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Recent News

Experts view youth violence as public health crisis - 07/19/18

New state laws go into effect July 14 - 07/06/18

PSC reviews state of Kentucky’s electric power plants - 06/7/18

Two new bridges could widen funding gap - 06/6/18

Pension update shows some improvement - 06/05/18

Felony expungement reviewed by state legislative panel - 06/01/18

Kentucky’s tobacco settlement money is in – with more coming - 05/02/18

Kentucky General Assembly’s 2018 session ends - 04/13/18

This Week at the State Capitol - 04/13/18

General Assembly overrides budget veto- 04/13/18

Gang violence legislation goes to governor - 04/13/18

This Week at the State Capitol - 04/05/18

Foster care and adoption reform bill goes to governor - 04/03/18

Road Plan receives final passage, goes to governor - 04/02/18

Abstinence education bill goes to governor - 04/02/18

Pharmacy benefit manager bill goes to governor - 04/02/18

$22 billion state spending plan receives final passage - 04/02/18

State revenue bill heads to governor - 04/02/18

Bourbon by mail: Bill would make it possible - 04/02/18

This Week at the State Capitol - 03/30/18

Public pension bill heading to governor - 03/29/18

Police death benefits bill passes Senate- 03/29/18

Workers’ comp bill going to governor - 03/28/18

State lawmakers adjust 2018 session calendar - 03/27/18

11-week abortion measure goes to governor - 03/27/18

This Week at the State Capitol - 03/23/18

Senate approves worker’s comp bill - 03/22/18

Senate green lights road plan - 03/22/18

Senate approves 11-week abortion measure - 03/22/18

Dyslexia intervention bill goes to governor - 03/22/18

‘Revenge porn’ bill goes to governor - 03/22/18

Judicial redistricting bill goes to governor - 03/22/18

Police protection bill advanced by Senate panel - 03/22/18

Joyce Honaker announced as 2018 Vic Hellard Jr. Award winner - 03/22/18

Senate plan tackles shortage of judges - 03/21/18

Financial literacy bill on way to governor - 03/21/18

Standards-for-treatment disorders bill goes to governor - 03/21/18

Senate bill to curb gun violence OK’d by House panel - 03/21/18

Law enforcement mental health bill passes - 03/21/18

Senate passes state spending plan - 03/20/18

Opioid overdose bill goes to Senate - 03/20/18

Bill targeting pharmacy benefit managers amended by House - 03/20/18

Eye bill receives final passage - 03/20/18

Line-of-duty death benefits bill goes to Senate - 03/19/18

Senate approves personal finance education bill - 03/19/18

This Week at the State Capitol - 03/16/18

Mental health bill aimed at curbing school violence clears House - 03/16/18

Regulatory fee measure goes to Senate - 03/16/18

Gang violence legislation moves to Senate - 03/15/18

Bill would create annual “Day of Prayer” for Kentucky students - 03/15/18

Revenge porn bill passes in Senate committee - 03/15/18

Bill makes changes to rape and sodomy laws - 03/15/18

Net metering bill passes House, moves to Senate  - 03/15/18

Online eye-exam bill passes Senate - 03/15/18

Bill addresses the prosecution of child molesters - 03/15/18

Bill seeks to address felons carrying guns - 03/14/18

Senate bill promotes safe disposal of narcotics - 03/14/18

Child marriage bill proceeds to full House - 03/14/18

Bill addresses the prosecution of child molesters - 03/14/18

Body camera bill passes House, moves to Senate - 03/13/18

Attorney concealed-carry bill passes the House - 03/13/18

Home baking bill passes Senate committee - 03/13/18

Bicycle-safety bill coasts through Senate - 03/12/18

11-week abortion measure goes to Senate - 03/12/18

Insurance fraud bill moves to Senate - 03/12/18

This Week at the State Capitol - 03/08/18

Anti-child pornography measure goes to governor’s desk - 03/08/18

Bill to amp up pharmacists’ role in opioid fight goes to Senate - 03/08/18

Holocaust education bill passes House, goes to Senate - 03/07/18

Road plan, related bills pass House, sent to Senate  - 03/07/18

11-week abortion measure passes House panel - 03/07/18

Attorney concealed-carry bill given committee OK - 03/07/18

Senate Panel approves bicycle-safety bill - 03/07/18

Finalists for Vic Hellard Jr. Award announced - 03/07/18

Disabled parking placard bill goes to Senate - 03/06/18

House receives bill encouraging palliative care - 03/06/18

Fertility treatment coverage bill goes to House - 03/06/18

Benefit fraud bill clears House 63-32 - 03/06/18

Road plan, related bills OK’d by House budget committee - 03/06/18

Senate moves auto insurance legislation - 03/06/18

Senate moves bill aimed at pregnant inmates - 03/05/18

Judicial review bill clears House committee - 03/05/18

This Week at the State Capitol - 03/02/18

Pawnbroker bill given final passage in House, goes to governor  - 03/02/18

Military recruitment bill passes House, goes to Senate - 03/02/18

Infrastructure security measure clears state House, 80-1  - 03/02/18

Senate moves to keep liquor license quotas - 03/02/18

Senate bill targets pharmacy benefit managers - 03/02/18

Medical tort-reform bill moves to House - 03/02/18

$22.5 billion state spending plan passes House, moves to Senate - 03/01/18

Legislature eases sales cap at microbreweries - 03/01/18

The verdict: Senate committee OKs volunteer jurors - 03/01/18

Adoption and foster care reform bill passed by House - 02/28/18

Pharmacy clawback bills goes to full House - 02/28/18

Truck platooning: It could be coming to KY roads- 02/27/18

Senate grants final passage to peer review bill- 02/27/18

Bill to crack down on accessible parking abuses goes to House- 02/27/18

Bill targets craft brewery package beer sales - 02/27/18

The Senate passes telehealth care bill  - 02/26/18

Service animal standards bill goes to Senate - 02/26/18

This Week at the State Capitol - 02/23/18

Home baker bill approved by House today - 02/23/18

KY Senate votes to strengthen laws against sexual molestation - 02/23/18

Nominations being accepted for 2018 Vic Hellard Jr. Award  - 02/22/18

Adoption and foster care reform bill goes to full House - 02/22/18

Committee considers restricting sex offender use of social media  - 02/22/18

Sex trafficking prevention measure passes the Senate - 02/22/18

Workers’ comp reform bill moves to Senate - 02/21/18

Senators look to curb sales of pilfered items - 02/21/18

Terrorism bill approved by House panel - 02/21/18

Dyslexia intervention bills move to House floor - 02/20/18

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

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

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

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

Senate committee examines child marriage - 02/15/18

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

House OK’s hemp resolution - 02/14/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week in Frankfort - 01/12/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

July 19, 2018

 

Experts view youth violence as public health crisis

 

FRANKFORT – A legislative panel explored the issue of violence, mental health and guns among Kentucky’s youth during a recent gathering 

“This is a topic that we talk about amongst each other ... but it’s something we haven’t really talked about publicly yet,” Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, said during yesterday’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare and Family Services. “I think it deserves a forum.”

Dr. Brit Anderson, who practices pediatric emergency medicine in Louisville, testified that she realized discussions about firearm injuries can be a divisive topic, but firearm injuries among children is a public health problem. She said recognizing that can allow society to change the conversation and its approach to these injuries.

“Many people read about children killed or seriously injured in the newspaper,” Anderson said, “but before that story is written, I meet that child. I’m sorry to be graphic but it is a reality. I know what it is like to lead a team to save a life. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we do not. I know how hard it is to watch a child bleed, cry, or worse yet, not respond at all 

“I have choked back tears trying to remain professional as I call a time of death and look down at a tiny body. And I know the horrible, chilling, heart-wrenching wail of a parent who has just lost a child. 

Anderson was among a group of doctors and health professionals who testified. She said the group included gun owners, non-gun owners, Republicans and Democrats brought together because they all treat children impacted by firearm injuries.

Dr. Cynthia Downard, a pediatric surgeon in Louisville, said suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people 10 to 24 years of age in the United States. But in Kentucky, it is the second leading cause of injury-related deaths in this age group. And 58 percent of those deaths are suicides.

“I think this is, again, a significant public health problem we need to pay attention to,” Downard said. “As Dr. Anderson said, the sound of a mother losing her child is something you never forget and I would never want to hear again.”

