and hold retirement system board members, staff and investment advisers to the same standard code of conduct followed by the larger investment community, said Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge.

It also includes provisions to require that investment expense and return reporting be completed on a quarterly basis and preserve a ban so-called “placement agents” –individuals who help fund managers with financing—among others.

Linder, who chairs the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Personnel, Public Retirement, and Finance and serves on the legislative Public Pension Oversight Board, called SB 2 a true pension transparency bill.

“I think most of us in this body would agree that the two main problems that face the commonwealth at this moment in time are heroin and our unfunded pension liability. Billions and billions and billions of dollars in unfunded liability,” said Linder.  SB 2, he said, will help to fix some of the problems the state retirement systems face.

“This is good government at work. This is compromise. It’s a good government bill,” said Linder.

Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, who represents thousands of state employees and retirees, said the bill isn’t perfect. But, he said, SB 2 “is a bill which I think all of us can agree upon.”

SB 2 now returns to the Senate for final passage.

--END--

 

February 23, 2017

 

Bill to fund state’s fifth veterans’ nursing home advances

FRANKFORT—A bill that would authorize $10.5 million in state bond funds for construction of Kentucky’s fifth veterans’ nursing home passed the state House today by a vote of 99-0.

Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Brownsville, the sponsor of House Bill 13, said the bond funds are a required match for $19.5 million in federal funds slated to build the 90-bed state veterans’ nursing facility in Bowling Green. Kentucky’s other state veteran’s nursing facilities are located in Hazard, Wilmore, Hanson and Radcliff.

The Bowling Green facility—which would serve a 17-county area in south central Kentucky—is approved for funding “as long as we have our state matching money,” said Meredith.

The bill was amended to encourage that any future beds allocated by the federal government or reallocated by the state for a state veterans’ nursing home be set aside for Magoffin County, where plans are underway to locate a sixth state veterans’ nursing home.

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, the sponsor of the amendment, said that it will help meet the needs of veterans in East Kentucky.

“Every veteran comes out a winner,” Blanton said. 

HB 13 has an emergency clause, which means the bill would become law immediately after it is signed by the governor or otherwise becomes law.

The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

 

 

February 23, 2017

 

Senate approves performance-based funding formula for universities

FRANKFORT -- Postsecondary education funding would be guided by performance-based measures, such as the number of students receiving degrees, under legislation approved yesterday by the Kentucky Senate.

Supporters of the legislation say it will phase out a funding model that, instead of basing funding on educational success, bases it on how much a school received in a previous budget cycle.

The goal of Senate Bill 153 “is to change this funding model, to refocus us on that goal of degree attainment,” said House President Pro Tem David Givens, who is a primary sponsor of the legislation, along with Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green.

The legislation is the result of a work group made up of the president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, university presidents, state budget officials and legislators. The group’s final report endorsed the Council on Postsecondary Education’s goal of raising the percentage of Kentuckians with postsecondary degrees or certificates from the current level of 45 percent to 58 percent by 2025.

Under Senate Bill 153, the postsecondary funding formula would appropriate 35 percent of funds based on student success tied to outcomes, 35 percent would be tied to total student credit hours, and 30 percent would be based on supporting “vital campus operations and student support,” Givens said.

Prior to voting in favor of the bill, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, described himself as “a tuition-paying parent” who’s grateful that the state supports its universities. But he said university funding has lacked accountability. “The universities are going to have to compete in order to get us up to the national standard in degree attainment and the thresholds included in this bill,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, said he supported the legislation and commended those who worked on it, but expressed some reservations.

“We can talk about performance-based funding and all the different goals that are set out in the bill … but the simple fact of the matter is that unless this General Assembly is willing to put more money into postsecondary education as we go forward, the cost of a college degree will only continue to increase for tens of thousands of Kentucky students who want to better their lives,” Jones said.

The funding model established by SB 153 would be phased in over several years.

”This four-year phase-in before we reach full implementation provides us a period of confidence that the model is working correctly and provides stability for these institutions as they move into what is a bold but very appropriate new funding model,” Givens said.

The bill also calls for a postsecondary work group to review the results of the new funding approach every three years to see if it is successful and make recommendations to the General Assembly.

The Senate approved the bill on a 36-1 vote. The measure now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

--END--

 

February 22, 2017

 

House votes to give landlords relief under state dog bite law

FRANKFORT—Landlords now held liable when a tenant’s dog bites someone would receive some relief under a bill that advanced today in the Kentucky House.

House Bill 112, sponsored by Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, would effectively remove landlords from liability for their tenants’ dogs under the state’s dog bite laws by redefining a dog owner as someone who both keeps and cares for a dog on property that the person both occupies and owns or leases. Current law does not specifically include tenants under the definition of dog owner.

Lee said the bill, which passed the House by a vote of 87-9, would give landlords the same protection they enjoyed under Kentucky’s dog bite laws prior to 2012 when the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in the case of Benningfield v. Zinsmeister. The landlord in that case was found responsible “despite the fact that landlord had made an effort to go to his leased tenant and say ‘please remove that dog,’” said Lee.

Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, an insurance agent, said he supports HB 112. Greer said he has had clients who own rental property struggle with the current law even in cases where tenants agreed in writing that they would not have a dog.

“If they get a dog later, what bothers me is my insureds … are held accountable. I don’t think that’s fair,” he said.

Among those voting against the bill was Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg. Hatton said there is no protection for dog bite victims under the legislation.

“If six pit bulls were trained to kill and let run loose by a tenant, there’s no liability. There’s no protection under this legislation for any person who’s injured by a dog…” she said.

HB 112 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

 

February 22, 2017

 

Senate panel approves measure to increase options for kids who need homes

FRANKFORT – The Senate Health and Welfare Committee today approved a bill that would allow children removed from their homes by the state to be placed with a close family friend.

House Bill 180 would allow people with emotionally significant relationships to children to be among those with whom a child could be placed in an emergency. Such people, considered “fictive kin” by the bill, includes those who have a close relationship with a child, but aren’t related by birth, adoption or marriage.

“Often, when a child has to be removed from a home, there is another alternative, perhaps that is someone who has meaningful relationship with that child but is not a member of their immediate family,” said Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, the sponsor of House Bill 180.

The legislation is a simple, but helpful, said Tim Feeley, deputy secretary of the Cabinet for Families and Health Services.

“It increases the universe of people who the cabinet can place a child with in an emergency situation,’ Feeley said. “Many times, in an emergency situation where children have to be removed because the parents have drug problems or domestic violence, there might be a babysitter, a church member, a family friend, who is known to the child, who the child is comfortable with.”

House Bill 180 “gives the cabinet the ability to do a quick background check on that individual and place the child with that individual. … This is better for the children in that they can stay in a home they are comfortable in or already know rather than going to strangers in what is already a traumatic situation,” Feeley said.

Kentucky First Lady Glenna Bevin appeared at today’s committee meeting in support of the bill. She was praised for her support of measures to help children by Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington.

“We appreciate you so much and for this being your platform and the thing you advocate for,” Kerr said. “You have turned your inspiration into perspiration very personally for a long, long time and we appreciate you taking this and inspiring us.”

House Bill 180 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

--END--

 

February 22, 2017

 

Senate panel approves bill to make some military surplus vehicles street legal

FRANKFORT -- In an effort to make it possible for citizens to title and license certain military surplus vehicles like Humvees, the Senate Transportation Committee today unanimously passed Senate Bill 176.

“It is basically taking care of a problem that was brought to me by one of my constituents,” said Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris.

West told committee members the bill would give citizens who purchase certain military surplus vehicles a way to make them street legal. The bill would set up a way to get them licensed, titled and ensure that they’ve been retrofitted as needed and have seat belts installed. 

The proposed legislation calls for military surplus vehicles to be inspected before they are titled. Additionally, a new inspection form for the vehicles will be created and a military surplus vehicle will be defined as a motor vehicle.

The bill now goes to the Senate for full consideration.

--END--

 

February 21, 2017

 

Opioid education bill passes House, heads to Senate

FRANKFORT—A bill to require lessons for public school students from elementary through high school about the dangers of prescription pain killers and addiction cleared the House today by a vote of 97-0.

Recommendations for a prescription opioid abuse prevention curriculum would be developed by the state Office of Drug Control Policy and published on the Kentucky Department of Education’s website for school districts to access under House Bill 145, sponsored by Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville.

“We’re facing a crisis situation,” Tipton told the House before the vote on HB 145. This bill “will not eliminate this problem but I truly believe that it’s a step in the right direction of providing the information and education our young people need.”

Prescription opioids—including drugs like morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl—are strong and frequently addictive painkillers used to treat moderate to severe pain. They have also been tied to dozens of overdose deaths, according to news reports.

HB 145 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

 

 

February 21, 2017

 

Bill to fund new veterans’ nursing home clears committee

FRANKFORT—A bill that would authorize $10.5 million in state bond funds for construction of a 90-bed state veterans’ nursing home in Bowling Green is one step closer to becoming law.

House Bill 13, sponsored by Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Brownsville, advanced to the floor of the Kentucky House after receiving the approval of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee today. The bill’s supporters say the bond funds are required to match $19.5 million in federal funding for the proposed facility.

The Bowling Green facility would serve veterans in 17 south central Kentucky counties and is the only proposed federal veterans’ nursing home in the state with a funding application approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Meredith told the committee. The facility would be the fifth veterans’ nursing home in Kentucky, with other facilities now located in Hazard, Wilmore, Hanson and Radcliff.

“We are already approved for federal funding as long as we have our state matching money,” said Meredith, adding that work to get funding for the home began four years ago. “There are no other facilities in the state that have an application that has been submitted and approved by the federal government.”

“It’s my understanding … we can only have one facility on that active funding list at one time and Bowling Green is already there,” he said.

But there is a movement underway to fund another state veterans’ nursing home, specifically in Magoffin County. Two bills have been filed this session by Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, to help make that possible: HB 140, which would authorize state bond funds for the construction of the facility, and HB 139 which would prohibit federal or state bond funds from being authorized for construction of a state veterans’ nursing home unless the facility accommodates “the total unused number of beds allotted” to the state by the federal government. Supporters of HB 139 say that number is 137 beds, 47 more than are slated for the Bowling Green home.

House Minority Floor Leader Rep. Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, emphasized to the committee that there is a need for veterans’ nursing care in Eastern Kentucky, too.

“The information we’ve received for East Kentucky really shows a need as well, as a matter … there was a very attractive piece of property that was donated ready for the site,” said Adkins. “I still need to have some questions answered.”  

HB 13 has an emergency clause, which means the bill would become law immediately after it is signed by the governor or otherwise becomes law.


--END--

 

 

February 17, 2017

 

This Week at the State Capitol

February 13 – 17, 201

FRANKFORT -- Headlines in recent days have made it clear that Kentucky’s problems with heroin, other illegal opioids and prescription drug abuse, continue to take lives and devastate communities at a shocking rate.

In-state newspapers have recently reported the more than 52 drug overdoses occurred over a 32-hour period in Louisville, and nine overdose calls came in over 12 hours in Madison County. A national publication reported that one rural Kentucky county filled enough prescriptions over 12 months to supply 150 doses of painkillers to every person in the county.

The same conversations held across the state about the way the drug crisis is impacting the court system, police, health care workers, treatment facilities, social workers, prison officials and families are also being held in the State Capitol. Those deliberations resulted in a number of bills aimed at addressing the issue, including several bills that took steps forward in the legislative process this week.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved Senate Bill 14, which is aimed at getting drug dealers off the streets by strengthening penalties for trafficking in heroin and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. Under the legislation, which was approved on a 36-0 vote, trafficking in less than two grams of these substances would be elevated to a Class C felony punishable by five to 10 years in prison.

Later in the week, a pair of bills addressing the drug crises were also approved in the House committees.

House Bill 333 would make it a felony to illegally sell or distribute any amount of fentanyl, carfentanil – a powerful opioid intended for large animals – and related drugs. Trafficking any amount of these drugs could result in up to 10 years in prison under the legislation. The bill would also restrict prescriptions for some painkillers to a three-day supply, though exceptions would be allowed in some circumstances. House Bill 333 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee and now goes to the full House for consideration.