Dr. Christopher Peters, an adolescent psychiatrist in Louisville, said policymakers need to think of suicide as a preventable death. He said the most common way someone takes their own life is by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“The CDC recently reported a 30 percent increase in the rate of suicide for this country since 1999,” Peters said. “Kentucky has its own increase within that average of 30 percent. 

He said teenagers who live in homes with a loaded, unlocked gun are at four times greater risk of killing themselves than if it was unloaded and locked away.

Adams said the group’s presentation was not a referendum on gun ownership or non-gun ownership. She said it just reflected the violence occurring across the nation.

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, asked what could be done. 

Peters said increasing access to health care, improving identification of children who need mental health treatment and limiting children’s access to guns would make a difference.

“It is as simple as locking it up,” he said. “Keep guns locked and safe.”

Co-chair Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, asked whether mental-health professionals had identified the contributing factors to the increase of anxiety and mental-health issues among the nation’s youth.

“It is a difficult question to answer,” Peters said. “People spend their lives really studying this issue of suicidology.”

Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, thanked the group for their presentation.

“This is a critical conversation we need to have,” she said. “It is in the news quite a bit. We need to look at this as a big-picture problem.”

She added that there seems to be a lack of coping skills among the nation’s youth.

-- END --

 

July 6, 2018

  

New state laws go into effect July 14

FRANKFORT – Most new laws approved during the Kentucky General Assembly's 2018 session will go into effect on Saturday, July 14.

That means drivers will soon be required to leave at least three feet of space between their vehicles and cyclists they pass. Children under the age of 17 will not be allowed to get married. And penalties will get tougher for those who post sexually explicit images online without the consent of the person depicted. 

The Kentucky Constitution specifies that new laws take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the legislature unless they have a special effective date, are general appropriations measures, or include an emergency clause that makes them effective immediately upon becoming law. Final adjournment of the 2018 Regular Session was on April 14, making July 14 the effective date for most bills.

Laws taking effect that day include measures on the following topics:

Abstinence Education. Senate Bill 71 will require the inclusion of abstinence education in any human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases curriculum in Kentucky high schools.

Bicycle safety. House Bill 33 will require drivers to keep their vehicles at least three feet away from bicyclists during an attempt to pass. If that much space isn’t available, drivers must use reasonable caution when passing cyclists.

Breweries. House Bill 136 will increase what breweries can sell onsite to three cases and two kegs per customer. The new law will also allow breweries to sell one case per customer at fairs and festivals in wet jurisdictions.

Dyslexia. House Bill 187 will require the state Department of Education to make a “dyslexia toolkit” available to school districts to help them identify and instruct students who display characteristics of dyslexia.

Financial literacy. House Bill 132 will require Kentucky high school students to pass a financial literacy course before graduating.

Foster Care and Adoption. House Bill 1 will take steps to reform the state’s foster care and adoption system to ensure that a child’s time in foster care is limited and that children are returned to family whenever possible. It will expand the definition of blood relative for child placement and ensure that children in foster care are reunified with family or placed in another permanent home in a timely manner.

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

Police cameras. House Bill 373 will exempt some police body camera footage from being publicly released. It will exempt the footage from certain situations being released if it shows the interior of private homes, medical facilities, women’s shelters and jails or shows a dead body, evidence of sexual assault, nude bodies and children.

Prescription medicines. Senate Bill 6 will require pharmacists to provide information about safely disposing of certain prescription medicines, such as opiates and amphetamines.

Price gouging. Senate Bill 160 will clarify laws that prevent price gouging during emergencies. The bill specifies that fines could be imposed if retailers abruptly increase the price of goods more than 10 percent when the governor declares a state of emergency.

Revenge porn. House Bill 71 will increase penalties for posting sexually explicit images online without the consent of the person depicted. The crime would be a misdemeanor for the first offense and felony for subsequent offenses. Penalties would be even more severe if the images were posted for profit.

Teen marriage. Senate Bill 48 will prohibit anyone under the age of 17 from marrying. It will also require a district judge to approve the marriage of any 17-year-old.

Terrorism. Senate Bill 57 will allow a person injured by an act of terrorism to file a claim for damages against the terrorist in state court. 

--END--

 

June 7, 2018

 

 

PSC reviews state of Kentucky’s electric power plants

 

FRANKFORT—Coal is still the primary fuel source for electricity generation in Kentucky, but the demand for coal-fired power is waning.

 

That was the word from Kentucky Public Service Commissioner Talina Mathews, who told the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Energy today that coal generated 83 percent of Kentucky’s electricity in 2016, but preliminary data shows that percentage declined below 80 percent in 2017. 

 

“I think that’s interesting – and the gap is mostly made up from natural gas,” said Mathews.

 

She directed lawmakers to charts illustrating changes in electricity consumption, especially in the industrial sector where Mathews said demand for electricity fell from over 50 percent in recent years to 37 percent in 2016. She attributed most of that drop to the closure of the Paducah gaseous diffusion plant, a federal facility that produced enriched uranium until 2013.   

 

But electricity consumption in Kentucky has been decreasing for much longer than 2013, Mathews said, with consumption steadily decreasing since 2008. “We’re using less – there’s less electricity generated for all sectors in Kentucky,” she said.

 

Also affecting coal-fired electricity generation in Kentucky are the retirements, or closure, of 12 coal plants between 2013 and 2017. Two other PSC-regulated coal-fired plants operated by LG&E and KU are planned for retirement next year, said Mathews.

 

The reasons for the closures are many, she said: low natural gas prices, the advanced age of the plants (each with an average age of 54 years), efficiency, federal regulatory rules governing mercury and air toxics standards, or MATS, and declining demand, among other factors.

 

As far decreased consumption, Committee Co-Chair Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, wondered if conservation could also be at play. Mathews said yes, to some degree.

 

“I think some of it is. I think you buy a (new) refrigerator, it’s going to use less electricity … with the standards on appliances. I think it’s mostly industrial load, though,” said Mathews.  “(And) yes, if you looked at the average household use of electricity, you’re going to see it’s declining.” 

 

While most of the plants being retired are coal-fired, not all are.  LG&E and KU retired their Haefling #3 plant in 2013 after 43 years in operation – although retirement of natural gas plants is not the norm in Kentucky, per Mathews’ testimony. And that’s not just a question of fuel price according to testimony from Mathews, who said the price of coal is steady.

 

“I think the cost of extraction has led prices to go up, but it’s not significant,” she said. Natural gas prices, while “volatile” before 2008, have remained low for years, she said, and are expected to stay low for at least another 10 years.

 

The cost of electricity has gone up, however, said Mathews, for a variety of reasons including environmental costs, declining load and cost related to early closure of power plants. 

 

--END--

 

June 6, 2018

 

Two new bridges could widen funding gap

FRANKFORT – Two proposed Ohio River bridges have highlighted Kentucky’s need to generate more money to pay for transportation projects, the state transportation secretary told a panel of legislators yesterday.

“My primary reason for being here is to convey the need for increased funding,” Secretary Greg Thomas said while testifying before a meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Transpiration. “It’s a pretty dire outlook.”

He said he came to that conclusion as he explored how Kentucky could afford to build two proposed interstate bridges – in the next six years. One proposed bridge would create an Interstate 69 Ohio River crossing between Evansville and Henderson. The second bridge would replace an aging Brent Spence Bridge that carries Interstate 71/75 traffic between Covington and Cincinnati.

“As we learn more and more, it is becoming more and more obvious that those two bridges are going to present (financial) challenges for us,” Thomas said.

He estimated Kentucky’s share of the proposed $1.1 billion I-69 bridge to be at least $455 million. Thomas said he estimated the state’s share of the proposed $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge replacement to be at least $385 million. That would mean Kentucky would have $140 million a year to spend on $10.5 billion worth of proposed transportation projects, he said.

“That is kind of the message I’m here to deliver,” Thomas said. “I think it is very important that we together keep our focus on the need for increased funding as we move forward.”

Committee Co-chair Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, said he appreciated Thomas “telling it as it is.”

Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, said Thomas was “absolutely right” and that he too appreciated the secretary’s candor.