The House Education Committee approved House Bill 145, which would help fight opioid addiction by requiring that public school students be educated about the dangers of prescription pain killers and their connection to addiction to heroin and other drugs

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

         Senate Bill 1 is a sweeping education reform measure that sets the course to change educational standards and accountability for public schools. The more than 100-page-long bill is an omnibus measure aimed at empowering state education officials, locally-elected school board members and teachers to decide the best teaching methods for their communities. It would set up several committees and advisory panels to review educational standards. The bill would change how students are tested, and it would also set up a new way for intervening in low-performing schools by placing more power in the local school district during those interventions. The bill passed the Senate on a 35-0 vote and now goes to the House for consideration.

 

         House Bill 14 would give police, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel protection under the state’s hate crime statutes. Under the bill, those who assault, kidnap, or commit certain other violent offenses against first responders could face stricter sentencing in court. Currently only the legally-protected classes of race, color, religion and national origin, as well as sexual orientation, are covered under the state’s hate crime statute. House Bill 14 passed the House on a 77-13-1 vote and has been sent to the Senate.

 

         Senate Bill 78 would require public schools across Kentucky would to go smoke-free by next school year. The bill would outlaw the use of all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, on elementary, middle and high school campuses in addition to buses. The bill was approved by the Senate on a 25-8-2 and has been sent to the House.

 

         Senate Bill 75 would increase the amount donors can contribute to election campaigns. Under the legislation, individuals and political action committees could donate $2,000 in the primary and general elections in Kentucky– up from the $1,000 limit. The bill passed the Senate on a 27-10 vote and has been delivered to the House.

 

         House Bill 192 would make it easier for 16- and 17-year-olds in foster care to apply for driver’s permits and driver’s licenses. The bill, which passed 96-0 before being sent to the Senate,  would allow those in foster care to get a driver’s license or permit without requiring them to have a parent’s or other adult’s signature on the permit or license applications.

Members of the General Assembly are eager to receive feedback on the issues under consideration. You can share your thoughts with lawmakers by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 800-372-7181.

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

--END--

 

February 17, 2017

Education reform passes the Senate’s test

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate passed a measure today that could result in the rewriting of public school lesson plans and tests in favor of a locally-centric form of educating.

After the approval of Senate Bill 1, dubbed the let the teacher teach act, Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, hailed the moment as the day in which Kentucky set a successful course for its public school curriculum.

“Our No. 1 resource is our children,” said Wilson, the primary sponsor of the bill. “They will be the future leaders sitting here one day when we are gone.”

Wilson said the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 paved the way for the passage of SB 1 in Kentucky. The federal act stated that states do not have to follow Common Core, a set of academic standards in mathematics, English language, arts and literacy. Wilson said SB 1 would take advantage of this development by empowering state education officials, locally-elected school board members and teachers to decide the best teaching methods for their communities. In essence, it could change what students are taught and how.

Wilson said SB 1 would “purge” language from a series of federal education initiatives going back nearly two decades, including the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top, that has left state education law an unmanageable patchwork of education theory du jour.

This doesn’t mean Kentucky is abandoning quality control, Wilson said. The more than 100-page-long SB 1 is an omnibus measure that would utilize Kentucky teachers to create new standards that are rigorous and ensure students are prepared for the industries operating in their communities. The bill sets up several committees and advisory panels to review the standards.

SB 1 would also change how students are tested. Wilson said local educators would be able to align what is taught with what is tested. He said it would allow teachers to stop wasting valuable learning time ”teaching to the test,” a colloquial term for a teaching style that is heavily focused on preparing students for a standardized test.

Wilson said SB 1 further empowers teachers by replacing school self-evaluations called Program Reviews that bog down educators with onerous paperwork. It would also set up a new way for intervening in low-performing schools by placing more power in the local school district during those interventions.

“It allows educators to do what they feel like that are called to do, and love to do, which is teach our children,” he said. “Teachers invest in our future – and nobody does it better.”

It was the second session in a row that an education reform bill was given the designation as Senate Bill 1, a designation usually reserved for the Senate president’s top legislative priority. While last year’s version passed out of the Senate with a 25-12 vote before stalling in the state House of Representatives, this year’s version passed with a 35-0 vote.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said the measure picked up votes this year because of the collaborative approach of Wilson, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. Wilson said he was aware he had talked extensively about education reform to anyone who would listen – and some that probably didn’t want to listen – for the last two years.

Passages of the measure were changed to alleviate last year’s concerns from Kentucky’s arts community that high schoolers would be able to meet arts credit requirements by taking classes such as computer programming. Also gone from the measure is language that would have created “bands” of similar schools that would be used for comparing academic growth.

The changes brought Senate Minority Whip Julian M. Carroll, D-Frankfort to rise in support of SB 1.

“The reason you don’t see anyone standing to question this bill at this point is because this bill has been explained in detail to each and every one of us separately from this day and we have had our questions answered,” he said. “Because of that, we are in strong support of this bill.”

Sen. Gerald N. Neal, D-Louisville, said Wilson’s bipartisan approach should be lauded.

“This is exactly how this body should function,” Neal said. “(Wilson’s) approach to this was to include individuals in the process. But the most remarkable thing he did was to listen, and he listened well.”

SB 1 now advances to the state House of Representatives for considering.

-- END --

 

February 16, 2017

 

Accessible parking abuser: You may lose your spot

FRANKFORT – State senators moved today to crack down on able-bodied drivers who use parking placards intended for those with disabilities.

By a 35-0 vote, senators approved Senate Bill 61 to curtail what was described as nothing short of an explosion in the number of the placards being issued. Kentucky saw a 506 percent increase in the number of the placards in 2009 when fees for the item were dropped. Kentucky went from issuing 33,000 in 2008 to issuing more than 200,000 the following year.

“This bill addresses the abuse and fraud that has happened over the years,” said Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, who sponsored the bill. “Last year, the state issued just over 283,000 placards.”

In a Senate Transportation Committee meeting chaired by Harris earlier this week, a disabled person testified about difficulty in trying to find accessible spaces. He recounted how his van was vandalized when he had to double park in order to have enough space to extend his wheelchair ramp at a Kentucky mall during the busy Christmas holiday.

Harris said SB 61 would allow the issuance of one placard per person that could be transferable between vehicles. The bill also would take the responsibility of determining if someone legitimately needs a placard out of county clerk hands by requiring a doctor’s note.

Permanent blue-colored placards would cost $10 while temporary red-colored placards would be half that amount, Harris said. The placards would be valid for six years instead of the current two years.