“We need to look at some way to not just stabilize the revenue for the road fund but also increase revenue for the road fund because we have a lot of ... roads that need to be maintained and upgraded,” Hornback said. “We have a lot of growth in Kentucky and we got to take care of that because, without infrastructure, we won’t have the investments in manufacturing and other things we need here in Kentucky.”

Rep. Sal. Santoro, R-Florence, asked about the impact of electric cars and hybrid cars on the amount of gas taxes collected by the state.

Thomas said he thinks it’s negligible because the 563 electric vehicles about 31,500 hybrids registered in Kentucky make up less than 1 percent of all vehicles licensed in the state. He estimated the number of electric and hybrid vehicles would only reach 3 percent in 10 years. 

“I think the most pressing problem is the efficiency gains out there,” Thomas said in reference to more fuel-efficient vehicles. He said the reduction in revenue gains is tied to continued efficiency gains. 

-- END --

 

June 5, 2018

 

Pension update shows some improvement

FRANKFORT—Assets in the Kentucky Retirement Systems have increased by $905 million so far this fiscal year with investment gains topping $1 billion year to date, officials told the state’s pension oversight board yesterday.

KRS Executive Director David Eager told the Public Pension Oversight Board that the $905 million increase in assets is like “water in the bathtub,” with more flowing in than flowing out. “It went up $900 million, said Eager.

Investment gains, while below last year’s total of nearly $2 billion, should allow KRS to finish the fiscal year with over $1 billion in new income, Eager said. “We’ve got three months more to tack on here … Hopefully we’ll be up a little more than $1.1 billion by the end of the year.” 

Also showing promise are investment returns for KRS so far in fiscal year 2018, with returns for pension and insurance investments up 7.72 percent and 8.02 percent respectively. Eager said those are “attractive returns” which are better than returns in 2016 and slightly below last year’s returns.

Less encouraging to some lawmakers is the cash flow situation at KRS, which has a negative cash flow of -$197 million. Also experiencing a negative cash flow is the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) which KTRS Deputy Executive Director Beau Barnes says has a negative cash flow of -$258 million so far this fiscal year.

Both Barnes and Eager explained the negative cash flow as a matter of having not enough cash on hand to meet demand for benefits. One consideration, said Eager, is an imbalance in the number of retirees versus active employees.

“We are in a situation with the KRS non-hazardous plan where we have 5,000 more retirees than we have active people. Pretty hard to have positive cash flow when you’re paying out that level of benefits to that many people,” he said. “It’s a problem – it’s not as big a problem as you might feel.”

Barnes stressed that his system’s negative cash flow is not as threatening as it might sound, adding that KTRS had a negative cash flow of $650 million two years ago.

“This is a very manageable negative cash flow for us,” said Barnes. “We are not, for example, having to avoid certain investments, longer term investments, that we were avoiding when we had the $650 million and growing negative cash flow.”

Board Co-Chair Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, said negative cash flows are not something that the state retirement systems should take in stride.

“I want to caution this committee and those here today that we shouldn’t get comfortable with negative cash flow figures even from any type of historical perspective where we did worse,” said Bowen. “We’ve got to move beyond that at some point.”

Another issue facing the state pension systems is a spike in retirements. Eager said KRS retirements are up 1,100 in 2018 compared to 2017, he said, with another spike expected this August. “That’s a real strain on us. Again, we’ll get it done,” Eager told the board.

A brief presentation was also received on the Judicial Form Retirement System, which includes the Judicial Retirement Plan and Legislators Retirement Plan. Judicial Form Retirement System Executive Director Donna Early said some third-quarter results were “lackluster.” 

--END--

 

June 1, 2018

 

Felony expungement reviewed by state legislative panel

FRANKFORT—Committee testimony on a 2018 bill that proposed adding to the list of low-level felonies that could be expunged in Kentucky led to comments today about the cost of felony expungement in the state.

Individuals who are certified to have their non-violent felony record expunged—or deleted from court records—in Kentucky must pay a $500 filing fee to apply to have the record deleted. The same $500 fee was proposed in 2018 Senate Bill 171, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon. That legislation, which did not become law this year but may be proposed again, would make additional low-level felonies eligible for expungement.

It is the felony expungement cost, however, that some members of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary expressed concern with during testimony today on both SB 171 and its predecessor 2016 House Bill 40, which was passed into law two years ago.

Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, said a Louisville-area program called the Reily Reentry Project is paying expungement costs for those wanting to clear their criminal record and improve their quality of life. She said the $500 fee is “a real barrier” for many folks.

“I really would like for you to reconsider the amount of the filing fee that we’re charging because I think it is holding people back,” she told Higdon as he presented SB 171 before the committee for discussion.

In response, Higdon said there was some discussion during debate on HB 40 in the 2016 Regular Session about making it easier to pay the filing fee.

“I’m sure that would be something that we could do because it’s probably a good idea, if you owe the court, to pay them,” said Higdon. “They have ways to collect.”

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, said those who have charges dismissed should not have to ask or pay to have their record cleared. 

“If the (charge) is dismissed, that should be off my record immediately. I shouldn’t have to pay a dollar for that and I shouldn’t have to ask for it to be done,” said Nemes. He spoke specifically of misdemeanors, but said felonies may deserve some leeway as well.  

“We need to start from the proposition that some of these Class Ds (low-level felonies) shouldn’t be felonies in the first place,” he said, adding that SB 171 “doesn’t go far enough.”

Higdon told Nemes that one solution could be to give more discretion to the judges and prosecutors and “let them decide.”

Current law requires that $50 of every $500 filing fee collected be put into a trust for deputy court clerks. Under SB 171, $50 of that $500 would also go to the Kentucky State Police for processing of expungements, and $100 would go to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office that prosecuted the case to help process expungements.

Felony expungements in Kentucky have increased exponentially since the passage of 2016 HB 40, according to officials from the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC.) Kelly Stephens who manages the AOC’s Information and Technology Services (ITS) Court Services Division told the committee that there were 83 felony expungements granted in Kentucky in 2016. That number grew to 912 in 2017, followed by 330 felony expungements to date in 2018, she said. 

“In 2016 – (HB 40) was passed and effective July 15 – the process itself can take up to six months, so we didn’t see as many in 2016,” she said. “In 2017, I think we saw the numbers kind of shake out how we expected.”

Expungements for acquittals, dismissed charges and misdemeanor convictions have also been numerous since 2016, said Stephens, with more than 15,000 of those expungements granted since 2016.

--END--

 

May 2, 2018

 

Kentucky’s tobacco settlement money is in – with more coming

FRANKFORT—Kentucky’s latest share of a multi-billion-dollar national tobacco settlement agreement is $102 million with more money on the way, says the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy.

GOAP Executive Director Warren Beeler told the General Assembly’s Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee today that the $102 million, received last month, will provide around $28.4 million in 2018 for state and county agricultural projects funded through the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund, or KADF. And more funds are expected, thanks to a reformulation of settlement funds by the tobacco companies making the payments.

The reformulation—based on actions taken by the companies to ensure compliance with the two-decades old settlement agreement entered into between 46 states, including Kentucky, and the nation’s largest cigarette manufacturers—will boost the $28.4 million to around $40 million over the biennium, said Beeler. For counties, that means a 40 percent increase in available funds.

“So you can tell your counties, the county money’s going up 40 percent,” he told lawmakers on the committee. 

The recently-passed state budget will divert around $13 million in 2019-2020 for agricultural improvements to the state fairgrounds in Louisville, leaving less money for other projects and programs. While budgeting funds for state fairground improvements means less money for other agricultural projects and programs funded with tobacco settlement dollars, Beeler said he considers the improvements “an investment in agriculture.”

The budget provision will have little impact otherwise, Beeler said. Even with $7 million gone in 2019, he said tobacco dollars for state projects funded through the KADF will be within $100,000 of this year’s total.

“So we came through it as good as anybody,” said Beeler.

Overall, Beeler said Kentucky has grown its farm gate cash receipts – or sales from Kentucky agricultural operations – by around $2 billion, year after year, with $560 million in tobacco settlement money it has spent on agriculture to date.

“That money’s worked like a dream. If you could go with me, you’d see what I see. It’s been absolutely terrific,” he said.