SB 61 also calls for transportation cabinet officials to monitor state-issued death certificates to ensure able-bodies drivers do not use placards issued to the dead.

Sen. Julian M. Carroll, D-Frankfort, said he really gets irked when he sees drivers with the placards who spring out of their cars like spring chickens at his local convenience store.

“It’s time to tighten the law up some,” Carroll said. “This bill does it and I ask you to vote for it.”

The measure now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

-- END --

 

 

February 16, 2017

 

Fentanyl crackdown bill clears House committee

FRANKFORT—A bill that would make it a felony to illegally sell or distribute any amount of fentanyl, carfentanil and related drugs tied to an increase in drug overdoses in Kentucky has passed the House Judiciary Committee.

Trafficking in any amount of fentanyl, a pain killer now frequently imported for illegal street sales, and drugs derived from fentanyl as well as carfentanil—a large animal anesthetic said to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine---would carry up to 10 years in prison under House Bill 333, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill. Trafficking over certain amounts of the drugs could carry even longer sentences.

The bill would also make fentanyl derivatives—which potentially number 800 or more, state officials say--part of the same class of drugs as heroin and LSD. Those drugs are classified as Schedule I by the federal DEA which describes the drugs as having no “currently accepted medical use.”

“Whatever (fentanyl derivative) is thrown at us in the future will be a Schedule I controlled substance under Kentucky law,” if HB 333 passes, Office of Drug Control Policy Executive Director Van Ingram told the committee.

Fentanyl, carfentanil and fentanyl derivatives are being mixed with heroin and sold on the street as heroin or other drugs. Some cities and counties have experienced dozens of overdoses in the span of a day or two because of the potency of the drugs which, Ingram said, can be disguised as pharmaceuticals like Xanax or Percocet.

“The business model for drug cartels is to mix fentanyl with heroin and make it look like (something else),” said Ingram. “It’s a much better ---- for them. It’s a very deadly situation for our population.”

HB 333 would also create a felony offense called trafficking in a misrepresented controlled substance for those who pass off carfentanil, fentanyl or fentanyl derivatives as an actual pharmaceutical, like Xanax. 

Another provision in the bill would limit prescriptions for fentanyl to a three-day supply with few exceptions, said Moser. Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Pikeville, questioned how the legislation would prevent someone from getting another dose from another physician after receiving their three days’ worth. Moser said the KASPER system, which tracks prescriptions written in Kentucky for all scheduled drugs, is still in place to monitor what is prescribed.

“This language does not preclude the fact that physicians have to document with the PDMPs or prescription drug monitoring programs. KASPER is still a way to monitor… that’s still a requirement,” said Moser.

HB 333 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

 

February 15, 2017

 

Senate moves to snuff out smoking in schools

FRANKFORT – Public schools across Kentucky would have to go smoke free by next school year under legislation the state Senate passed by a 25-8-2 vote today.

Senate Bill 78, dubbed tobacco-free schools bill, would outlaw the use of all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, on elementary, middle and high school campuses, said bill sponsor Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester.  He added that the ban would extend to school trips and school buses.

“It is time for Kentucky to step up to the plate and protect its kids,” said Alvarado, who is also a physician. “Let’s get our children healthier. Let’s save taxpayer money. Let’s save some Kentucky lives.”

He said 16.9 percent of Kentucky high school students smoke regularly compared to 15.1 percent of U.S. adults.

“Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States,” Alvarado said. “A strongly enforced tobacco-free school policy can prevent or delay students from using tobacco. Some studies have shown up to a 30 percent reduction in student smoking.

“Asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism. Exposer to secondhand smoke is one of the leading triggers of asthma attacks. Youth who smoke report more respiratory problems and illnesses than their non-smoking peers.”

Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, asked whether state legislators wanted to mandate from Frankfort what locally-elected school boards must do.

“I would urge members to think about this,” said Hornback, who voted against the bill.

School boards can decide for themselves under current laws. And just over half of Kentucky’s public-school students are in school districts with tobacco-free policies. That is 62 of the state’s 173 districts, covering 654 schools.

Hornback also asked if a student would be in violation of the ban if they drove to school with a pack of cigarettes in their car. Alvarado said it would be a violation, but added that school boards set the penalty.

Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg, said he passed on SB 78 out of concerns about the unintended consequences of the legislation. He said smokers may not purchase tickets to school sporting events if they can’t light up. That would hurt revenue for cash-strapped districts, said Turner, a former high school basketball coach.

The measure now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

-- END --

 

 

February 15, 2017

 

Foster youth driver’s license bill heads to Senate

FRANKFORT—Sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds in foster care could apply for driver’s permits and driver’s licenses under a bill that has passed the Kentucky House.

House Bill 192, sponsored by Rep. Larry Brown, R-Prestonsburg, said the bill will give foster children access to the same rite of passage that most teenagers enjoy—the ability to get a driver’s license or permit—without requiring them to have a parent’s or other adult’s signature on the permit or license applications.

Brown said teens in foster care could sign permit or license applications for themselves as long as the application is verified by the state and the teenager has proof of insurance.

“Foster youth are very disadvantaged in this respect because most of them have to wait until they turn 18 to be able to get a driver’s license. This will allow them to do so on their own signature,” said Brown.  

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, described the bill as a positive step for Kentucky’s foster youth.

Foster youth “have felt like there is a stigma attached because all of their peers were able to get driver’s licenses but they just had an ID that basically said who they were,” said Marzian.

HB 192 passed by a vote of 96-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

--END--

 

February 14, 2017

 

Public benefit corporation bill heads to Senate

FRANKFORT—The Kentucky House has voted 78-17 for a bill that would allow public benefit corporations to do business in the Commonwealth.

Should House Bill 35 become law, Kentucky would become one of more than 31 states that allow for the creation of public benefit corporations-- companies that make investments in a public benefit, or public good, part of their corporate philosophy while maximizing profits, said HB 35 sponsor Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville.

Miller said “value investments” made by public benefit corporations totaled around $4 billion in 2012 alone.

“This is something that Kentucky needs,” Miller said. “Public benefits that currently have to be provided by government can be met by public benefit corporations that are interested in creating long term value and in serving the public.”