--END--

 April 14, 2018

 

Kentucky General Assembly’s 2018 session ends

FRANKFORT -- The Kentucky General Assembly’s 2018 regular session ended this evening, capping off a session in which lawmakers approved the state’s next two-year budget and numerous other measures that will affect people throughout the state.

Most new laws – those that come from legislation that don’t contain emergency clauses or different specified effective dates – will go into effect in mid-July.

A partial list of bills approved this year by the General Assembly include measures on the following topics:

Abortion. House Bill 454 will prohibit a certain type of abortion procedure, known as a D & E, if a woman is more than 11 weeks pregnant. The legislation does not ban other types of abortion procedures. (Enforcement of this new law has been temporarily halted by a federal judge until motions challenging the measure are heard in June.)

Abstinence Education. Senate Bill 71 will require the inclusion of abstinence education in any human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases curriculum in Kentucky high schools.

Bicycle safety. House Bill 33 will require drivers to keep vehicles at least three feet away from bicyclists during an attempt to pass. If that much space isn’t available, the driver must use “reasonable caution” when passing cyclists. 

Breweries. House Bill 136 will increase what breweries can sell onsite to three cases and two kegs per customer. Another provision will allow breweries to sell one case per customer at fairs and festivals in wet jurisdictions. 

Budget. House Bill 200 will guide state spending for the next two fiscal years. The plan fully funds the state’s main public pension systems at the levels recommended by actuarial analysis. It calls for 6.25 percent baseline cuts for most state agencies, although some agencies are spared. Agencies that will avoid cuts include the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Kentucky State Police, and local school-based Kentucky Family Resource and Youth Services Centers. The budget plan will boost base per-pupil funding for K-12 education to a record level of $4,000 per student in each fiscal year.  It also includes more than $60 million in new revenue to help implement proposed adoption and foster care reforms and tens of millions of dollars to hire more social workers.

Dyslexia. House Bill 187 will require the state Department of Education to make a “dyslexia toolkit” available to school districts to help them identify and instruct students who display characteristics of dyslexia.

Financial literacy. House Bill 132 will require Kentucky high school students to pass a financial literacy course before graduating.  

Foster Care and Adoption. House Bill 1 intends to reform the state’s foster care and adoption system to ensure that a child’s time in foster care is limited and that children are returned to family whenever possible. It would expand the definition of blood relative for child placement and ensure that children in foster care are reunified with family or placed in another permanent home in a timely manner.

Gangs. House Bill 169 will establish penalties for criminal gang-related crimes, especially those involving gang recruitment. The legislation will make gang recruitment a felony instead of misdemeanor for adults and make minors involved in such activity face felony charges in certain cases.

Jail security. House Bill 92 will allow jail canteen profits to be used for the enhancement of jail safety and security.

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

Pharmacies. Senate Bill 5 is aimed at ensuring that independent pharmacists are fairly reimbursed for filling prescriptions of Medicaid recipients. This measure will place the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services in charge of setting the reimbursement rates for a pharmacist. The rate is currently set by pharmacy-benefit managers hired by the state’s Medicaid managed-care organizations.

Police cameras. House Bill 373 will exempt some police body camera footage from being publicly released. It will exempt the footage from certain situations being released if it shows the interior of private homes, medical facilities, women’s shelters and jails or shows a dead body, evidence of sexual assault, nude bodies and children.

Prescription medicines. Senate Bill 6 will require a pharmacist to provide information about the safe disposal of certain prescription medicines, such as opiates and amphetamines. 

Price gouging. Senate Bill 160 will clarify laws aimed at preventing price gouging during emergencies. The bill specifies that fines could be imposed if a retailer suddenly increases the price of goods more than 10 percent when the governor declares a state of emergency.

Public pensions. Senate Bill 151 will make changes aimed at stabilizing public pension systems that face more than $40 billion in unfunded liabilities. Changes proposed by the pension reform legislation include placing future teachers in a hybrid “cash balance” plan rather than a traditional benefits plan and limiting the impact of accrued sick leave on retirement benefit calculations.

Revenge porn. House Bill 71 will increase penalties for posting sexually explicit images online without the consent of the person depicted. The crime would be misdemeanor for the first offence and felony for subsequent offences. Penalties would be even more severe if the images were posted for profit.

Road Plan. House Bill 202 will authorize over $2.4 billion for bridges, repaving and other highway needs throughout Kentucky over the next two fiscal years.  

Tax reform. Tax reform provisions included in House Bill 366 will generate about $400 million in additional revenue over the next two years. The plan include a cigarette tax increase of 50 cents per pack and an expansion of the state sales tax to some services, such as landscaping, janitorial, laundry and small-animal veterinary services. It will also create a flat 5 percent tax for personal and corporate income taxes in Kentucky. The inventory tax would also be phased out over a four-year period. Under the plan, the only itemized deductions allowed would be for Social Security income, mortgage income and charitable giving. It would also disallow the deductions for such things as medical costs, taxes paid, interest expense on investments, and casualty and theft losses. It would also remove the $10 state personal income tax credit.

Teen marriage. Senate Bill 48 will prohibit anyone under the age of 17 from getting married. It would also require a district judge to approve the marriage of any 17-year-old. While current law states 16- and 17-year-olds can be married with parental consent, a district judge can approve the marriage of a child below the age of 16 if the girl is pregnant.

Terrorism. Senate Bill 57 will allow a person injured by an act of terrorism to file a claim for damages against the terrorist in state court.  

--END--

  

April 14, 2018

  

This Week at the State Capitol

FRANKFORT -- State lawmakers put the finishing touches on the General Assembly’s 2018 session this week by overriding gubernatorial vetoes, most notably on the state budget and tax reform legislation, and passing bills right up to the session’s final hours.

By overriding vetoes this week, lawmakers ensured that their preferred versions of the budget and tax measures become law.

The tax reform measure, House Bill 366, will increase state revenues which, in turn, allowed lawmakers to craft a state budget that avoids some, but not all, of the budget cuts that were contained in the governor’s original budget proposal. 

Highlights of the tax plan – which is expected to generate nearly a half of billion dollars in additional revenue for the state over the next two fiscal years – include a cigarette tax increase of 50 cents per pack and an expansion of the state sales tax to some services, such as landscaping services, janitorial services, veterinarian services for small animals, fitness and recreational sports centers, commercial laundries, golf courses and country clubs, dry cleaning, pet grooming, weight loss centers and campgrounds.

The tax reform plan will allow the vast majority of working Kentuckians to see their income taxes go down. Most working Kentuckians currently have at least 5.8 percent of their pay go toward income taxes. But, starting this summer, that rate will go down to a flat 5 percent for everyone.

The corporate income tax rate will also go to a flat 5 percent.

Proponents of the tax plan say that it does what many say good tax policy should strive to do: broaden the tax base while lowering rates. They also note that the plan moves the state toward a consumption-based tax system. Critics of the plan say the tax changes disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Kentuckians.

As a result of the tax plan, budget cuts are less severe than some expected. The spending plan includes 6.25 percent baseline cuts for most state agencies, although some agencies are spared. Agencies that will avoid cuts include the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Kentucky State Police, and local school-based Kentucky Family Resource and Youth Services Centers.

The budget fully funds the state’s main public pension systems at the levels recommended by actuarial analysis. 

It also boosts base per-pupil funding for K-12 education to a record level of $4,000 per student in each fiscal year. It would also increase school transportation funding to $127.8 million in each year of the budget cycle.

The budget plan includes more than $60 million in new revenue to help implement newly approved adoption and foster care reforms, including more than $23 million for placement of foster children with relatives, and tens of millions of dollars to hire more social workers and increase social worker salaries.

In a separate action this week, lawmakers also overrode a gubernatorial veto to House Bill 362, a pension “phase in” bill for local governments. The legislation will allow city and county government to phase in increased contributions to their pension systems while allowing local governments to receive financing at zero percent interest when leaving the system.

Also this week, lawmakers sent a bill to the governor’s office aimed at reducing criminal gang activity. House Bill 169 will make gang recruitment a felony instead of misdemeanor for adults and make minors involved in such activity face felony charges in certain cases.

Although the legislative session has now ended, constituents are still encouraged to contact their Representatives and Senators to voice their opinions about issues of interest. If you’d like to share your thoughts and ideas with state lawmakers, please call the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at (800) 372-7181, or find contact information for individual legislators at www.lrc.ky.gov. 