There are now Kentucky companies that have an interest in becoming public benefit corporations, he told the House, including software company MobileServe in Louisville, Victory Hemp in Campbellsburg and others. The bill may even bring companies back to Kentucky that are now in other states, he said. Rubicon Global, a full-service Atlanta-based waste and recycling company founded by Kentuckian Nate Morris, could be one of those companies, Miller explained.

Morris “has recently become very active in the Gatton School at the University of Kentucky, and I hope that if we pass this legislation, companies like Rubicon Global and others will bring their business here,” said Miller. 

Concerns about the bill were raised by Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, who asked Miller how it is determined that a corporation’s values are a public benefit. Miller said those values are laid out in the company’s bylaws and articles of incorporation and can cover a variety of goals.

Gooch said he still doesn’t understand the necessity for the legislation. “We’re setting up a totally different type of corporation here, maybe even before we determine what the public benefit is.”

HB 35 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.  

--END--

 

February 14, 2017

 

House panel OKs school-based opioid abuse prevention bill

FRANKFORT—Students could soon be learning about the dangers of prescription pain killer abuse under a bill that cleared the House Education Committee today.

House Bill 145, sponsored by Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, would require that elementary, middle and high school students be educated on the dangers of prescription opioid painkiller abuse and on the connection between prescription opioids and addiction to heroin and other drugs. Recommendations for a prescription opioid abuse prevention curriculum would be developed by the state Office of Drug Control Policy and published on the state Department of Education’s website.

Prescription opioids—which include drugs like morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl—are strong and addictive painkillers used to treat moderate to severe pain. They have also been tied to dozens of overdose deaths including two that Tipton was made aware of in recent days.

While he admitted HB 145 will not completely solve the drug epidemic, Tipton described the bill as “common sense” legislation that is needed to protect children in today’s drug culture.

“They are exposed to it every day, and they need to be properly educated. Hopefully this legislation will prevent some deaths in the future,” Tipton said.

Speaking in favor of HB 145 was Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, who said drug education is important--although she would like to see parents more involved in the drug education process.

“The parents are the first line of defense,” said Marzian. “I hope at some point we could include maybe adult ed classes or amend (the legislation) and say materials could be sent to the parents… You have to have the parent involved.”

Tipton said school-based prescription opioid abuse prevention education is working in other states.  In Ohio, students in elementary through high school receive age-appropriate training in the responsible use of drugs and medications, he told the committee.

HB 145 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

 

February 8, 2017

 

Bill to make attacks on first responders a hate crime clears panel

FRANKFORT—Police, fire fighters and emergency medical services personnel would be added to those protected under Kentucky’s hate crime statute if a bill passed by a House committee today becomes law.

Under House Bill 14, sponsored by House Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, those who assault, kidnap, or commit certain other violent offenses against first responders could face stricter sentencing in court. Currently only the legally-protected classes of race, color, religion and national origin, as well as sexual orientation, are covered under the state’s hate crime statute.

“I just think we need to show if you attack one of our first responders, you’re going to get the full brunt of the law,” Bratcher said.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, voted against the bill in committee. She said she understands the urge to pass the bill as a “philosophical pat on the back,” but said real help for officers would come from safeguarding their pensions and reducing gun and drug crime.

Speaking in favor of HB 14 was Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, who said the bill would offer first responders protection under the law even when they are not “engaged,” or involved in a physical action, with a suspect.

“We’re not talking about a situation where a police officer is involved in an action—there are already crimes for that when they are killed or injured,” said Benvenuti. “We’re talking about executions of individuals because of the shield they have on their chest. Nobody… ought to be subject to execution because they put on a badge in the morning.”

HB 14 now goes to the full House for its consideration.

--END--

 

 

February 1, 2017

 

“Big Four” agriculture programs receive big support from state

FRANKFORT—Over $4.1 million in Kentucky agricultural development funds were recently approved for four programs that have earned the nickname “the Big Four” from state agricultural officials because of their statewide impact.  

Kentucky Proud, the Kentucky Dairy Development Council, Kentucky Beef Network and the Kentucky Horticulture Council were approved for $1,657,750, $1,003,675, $909,500 and $617,500 respectively at the Dec. 2016 meeting of the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board (ADB), Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy (GOAP) Deputy Executive Director Bill McCloskey told the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee today.

“Each one of these projects … are required to meet with a committee of board members three times to review their progress, to go over their program goals (at least for 2017),” said McCloskey, with each project serving thousands of Kentuckians. Kentucky Proud serves over 3,800 members, the Kentucky Horticulture Council serves over 8,000, and the Beef Network has over 38,000 cattlemen on its rolls, according to the GOAP’s Annual Report for 2016.

Over at the Kentucky Dairy Development Council, staff work with the state’s 612 dairy producers to ensure profitability and competitiveness, GOAP officials told the committee. The KDDC has been challenged to visit every dairy producer in Kentucky at least once this year alone, said McCloskey.

GOAP Executive Director Warren Beeler said KDDC has helped Kentucky’s dairies maintain production of about one billion pounds of milk even as the number of dairies across the Commonwealth has dropped from 2,200 to 612.

“Progress has been off the charts,” he told lawmakers.

Looking back at the history of the ADB, Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, praised the 2000 Kentucky General Assembly’s move to diversify Kentucky agriculture with half of the state’s share of a multi-billion-dollar 1998 national tobacco settlement. Legislation passed by the state in 2000 has funneled over $450 million into Kentucky agriculture through the state’s Agricultural Development Fund, according to the GOAP, and Webb said that fund needs protection.

“Protect this fund. It’s dwindling, it’s not going to be here forever but we’ve got to protect this fund because, especially in times of recession or budget crisis, everybody looks at our tobacco fund,” said Webb. “The way I look at this committee is to protect our mission.”

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, a freshman Senator who is new to the committee, said he would “like to put Sen. Webb’s concerns to rest” in regards to protection of tobacco settlement funds for Kentucky agriculture.

“I’m on board, and I certainly will do everything to protect the integrity of this fund and this program. Congratulations on the success you’ve had. People notice,” said Meredith. 

--END--

 

 

January 7, 2017

 

This Week at the State Capitol

Jan. 7, 2017

 

FRANKFORT -- An endless variety of instruments may be used for power-wielding, politics and governance. But the tool of choice for enshrining a historic shift of power in Kentucky this week was a Phillips-head screwdriver.