--END--

 

April 13, 2018

 

General Assembly overrides budget veto

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky House and Senate today overrode the governor’s vetoes of the state’s two-year, $22 billion budget and accompanying revenue measure.

The veto of the budget bill, known as House Bill 200, was overridden in the Senate 25-12 and in the House 66-28. The budget includes 6.25 percent baseline cuts for most state agencies, although some agencies are spared.

“House Bill 200 ensures we fully fund the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, that we fully fund the Kentucky State Police, that we ensure the request for new cruisers and rifles for the Kentucky State Police is fully funded,” said Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chairman Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill. “House Bill 200 makes sure the Commonwealth will not open and does not allocate money for private prisons.”

McDaniel said HB 200 would boost base per-pupil funding for K-12 education to a record level of $4,000 per student in each fiscal year while providing money for school buses. HB 200 also includes more than $60 million in new revenue to help implement proposed adoption and foster care reforms, he said, adding additional money for social workers and prosecutors is also included.

“It makes sure we fully fund the request of the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System for a full pension contribution,” McDaniel said. “I could go on and on, but we’ve all had nearly two weeks to go through House Bill 200 to know what it is about.”

A senator who didn’t vote to override the veto of HB 200 was Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville.

“This budget does do some good things,” he said. “We have to admit that. That is what makes this at times a tough vote, but there is nothing in this budget that is a gift. It still plays a magic act where we ask you to look over here at the good things and not address the fact that we are very much still picking winners and losers.”

During the House debate on HB 200, State Government Chair Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, said he supported the override because the budget finally addressed the underfunded pensions. He said prior budgets contained money for local projects without properly funding the initiatives.  

“Unfortunately we have at least $43 billion underfunded (our pension systems),” said Miller. “We had to take action because since 1943, candy has been given without being fully paid for. And that’s why I’m going to vote to override the veto.”

One of the representatives who voted to uphold the governor’s veto was Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, who said the General Assembly had a chance to do better. 

“We need to take this budget, and defeat it –support the veto—and then together … work on a common vision, shared high values, reaching out for the very best of who we are and what our people are,” he said.

The veto of the accompanying revenue measure, known as House Bill 366, was overridden in the Senate 20-18 and in the House 57-40. 

HB 366 creates a flat 5 percent rate for personal and corporate income taxes, expands the sales tax to some services such as car repairs and raises the cigarette tax 50 cents to $1.10 per pack. The only itemized deductions allowed under HB 366 will be for Social Security income, mortgage income and charitable giving. And the inventory tax will also be phased out over a four-year period. 

In the Senate, Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said HB 366 will generate nearly a half of billion dollars in additional money for the state over the next two fiscal years. 

“What this bill does is what Republicans have talked about for many years on tax reform,” he said. “It lowers the rates and increases the base – moving away from taxes on production and moving to taxes on consumption.” 

Thayer said that has been part of a winning formula for Florida, Texas, Indiana and Tennessee. He said HB 366 would move Kentucky from 33rd in business competitiveness to 18th.

“When we become more competitive, we create more jobs,” Thayer said. “We then create more taxpayers with more money going into the coffers to pay for things like education.”

Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, spoke against the veto override.

“What this tax bill really does is raise $436 million in taxes from the people who can least afford to pay more,” he said.

During House debate of HB 366, Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, also spoke against the veto override.

“This bill is not tax reform. This bill is a tax shift. And it’s a tax shift from the wealthy and the corporations to those least able to pay,” he said.

Among the Representatives who voted to override the veto of HB 366 was Jason Nemes, R-Louisville.

“This is an education bill. That’s why our teachers demand an override. That’s why our public employees demand an override,” he said.

Later in his speech, he said, “Are you with public educators or are you not?”

The General Assembly also overrode a veto of House Bill 362, a measure designed to give some county governments, municipalities and school districts relief from soaring pension costs this year. The House voted 94-2 to override while the Senate voted 34-4.

The measure, sometimes referred to as a “rate-collar,” will provide the pension relief government entities desperately needed in order to phase in, over a maximum of 10 years, the full increase in rates passed by the Kentucky Retirement System board last December.

-- END –

 

April 13, 2018

  

Gang violence legislation goes to governor

FRANKFORT—The Kentucky General Assembly has passed legislation that would increase penalties for criminal gang-related crimes, especially those involving gang recruitment.

House Bill 169, sponsored by Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, received final passage today in the House on a vote of 59-30 after passing the Senate 21-17. The bill now goes to the governor to be signed into law.  

The legislation—which would make gang recruitment a felony instead of misdemeanor for adults, and allow minors involved in such activity to face felony charges in certain cases—was amended to lessen penalties for most juvenile offenders, even if they are being treated as an adult by the courts.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, presented House Bill 169 in the Senate. Westerfield said bill as amended would only apply enhanced felony charges to youths who had prior records for certain offenses or had been charged with a serious offense, such as murder.  

Benvenuti said HB 169’s passage has been in the making for at least two years, with similar legislation passing the House in 2017 by a wide margin.

Among those opposing the bill in the House was Rep. George Brown Jr. The Lexington Democrat said the legislation will increase, not prevent, gang violence. He also said it will disproportionately affect people of color.

“This legislation is a poster child for gang recruitment and will only enhance (gang) numbers in our communities, and in jails and prisons,” said Brown.

Benvenuti called the need for the legislation a “reality” with at least 30 criminal gangs actively recruiting inside Kentucky. “The vast majority of states, all but a handful, have statutes at least as strict as HB 169,” he said.  

--END--

 

April 6, 2018

 

This Week at the State Capitol

FRANKFORT -- This week, lawmakers fulfilled a main duty the state constitution requires of them as final approval was given to a state budget that will guide more than $22 billion worth of spending over the next two years.

The budget plan does not include all of the program cuts that received much attention when they were unveiled in the governor’s original budget plan. Rather, lawmakers approved a tax measure on the same day they approved the budget that raises revenue to stave off many of the proposed cuts.

In passing the budget plan, lawmakers emphasized that it fully funds the state’s main public pension systems at the levels recommended by actuarial analysis.

The budget includes 6.25 percent baseline cuts for most state agencies, although some agencies are spared. Agencies that will avoid cuts include the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Kentucky State Police, and local school-based Kentucky Family Resource and Youth Services Centers.

For K-12 education, the budget plan, known as House Bill200, would boost base per-pupil funding for K-12 education to a record level of $4,000 per student in each fiscal year. It would also increase school transportation funding to $127.8 million in each year of the budget cycle. It would also provide more than $10 million next fiscal year to help 31 school districts replace lost revenues following a drop in the assessment on unmined coal, among other provisions. 

HB 200 also includes more than $60 million in new revenue to help implement proposed adoption and foster care reforms, including more than $23 million for placement of foster children with relatives, and tens of millions of dollars to hire more social workers and increase social worker salaries.

Additional funds for spending on social workers and prosecutors is also included in the budget, with provisions that would add $10 million to hire 94 additional Youth Workers for the Department of Juvenile Justice and around $6 million to hire more prosecutors.

The budget bill passed the House by a 59-36 vote and was approved by the Senate on a 25-13 vote.

Increased revenue that the budget depends on for some of its spending will be generated by the provisions found in House Bill 366, a tax reform measure that has been approved and sent to the governor. The measure, which includes a 50 cent tax increase on packs of cigarettes, would generate nearly a half of billion dollars in additional money for the state over the next two fiscal years.

Besides the cigarette tax, the plan would create a flat rate for personal and corporate income taxes in Kentucky while expanding the sales tax to certain services.

The personal income tax rate would be set at a flat five percent instead of the current brackets ranging from two percent to six percent, while the corporate income tax would also go to a flat rate of five percent instead of the current brackets ranging from four percent to six percent. The inventory tax would also be phased out over a four-year period.

The only itemized deductions allowed under HB 366 would be for Social Security income, mortgage income and charitable giving. It would disallow the deductions for such things as medical costs, taxes paid, interest expense on investments, and casualty and theft losses. It would also remove the $10 state personal income tax credit. 

Another provision would lower the pension income exclusion to $31,110 from $41,110.

The plan would also place a sales tax on some services associated with certain repairs, installation and maintenance related to personal property, such as a car. The sales tax would also be expanded to other selected services including landscaping services, janitorial services, veterinarian services for small animals, fitness and recreational sports centers, commercial laundries, golf courses and country clubs, dry cleaning, pet grooming, weight loss centers and campgrounds.

The tax measure was approved by the Senate on a 20-18 vote and by the House on a 51-44 vote.

While much attention was on the budget and tax reform measures approved this week, lawmakers also approved a number of other bills, including legislation on the following topics:

Road Plan. House Bill 202 will guide over $2.4 billion in spending for Kentucky’s bridges, repaving projects and other road needs throughout Kentucky over the next two fiscal years. The bill has been approved and delivered to the governor. Lawmakers have also approved House Joint Resolution 74, which identifies projects for in the last four years of the state’s six-year Road Plan. Projects in this plan are prioritized but not yet funded.

Adoption and foster care. House Bill 1 would reform Kentucky’s adoption and foster care system with the goal of ensuring that a child’s time in foster care is limited and that children are returned to family whenever possible. The legislation would also expand the definition of blood relative for child placement and ensure that children in foster care are reunified with family or placed in another permanent home in a timely manner. It would also require more case reviews for each child in foster care, create a “putative father registry” so that a child’s possible (but not verified) biological father can be notified of the child’s prospective adoption, and allow the state to seek termination of parental rights for new mothers who won’t seek drug treatment after giving birth to a drug-addicted baby.  

Abstinence education. Senate Bill 71 would require the abstinence education be included when schools offer any human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases curriculum. 

Alcohol. House Bill 400 would allow direct shipment of alcoholic beverages to people’s homes. The legislation would allow visitors at bourbon distilleries to ship limited amounts of spirits home as well as join bourbon of the month clubs. HB 400 would also permit vineyards to ship specific amounts of wine out of state. Another provision would allow liquor stores to ship a limited amount of spirits purchased from their shops. In addition, it would also require the shippers of the spirits to verify the delivery is made to someone at least 21 years old living in a “wet” area.

Lawmakers have now returned to their homes districts for a ten-day “veto recess.” This is the period of time in which lawmakers wait until the end of the time period in which the governor can cast vetoes on legislation that has recently passed. This waiting period ensures that lawmakers have a chance to consider overriding any vetoes before officially adjourning the 2018 session. The session’s final days are scheduled to be held on April 13 and 14.

If you’d like to share your thoughts with lawmakers about any of the measures that have been approved this year, you can do so by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

--END--

April 3, 2018

 

Foster care and adoption reform bill goes to governor 

FRANKFORT—A bipartisan legislative initiative to reform Kentucky’s adoption and foster care system has been delivered to the governor to be signed into law.

House Bill 1, sponsored by House Majority Caucus Chair David Meade, R-Stanford, and Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, reforms the state’s foster care and adoption system to ensure that a child’s time in foster care is limited and that children are returned to family whenever possible. The legislation is based on recommendations of the state House Working Group on Adoption, which met most of last year.  

Meade, who is the father of both an adopted child and a biological child, explained the need for HB 1 when the bill first came to the House floor for a vote in February.

“We owe it to all these children, the parents, and the families across the state to start reforming a system in desperate need,” Meade told his colleagues. “This is an opportunity to do something truly remarkable for the children and the families of this state and start changing lives for some of the most vulnerable.”

More than 8,600 Kentucky children are now in foster care and awaiting permanent homes, according to committee testimony this session.

HB 1 includes major provisions that would expand the definition of blood relative for child placement and ensure that children in foster care are reunified with family or placed in another permanent home in a timely manner. The legislation would also require more case reviews for each child in foster care, create a “putative father registry” so that a child’s possible (but not verified) biological father can be notified of the child’s prospective adoption, and allow the state to seek termination of parental rights for new mothers who won’t seek drug treatment after giving birth to a drug-addicted baby.

Senate changes to HB 1 that made it into the final bill include provisions that would protect a mother from losing her parental rights if she was properly prescribed and using medication that could have caused her newborn’s addiction. The amended bill would also clarify that foster parents and child placement agencies be given a 10-day notice before a foster child is reunified with his or her birth parents or placed in a new home.

HB 1 received final passage yesterday on a vote of 90-1 in the House. It had passed the Senate unanimously earlier in the day.  

--END--

 

April 2, 2018

  

Road Plan receives final passage, goes to governor

FRANKFORT—A two-year state Road Plan that would authorize over $2.4 billion for bridges, repaving and other highway needs throughout Kentucky over the next two fiscal years is on its way to the governor’s desk after receiving passage in the Kentucky House.

House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation Chair Rep. Sal Santoro, R-Florence, said before a House vote on House Bill 202 last month that the measure would invest nearly $1 billion in bridge and road work while bolstering economic development.  

“This legislator knows our rural roads and our people in our rural communities need help, and we’re going to take care of them,” Santoro said.

Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, praised the legislation when it was amended and unanimously passed in the Senate on March 22.

“This is a road plan that is balanced,” McDaniel said. “We have seen a lot that are not in the past. It takes an exceptional amount of discipline to put forward a plan like that. And frankly, in many ways, an exceptional amount of courage.”

Also on its way to the governor is House Joint Resolution 74, which contains projects in the last four years, or “out years,” of the state’s six-year Road Plan. Projects in the out years of the plan are prioritized but not yet funded. HJR 74 was amended and passed unanimously by the Senate last month.

HB 202 and HJR 74 received final passage in the House today by votes of 76-14 and 75-15 respectively.

--END--

 

 April 2, 2018

 

Abstinence education bill goes to governor

FRANKFORT – A bill that would require the inclusion of abstinence education in any human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases curriculum received final passage today in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 71, as amended in the House, passed by a 36-1 vote.

Bill sponsor Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said the House amendment makes clear that the legislation is not an abstinence-only bill. Though the legislation would require abstinence education to be a part of any sexual education curriculum offered to students, the curriculum will “not be limited to abstinence and monogamy,” he said.

The provisions of SB 71 would be included in comprehensive sexual health education standards that are currently under review by the state education department if the measure becomes law.

-- END --

 

April 2, 2018

 

Pharmacy benefit manager bill goes to governor

FRANKFORT – The state Senate gave final passage today to a bill intended to ensure independent pharmacists are fairly reimbursed for filling prescriptions of Medicaid recipients.

Senate Bill 5, as amended by the House, would make the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services in charge of setting the reimbursement rates for a pharmacist. The rate is currently set by pharmacy-benefit managers (PBMs) hired by the state’s Medicaid managed-care organizations (MCOs).

“As many of you know, the Kentucky legislature has spent an inordinate amount of time over the past several sessions of the General Assembly trying to play the role of policeman between PBMs and pharmacists,” said Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who sponsored the legislation. “The (amendment) gives the Kentucky Medicaid department clear authority to police pricing terms and contracts while we are not in session.”

He said Kentucky Medicaid spends $1.7 billion annually on prescriptions and SB 5 would help authorities track that money and determine whether locally-owned pharmacies were being reimbursed fairly.

Another provision would allow the state Medicaid and insurance departments to issue penalties if a PBM fails to comply with the legislation.

“This bill ... truly is a very transparent bill,” Wise said, adding SB 5 may become a model for the nation.

Independent pharmacies in several states have claimed in recent months that PBMs owned by national pharmacy chains are not fairly reimbursing them. The dominate PBM in Kentucky, for example, is only paying independent pharmacists a professional dispensing fee of 85 cents per prescription, Wise said. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services states that fee should be around $10.64, plus the cost of the drug being dispensed.

The measure passed by a 37-0 vote.

-- END --

 

April 2, 2018

 

$22 billion state spending plan receives final passage

FRANKFORT— A $22 billion state spending plan that would restore some funding cuts proposed by the governor while ensuring that Kentucky fully funds its public pension systems has received final passage in the House after being approved by the Senate earlier today.

House Bill 200 was given final approval on a House vote of 59-36. The Senate approved the bill on a vote of 25-13.

Pension funding is where most of the new spending in HB 200 would go, with billions of dollars slated to fully fund Kentucky’s public employee and teacher retirement plans over the next two years. Additional dollars in the legislation include $59.5 million next fiscal year to cover health insurance for some retired teachers who are not yet Medicare eligible, among other provisions.