Just minutes after lawmakers convened the General Assembly’s 2017 session on Tuesday, a Capitol caretaker walked to the front of the House chamber with screwdriver in hand. After a minute’s worth of twisting screws into the mahogany of the Speaker’s rostrum, he stepped away and the gaze of a standing-room-only chamber fell upon his handiwork.

There, for the first time in 96 years, the name on the bronze nameplate affixed to the chamber’s focal point was a Republican’s. The moment highlighted that Kentucky has, for the first time, Republican control of both legislative chambers, as well as the governor’s office.

This ascendency of Rep. Jeff Hoover to the House Speaker’s chair and the arrival of a new Republican 64-member supermajority in the House this week certainly marked the turning of page in Kentucky politics. But, though there were moments of celebration and pageantry, the session’s first week wasn’t all about fanfare, or settling in, or even getting accustomed to the new dynamics in Frankfort. It was largely about action.

Over the course of five days, members of the Kentucky House and Senate pushed seven significant bills through the legislative process and delivered them to Gov. Matt Bevin’s office. Because emergency clauses were added to the bills, each one will go into effect the moment the governor signs his name to them.

What will the newest laws in our commonwealth do? They will affect pregnant women, unborn children, economic development officials and job recruiters, members of labor unions, university students, construction workers, manufacturers, open government advocates and citizens in every corner of this state. More specifically:

         Senate Bill 3 will expand openness in government by making information about the retirement benefits of state lawmakers available for public viewing.

         Senate Bill 5 will prohibit a woman from having an abortion if she is 20 weeks or more into a pregnancy.

         Senate Bill 6 will prevent employees from being enrolled in labor organizations or having money withheld from their earnings for union dues unless they give permission in writing.

         Senate Bill 12 will reorganize the University of Louisville board of trustees by establishing a new, 10-member board.

         House Bill 1 will make Kentucky a right-to-work state. Under this measure, membership in a labor union would optional instead of mandatory for workers at unionized workplaces.

         House Bill 2 will require a woman seeking an abortion to first undergo an obstetric ultrasound and receive a medical explanation of what that ultrasound shows. Women could decline to see the ultrasound images if they choose.

         House Bill 3 will repeal the state’s prevailing wage law. That action will remove a guaranteed base wage to construction workers on certain public works projects.

In other business this week, lawmakers took care of matters typically required before they can start passing laws, such as adopting rules and electing leadership, which included the re-election of Sen. Robert Stivers as president of the Senate.

Senate and House members have now wrapped up the first part of the 2017 session and will return to their home districts for a scheduled break. They will come back to the Capitol on Feb. 7 to convene the second part of the session.

If you would like to offer feedback on the issues confronting Kentucky, you can share your thoughts with state lawmakers by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

--END--

 

January 7, 2017

Seven bills passed today by General Assembly, sent to governor

FRANKFORT—Seven bills were given final passage today by the Kentucky General Assembly and delivered to the governor’s desk.

The bills, covering matters ranging from labor unions and their membership to changes in the state’s informed consent and abortion laws, all include an emergency provision to ensure that they take effect the moment they are signed by the governor. All seven bills were introduced on the first day of the 30-day 2017 Regular Session that began on Tuesday and received final passage within five days—the minimum time possible.

The legislation passed by the General Assembly and sent to Governor Matt Bevin for his signature are:

House Bill 1. HB 1, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, would make Kentucky the nation’s 27th right-to-work state. Right-to-work states prohibit mandatory membership in or payment of dues to labor unions. HB 1 received final passage in the Senate by a vote of 25-12.

Senate Bill 3. SB 3, sponsored by Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, would require that the retirement benefits of current and former General Assembly members be made public. Disclosure would include the member’s name and estimated or actual monthly allowance. SB 3 received final passage in the House by a vote of 95-1.

House Bill 2. HB 2, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hoover and Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, would require a woman seeking an abortion to have an obstetric ultrasound of her baby explained to her by her health care provider before she could give required informed consent for an abortion. Women could decline to see the ultrasound image or hear the fetal heartbeat if they choose. HB 2 received final passage in the Senate by a vote of 32-5.

Senate Bill 5. SB 5, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, and Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, would prohibit abortions in Kentucky at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill would not apply in cases where an abortion is required to save the life or prevent serious risk of permanent bodily harm to the mother. SB 5 received final passage in the House by a vote of 79-15.

House Bill 3. HB 3, sponsored by Speaker Hoover and Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, would repeal the state’s prevailing wage law that dictates the hourly base wage for construction workers hired on for certain public works projects. HB 3 received final passage in the Senate by a vote of 25-12.

Senate Bill 6. SB 6, sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, would require public or private employees (with some exceptions under federal law) to request membership in a labor union in writing before they can be enrolled in that organization. It also specifies that dues or fees paid to labor organizations cannot be withheld from earnings without employee approval. Existing agreements between employers, employees and labor unions made before the legislation takes effect would be exempt from the provisions. SB 6 received final passage in the House by a vote of 57-39.  

Senate Bill 12. SB 12, sponsored by Senate President Stivers, would abolish the current board of trustees of the University of Louisville and clarify the number of members allowed on the new board along with qualifications and conditions of membership. The bill would also require Kentucky Senate confirmation of board appointments. SB 12 received final passage in the House by a vote of 57-35.

The 2017 legislative session will adjourn today for a scheduled break and then re-convene on Tuesday, Feb. 7.  The session is scheduled to end on March 30.

--END--

 

 

January 6, 2017

 

Lawmakers adjust 2017 session calendar; will meet in session on Saturday

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives will convene tomorrow (Saturday, January 7) under a change in the 2017 legislative calendar approved by legislative leaders.

After working tomorrow, lawmakers will return to their home districts and are scheduled to come back to Frankfort for the second part of the 2017 session on February 7.

The second part of the session is still scheduled for final adjournment, as originally planned, on March 30. However, under the recent change to the session schedule, March 9 has been added to the days on which lawmakers will not be gaveled into session.

The latest version of the 2017 session calendar can be viewed online at http://www.lrc.ky.gov/calendars/17RS_calendar.pdf.

--END—

 

January 6, 2017

 

Senate committee advances right-to-work bill

FRANKFORT -- Legislation that would make Kentucky a right-to-work state was approved today by the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

The proposal, which would make membership in a labor union optional rather than mandatory for workers at unionized workplaces, now goes to the full Senate for consideration. The House of Representatives has already approved the measure, known as House Bill 1, a designation given to House leadership’s top priority bill.

Testifying in support of the measure at today’s meeting, House Speaker Jeff Hoover, a primary sponsor of HB 1, said the legislation would boost Kentucky’s labor market.

“Right-to-work is simply the name given to the ability of an employee to negotiate his or her wages and negotiate his or her benefits directly with the employer without being compelled to be a member of a labor union,” said Hoover, R-Jamestown. “I don’t see why government should stand in the way of a worker opting to not join and be given the ability to negotiate on their own if they so choose.”

“…Recent history proves that not only is passing right-to-work not a hindrance to labor union membership, it can actually help labor unions grow. For example, both Indiana and Tennessee … are right-to-work states and they have more union members today then what they had prior to enacting this legislation. That is simply because of the economic development that has been brought to those right-to-work states.”

Hoover said private sector employment grew 17.4 percent in right-to-work states between 2001 and 2013, more than double the 8.2 percent in states that don’t have right-to-work laws.

Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, a primary sponsor of HB 1, said Kentucky has lost job-creating opportunities to other states that have right-to-work laws. “The governor has an initiative to make Kentucky the epicenter of advanced manufacturing in the world. … There’s no reason why we can’t expand our economic opportunities by passing right-to-work legislation,” he said.

Opponents of right-to work legislation testified that Kentucky’s manufacturing sector is already strong compared to neighboring right-to-work states.

“Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that among all states, Kentucky already has the fifth-highest manufacturing employment as a share of total jobs,” said Anna Bauman, a research and policy associate for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “A larger share of Kentucky workers are in manufacturing than workers in both Virginia and Tennessee, two of our three neighbors with active right-to-work laws.”

Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, also testified against the right-to-work proposal, emphasizing that unions come to workplaces where a majority of eligible workers vote in favor of them.

“…Workers have a variety of options if they are unwilling to financially support or become union members,” he said. “They have the freedom not to seek employment in unionized workplaces if they are displeased that a union was voted in to a workplace by a majority vote. In such cases, the individual can seek employment in the 89 percent of workplaces in Kentucky that are not unionized.”

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, predicted the state’s economy will quickly enjoy a boost if Kentucky becomes a right-to-work state.

“We will see the results very quickly across this commonwealth as the numbers, the leading economic indicators in this state, start pointing in the right direction,” he said.

House Bill 1 contains an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect immediately upon being signed into law by the governor.

--END--

 

January 5, 2017

 

Right to work bill, repeal of prevailing wage pass House

FRANKFORT—Legislation that would make Kentucky the 27th right-to-work state by outlawing mandatory membership in a labor union as a condition of employment passed the House today by a vote of 58-39.

Supporters say House Bill 1, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown and Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, would boost jobs by allowing employees to negotiate benefits and wages directly with their employers. Committee testimony on the bill yesterday said job growth in right-to-work states has been more than double that in non-right-to-work states like Kentucky in recent years.

Rep. Chris Fugate, R-Chavies, whose grandfather worked for 43 years in the coal mines, said he voted in support of HB 1 to try and bring jobs to his district where, he said, 3,000 people are out of work.

“I reluctantly vote yes,” said Fugate, adding some of his constituents are for right-to-work and some are against it. Fugate said he isn’t against unions, but “our coal miners are not working in the mountains in case anybody didn’t know that.”

“I’ll work my rear end off to make sure that I do everything I can for them to get jobs so they don’t have to move to another state or another place to provide for their families,” Fugate said.

Opponents of right-to-work legislation like HB 1, however, claim such bills weaken wages of the working and middle classes. Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively told House members that studies show right-to-work legislation hurts the wages of working men and women in Kentucky.

“I proudly stand with my union brothers and sisters and all workers across this Commonwealth and vote no,” said Jenkins.

Also passed by the House today was HB 3, sponsored by House Speaker Hoover and Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger. That legislation, which passed the House 57-40, would repeal the state’s prevailing wage law which guarantees an hourly base “prevailing” wage to construction workers on certain public works projects. Koenig said the process for determining that base wage “is unlikely to yield wages that are representative of market wages.”

Koenig said the only reason the bill was filed is to save the taxpayers money. “That is our motivation for filing this bill,” he said.

Among those voting against the bill was Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, who said prevailing wage was designed to ensure quality work done by local workers.

HB 1 and HB 3 now go to the Senate for its consideration. They both include emergency provisions, which make them take effect immediately if signed into law.

--END--

 

January 5, 2017

 

Senate approves ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy

FRANKFORT -- The state Senate today approved legislation that would prohibit a woman from having an abortion in Kentucky if she is 20 weeks or more into a pregnancy.

The legislation, Senate Bill 5, would “protect pain-capable children from the horror of having an abortion performed on them,” said a primary sponsor of the bill, Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard.

Smith said books for expecting parents describe a 20-week-old fetus as capable of sucking its thumb, yawning, stretching, making faces and responding to pain.

SB 5 passed on a 30-6 vote. It now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, was among the opponents of the measure, arguing that women should be able to make decisions on their pregnancies without the limitations of SB 5.

“My fear is that by adopting this bill that we’re going to ultimately go back to what we saw in the 50s and 60s when we had back-alley butcher shops to take care of situations rather than having a safe medical procedure,” Thomas said.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, a primary sponsor of the legislation, says it focuses on the wellbeing of the unborn child. “We’re not just talking about these women who are seeking abortions. ... We’re talking about the child that is a life. That life deserves a chance to survive. Twenty weeks – that’s five months. … We’re not stopping anyone from getting an abortion. We’re not doing anything that gets in the way of (women’s) conversations with their partner, their spouse, their physician, their priest or minister. We’re not stopping any of that. But we are going to recognize that life exists there.”

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, a medical doctor, said that medical advances are reducing the age at which fetuses are viable, or able to survive outside the womb. “All we’re trying to do here with this bill is give those children an opportunity to survive,” he said.

Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, voted against SB 5 and urged lawmakers to focus on other issues. “One in four children in Kentucky are living in poverty and over 7,000 live in foster care. Our young people, if they are fortunate enough to graduate from college, come out with huge student loans and can’t find jobs. Four-hundred-thousand people may fall through the cracks and lose their health insurance. My question is: why do we spend our precious time in this body attacking a woman’s right to choose … when Kentucky faces so many more demanding issues?”