While the budget still includes 6.25 percent baseline cuts for most state agencies as recommended by the governor, a few agencies—including the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Kentucky State Police, and local school-based Kentucky Family Resource and Youth Services Centers, or FRYSCs—will have their funding restored. The FRYSCs alone will receive an additional $4.1 million in state dollars this fiscal year and $9.7 million in each of the next two fiscal years to restore their proposed cuts.

For K-12 education, HB 200 would boost base per-pupil funding for K-12 education, or SEEK, to a record level of $4,000 per student in each fiscal year. It would also increase school transportation funding to $127.8 million in each year of the budget cycle to help meet the pupil transportation needs of Kentucky’s school districts. And it would add over $10 million next fiscal year to help 31 school districts replace lost revenues following a drop in the assessment on unmined coal, among other provisions.  

For postsecondary education, HB 200 in its final form includes more than $227 million for need-based scholarships and grants. It also adds $62 million over the biennium in state funds for the Postsecondary Education Performance Fund which is designed to modernize how the state funds its public colleges and universities, as well as provide millions of dollars in funding for other higher education needs.

HB 200 also includes more than $60 million in new revenue to help implement proposed adoption and foster care reforms including more than $23 million for placement of foster children with relatives, tens of millions of dollars to hire more social workers and increase social worker salaries, and at least $5 million for kinship care.

Additional funds for public safety are also found in the bill, which would appropriate over $85 million in federal funds to support victims of crime programs. Yet other provisions would add $10 million to hire 94 additional Youth Workers for the Department of Juvenile Justice and around $6 million to hire more prosecutors, along with additional funding in other areas.

Public libraries would also get a boost in the bill, which would add over $8.5 million in state funds in direct local aid for the institutions.  And KentuckyWired – the state’s open-access broadband network now under construction through a public/private partnership – would receive no state General Fund appropriations but would receive over $70 million in non-governmental expense (NGE) spending authority over the biennium to continue work that project.

Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, said HB 200 would provide a structurally balanced budget for the first time in more than two decades. He did, however, admit that its passage is a “hard process.”

“I have no doubt that 123 years ago it was designed to be a hard process,” McDaniel said. “But ultimately we have to come together and do what’s best for the commonwealth and for 4.3 million people who count on us to ensure the appropriate functions of their government continue.”

Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, stood to speak against HB 200. He said he was concerned about reductions in higher education funding and the lack money for safety measures in secondary schools. “It is still a bad budget that does not fund education as it should be,” he said. “It does not meet the needs of the state.”

Also speaking in opposition to the bill in the House was Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, who said the 6.25 percent cuts to most agencies that remain in HB 200 combined with certain other provisions in the bill will “continue to hurt Kentucky.”  

“We can do better than this,” Wayne said. “Collectively, we have to agree that we’re on a mission to invest in this great Commonwealth, not disinvest.”

House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, said the free conference committee appointed on March 22 by the House and Senate to reach agreement on HB 200 listened to Kentuckians when drafting the legislation.

“A lot of hard work, a lot of compromise, has gone into it,” said Rudy. “We listened … to the concerns in the areas from the people across the Commonwealth and tried to craft the best document for the taxpayers, and the citizens, and those who are involved in state government.”

Kentucky prohibits its state budget revenue from being included in its spending bills, so the revenue for the next two-year state budget is approved separately by state lawmakers. The funding required to carry out the appropriations in HB 200 is found in HB 366, which also received final passage in the House today. That bill passed on a final vote of 51-44 after clearing the Senate on a vote of 20-18.

HB 200 now goes to the governor to be signed into law. If the governor vetoes the bill, the General Assembly can override that veto when it returns to Frankfort to conclude the session in mid-April after a brief veto recess. That recess is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

Also given final passage today was the state Legislative Branch budget in HB 204 and the Judicial Branch budget in HB 203. HB 204, which fully funds the pensions of legislative staff but does not fund the Legislators Retirement Plan, received final passage on a House vote of 86-8. HB 203 received final passage on a House vote of 81-9. The two bills had passed the Senate on votes of 36-2 and 26-12 respectively last month.  

--END--

 

April 2, 2018

 

State revenue bill heads to governor

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky General Assembly passed a revenue measure today that would generate nearly a half of billion dollars in additional money for the state over the next two fiscal years.

It would do that by creating a flat rate for personal and corporate income taxes in Kentucky while expanding the sales tax, said Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chairman Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill. Known as House Bill 366, it passed the House on a 51-44 vote and Senate on a 20-18 vote.

McDaniel said the personal income tax rate would be set at a flat five percent instead of the current brackets ranging from two percent to six percent.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said lowering the high end of the current personal income tax rate to five percent would put more than $500 million back into people’s pockets per year. It would also make Kentucky the 10th lowest state in personal income tax in the nation, he added. 

“This will increase the competitiveness of this state when it comes to attracting jobs following up on the pro-business bills we passed last year that have resulted in the announcement of over 17,000 new jobs and $9 billion of economic impact to this commonwealth,” Thayer said.

McDaniel said the only itemized deductions allowed under HB 366 would be for Social Security income, mortgage income and charitable giving. It would disallow the deductions for such things as medical costs, taxes paid, interest expense on investments, and casualty and theft losses. It would also remove the $10 state personal income tax credit.

Another provision would lower the pension income exclusion to $31,110 from $41,110.

McDaniel said Kentucky’s corporate income tax would also go to a flat rate of five percent instead of the current brackets ranging from four percent to six percent. The inventory tax would also be phased out over a four-year period.

This brought criticism from legislators such as Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville.

“This tax plan is a regressive tax plan that is not in the best interest of working Kentuckians,” he said. “Lowering of the corporate tax rate is a giveaway. It is not going to stimulate any investment in Kentucky. It is not fair that this bill shifts the burden to working families and people on a fixed income to cut corporate taxes. That is essentially what it does.”

In the House, Rep. Chris Harris, D-Forest Hills, also stood in opposition to HB 366. 

“I’ve heard on this floor many times this session, ‘I like to deal in facts,’” he said. “…Well, the fact is, this bill raises revenue and instead of securing the pensions for our teachers like we ought to be doing, we’re giving corporations a tax break.”

McDaniel said that Kentucky would broaden its tax base by putting a sales tax on certain services labor and services associated with certain repair, installation and maintenance related to personal property, such as a car.

He said the sales tax would also be expanded to other selected services including landscaping services, janitorial services, veterinarian services for small animals, fitness and recreational sports centers, commercial laundries, golf courses and country clubs, dry cleaning, pet grooming, weight loss centers and campgrounds. It would not include barbers and cosmetologists.

The cigarette tax would also be raised 50 cents to $1.10 per pack, under HB 366.

Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, said the revenue measure would allow the General Assembly to pass a structurally balanced budget for the first time in two decades while providing vital government functions such education.

House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, said HB 366 would modernize Kentucky’s tax structure to both improve personal income and fuel job growth.  

“Today is our day to declare that Kentucky is ready to move forward with comprehensive tax reform,” he said. “Today we boldly declare that being at the bottom of the barrel is not good enough, and that the people of Kentucky deserve better. Today is the day that this body will declare that having an average household income 18 percent below the national average is not good enough.”

SB 366 now goes to the governor.

-- END --

  

April 2, 2018

  

Bourbon by mail: Bill would make it possible

FRANKFORT – A measure that would allow direct shipment of alcoholic beverages received final passage today in the state Senate and is on its way to the governor to be signed into law.  

The measure, known as House Bill 400, is an economic development and tourism bill, said Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, who presented the measure in the Senate today.  

“As our Kentucky bourbon industry experience continues to grow and become more of a Napa Valley-type experience with more than 1.2 million visitors last year alone, the No. 1 question asked by visitors that come to our commonwealth is why can’t they have these items shipped directly home?” he said.

 HB 400 would address this by allowing visitors at bourbon distilleries to ship limited amounts of spirits home as well as join bourbon of the month clubs, Schickel said. HB 400 would also permit vineyards to ship specific amounts of wine out of state. 

Another provision would allow liquor stores to ship a limited amount of spirits purchased from their shops. In addition, it would also require the shippers of the spirits to verify the delivery is made to someone at least 21 years old living in a “wet” area. 