While casting his vote in favor of the legislation, Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, also quoted statistics.

“We heard statistics earlier … But I want to say there are also statistics of 58,586,256 abortions that have been performed in the United States since 1973. That’s an average of over 1 million abortions per year,” he said.

SB 5 contains an emergency clause, which would make it effective immediately upon being signed into law by the governor.

--END--

 

January 5, 2017

 

Ultrasound bill passes KY House, goes to Senate

FRANKFORT—Women seeking an abortion would be required to have an obstetric ultrasound and receive a medical explanation of what that ultrasound shows under a bill that today passed the state House of Representatives on an 83-12 vote.

Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, who is a primary sponsor of House Bill 2 along with House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said the ultrasound proposal is about informed consent.

“In this Commonwealth, it is important that we give women full and informed consent. We have moved historically from a time when women were just given the bare information about medical procedures to making sure that we respect their autonomy and their decision-making process in issues…that impact their lives,” said Wuchner.

Any woman seeking an abortion would have to comply with the proposed ultrasound requirement before she could give informed consent for an abortion, according to the bill. Revised in 2016, Kentucky’s informed consent law requires women seeking an abortion to have an in-person or teleconferenced medical consult at least 24 hours before the procedure.

The bill would also require the woman’s physician or health care provider to display the ultrasound images to the woman and allow her to hear her fetus’ heartbeat, although the women would not have to look at the images or listen to the heartbeat. Signed certification would be placed in the woman’s medical record noting that she was presented with the required information and noting if she viewed the images and listened to the heartbeat or declined to do so.

No ultrasound would be required in cases of medical emergency where an abortion is considered a “medical necessity,” according to HB 2. Health care providers who do not comply with the requirement would face fines of $100,000 for a first offense and $250,000 for additional offenses.

Several floor amendments were proposed to the measure, including amendments to outlaw all forms of abortion in Kentucky, provide an exception to the proposed ultrasound requirement in cases of rape or incest and ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation. Each floor amendment called stalled on a procedural vote.

One freshman member who voted against HB 2 was Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, who said half of her constituents are female. “I have spent years mentoring women who are older than me, younger than me and in my own age group and have found the importance of trusting women to make their own decisions,” said Scott. 

Among those voting in favor of HB 2 was freshman member Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill. The former neo-natal intensive care nurse said HB 2 will give pregnant women a clear understanding of their medical condition so they can make informed decisions.

“As a medical professional, it is my obligation to ensure patients have accurate access to medical information regarding their medical diagnosis and that it should be available to them,” said Moser.  “It is with accurate information that a patient can make an informed decision regarding their treatment, whether it is treatment for a brain tumor requiring an MRI or a CT scan, or if it is to determine the health and the progress of a pregnancy through an ultrasound.”

HB 2 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

--END--

 

January 4, 2017


Repeal of prevailing wage law gets House panel's OK

FRANKFORT—A bill that would repeal a state law requiring payment of an hourly base wage—or prevailing wage—to workers on public works construction projects has passed a House committee.

House Bill 3, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, would apply to projects for which bids have not yet been awarded at the time the bill, should it pass, takes effect. An emergency clause included in HB 3 would ensure the bill takes effect immediately upon being signed into law by the governor.

Koenig, who presented HB 3 to the House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee before the committee approved the bill today, said prevailing wage laws are “unlikely to yield rates that are representative of market wages.” They are also a financial strain on local governments and school districts, Koenig said, emphasizing that saving money was the motivation for filing HB 3.

The bill has the support of Boone County Schools Superintendent Dr. Randy Poe who testified alongside Koenig. Poe told the committee that higher construction fees on prevailing wage projects have cost his school district as much as $50 million over the last 19 years.

“The higher fees we pay through prevailing wage keeps us from improving upon traditional space versus portable space (for) our students,” said Poe. “This is about creating more space for our students.”

Speaking against the bill was Bill Finn, the state director of the Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council. Finn said that nine out of 11 economic studies since 2001 have showed no increase in overall construction costs due to prevailing wage. “Twenty three percent is the entire pie that prevailing wage affects,” said Finn.

HB 3 now goes to the full House for its consideration.

--END--

 

January 4, 2017


Right to Work bill passes House panel

FRANKFORT—A House panel has passed right-to-work legislation that would prohibit Kentuckians from being required to join labor unions as a condition of employment.

House Bill 1, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown and Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, would prohibit mandatory membership in or payment of dues to labor organizations with few exceptions involving federal law and agreements entered into before HB 1 would take effect. Violators would be subject to prosecution.

The legislation passed the House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee favorably after an hour-long discussion that began with comments from Governor Matt Bevin. “Jobs come from private sector employers and they’re incentivized by the kinds of things you’re going to hear in coming days,” said Bevin. “This is a zero-sum game.”

Right-to-work bills have been filed several times in past legislative sessions said Speaker Hoover, who told the committee that HB 1 will give employees the ability to negotiate benefits and wages directly with their employer without being part of a union.

“I personally have no problem with an individual opting to be part of a labor union,” said Hoover. “… But government shouldn’t stand in the way of someone who opts not to join a union.” He said HB 1 would make Kentucky the 27th Right to Work state in the country, putting it on par with most Southern states as well as Indiana and labor-heavy Michigan.

Hoover said private sector employment in right-to-work states increased over 17 percent between 2001 and 2013 compared to around an 8 percent increase in non-right-to-work states like Kentucky.

Those opposing the bill included Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah, who told the committee that  tax code changes and the paring-down of regulatory burdens could do more for Kentuckians than right-to-work legislation.  “I don’t believe personally a right-to-work law is (a) silver bullet,” he said.

Also speaking against the bill was Kentucky Center for Economic Policy analyst Anna Baumann who said Kentucky’s manufacturing sector is strong without right-to-work—Kentucky has the fifth-highest manufacturing employment as a share of total employment nationally, she said. But Hoover, backed by officials from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce as he gave his testimony, said data shows the economy is stronger in right-to-work states. 

“Economic development is not only my primary, but my sole motivation in proposing this legislation,” said Hoover.

HB 1 would also prohibit public employees in Kentucky from engaging in work strikes. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

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