“House Bill 400 is another important step on removing artificial barriers to free enterprise,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown. “It is another step in unraveling the overly obtrusive post-Prohibition alcohol laws that have been in place in Kentucky for over a half-century.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown, passed the Senate on a 33-5 vote.

HB 400 also contains an emergency clause, meaning it would become law upon the governor’s signature. 

-- END --

 

March 30, 2018

 

This Week at the State Capitol

FRANKFORT -- Efforts to reform the state’s public pension systems have taken a winding road and faced uncertain prospects at times since the issue came to the forefront of public discussion last year. But after making changes based on input received from stakeholders throughout the General Assembly’s 2018 session, public pension legislation reached the end of its legislative journey this week as lawmakers approved a bill on the issue and delivered it to the governor’s office to be signed into law. 

One notable change to the legislation in recent days was removing a provision that would have reduced the cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers. The previous proposal would have reduced that adjustment from 1.5 percent to 1 percent, but there’s no such reduction in the plan lawmakers ultimately approved.

The goal is to stabilize pension systems that face more than $40 billion in unfunded liabilities. More funding is one part of the plan, according to the proposed state budgets both chambers have approved but, as of this writing, have not come to a final agreement on. Changes proposed by the pension reform legislation, Senate Bill 151, are aimed at shoring up the system in a number of ways, such as by placing future teachers in a hybrid “cash balance” plan rather than a traditional benefits plan and by limiting the impact of accrued sick leave on retirement benefit calculations.

While much of the focus at week’s end was on the movement of the pension legislation, a number of other bills also received final approval and were sent to the governor this week, including measures on the following topics:

Prescription medicines. Senate Bill 6 would require a pharmacist to provide information about the safe disposal of certain prescription medicines, such as opiates and amphetamines.

Terrorism. Senate Bill 57 would allow a person injured by an act of terrorism to file a claim for damages against the terrorist in state court.  

Police cameras. House Bill 373 would exempt some police body camera footage from being publicly released. It would exempt the footage from being released when it shows the interior of private homes, medical facilities, women’s shelters and jails or shows a dead body, evidence of sexual assault, nude bodies and children.

Abortion. Abortion. House Bill 454 would prohibit a certain type of abortion procedure, known as a D & E, if a woman is more than 11 weeks pregnant. The legislation does not ban other types of abortion procedures.

Lawmakers have adjusted their 2018 legislative calendar in order to convene the Senate and House on Monday, April 2, with hopes that a state budget agreement will have been reached between the chambers at that time. A legislative recess is scheduled to begin on April 3, with lawmakers returning to the Capitol to adjourn the session by April 14.

Citizens who want to share feedback on the issues confronting our state can do so by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

--END--

March 29, 2018

 

Public pension bill heading to governor

FRANKFORT – A bill that supporters say would help reduce more than $40 billion in unfunded costs to the state’s pension systems received final passage today by a 22-15 vote in the Kentucky Senate.

The legislation, found in Senate Bill 151, was amended today to add pension provisions that would place future teachers in a hybrid “cash balance” plan. It’s similar to the state’s retirement plan for state employees hired as of 2014. Another section of SB 151 would prevent current teachers and workers from applying sick days toward retirement eligibility.  

Cost of living raises for current retired teachers would remain unchanged in the bill, as would the benefit calculation and years of service required for retirement of current teachers or state employees. And sick days could still be accrued for use by active teachers and employees. 

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said SB 151 wasn’t going to harm public education in Kentucky as implied by critics of the legislation.

“I would urge everyone to take a deep breath and not buy into the talking points and hyperbole,” he said. “This is good news for teachers – current, retired and future – because it puts Kentucky’s pension systems on a path to sustainability.” 

Thayer said the bill would reduce the risk for taxpayers who are bearing most of the burden of the cost of fully funding pension obligations. 

Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, said SB 151 was an attempt to preserve the pensions for future public workers while honoring the obligations to current workers.

“I think this is fair,” he said. “It is reasonable. It is the right thing to do. I think just to say ‘no’ for the fact of saying ‘no’ is just trying to win a political party or political debate. I got friends on both sides.”

Among those voting against SB 151 in the Senate was Minority Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville.

“If our forefathers who served in the halls of the state senate and state house of representatives could see where we are as a commonwealth, they would be appalled,” he said in reference to the pension provisions being added in an amendment. “This is not the way democracy is supposed to work. Democracy depends on the free exchange of ideas and consideration of the rights and opinions of others.”

Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg, also spoke against the measure.

“Teaching is a very rewarding but difficult job,” he said. “I believe I’m the only one in the Kentucky State Senate that has taught at the elementary level, high school level and coached several sports at many different levels. I always believed that you should treat people the way that you want to be treated. And I believe everyone in this body is here to do the right thing. But I don’t believe anyone here would want to be treated the way Senate Bill 151 is going to treat our state employees and teachers.”

Earlier in the day, Rep. John Carney, R-Campbellsville, who presented the bill before the full House, said SB 151 would not violate the state’s “inviolable contract” – statutory language put into law decades ago to assure state employees and teachers that most of their retirement benefits cannot be reduced. It would, however, allow the state to make changes to retirement plan benefits that take effect under SB 151 later this year.

Carney called SB 151 a “first step” to tackling the state’s underfunded pension liabilities when the bill passed the House on a vote of 49-46.

This bill “is not perfect. No legislation is,” Carney told his colleagues in the House. “But this legislation will ensure solvency of the retirement systems for years to come.”

Among those voting against SB 151 in the House was Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort. The retired Kentucky public school teacher said Kentucky teachers and state employees would be hurt by the legislation. 

“I urge the members of this body to vote against this bill for the future of our Commonwealth, for the future of our students, for the future of public education and public employees,” said Graham.

SB 151 is sponsored by Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, who is also the primary sponsor of SB 1 – a well-publicized pension bill that was introduced in the Senate earlier this month.

During the Senate debate, Bowen emphasized that SB 151 should not be perceived as an attack on teachers or any public worker.

“This is an attempt to salvage the pension systems,” he said. “This is an attempt to keep the promises that have been made, and we are only doing it because we do respect those people that walk into our classrooms each and every day and go above and beyond. And we do appreciate those folks who work for us in state government.”

-- END --

 

March 29, 2018

  

Police death benefits bill passes Senate

FRANKFORT – Line-of-duty death benefits for spouses of police and other hazardous duty personnel in the state’s public retirement systems would increase under a bill approved today by a 37-0 vote in the Kentucky Senate.

House Bill 185 would increase line-of-duty benefits for surviving spouses from 25 to 75 percent of the deceased individual’s monthly average rate of pay, with dependent children also receiving a share. It then goes a step further to allow surviving spouses to continue receiving a portion of the death benefit when he or she remarries, at a reduced rate of up to 25 percent of the late former spouse’s monthly average pay.

A Senate amendment named the measure the Officer Scotty Hamilton and Officer Nick Rodman Memorial Act of 2018. Hamilton was a Pikeville officer fatally shot earlier this month. Rodman was a Louisville officer who died a day after being involved in a wreck with a suspect.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, was among several legislators who stood in honor of law enforcement officers killed in their district in recent years. 

“I think it is especially poignant because it’s one year to the day of Officer Rodman’s death,” McGarvey said. “We thank his family for their courage and sacrifice.”

Senate Majority Caucus Chair Dan “Malano” Seum, R-Fairdale, said it was an honor to support the bill.

“I go way back with my police department,” the retired businessman said. “Back in 1966 when I opened my first store in south Louisville, these guys saved me more than once.”

The veteran lawmaker said he recalled voting for a bill that increased the death benefit to $80,000 from $25,000 for an officer killed in the line of duty.

HB 185 now goes to back to the House for consideration of the Senate change.

-- END --

 

March 27, 2018

 

 

Workers’ comp bill going to governor


FRANKFORT—A revamp of the state’s workers’ compensation system for Kentucky workers injured on the job in the future has received final passage in the Kentucky House.

House Bill 2, sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, passed on a vote of 55-39. It now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

“These are measures that only make us more competitive,” Koenig said of the provisions in HB 2 as amended in the Senate last week. 

HB 2 was filed as a response to a 2017 Kentucky Supreme Court ruling in Parker v. Webster County Coal. That ruling declared unconstitutional the state workers’ compensation system’s practice of terminating workers’ comp income benefits once an injured worker qualifies for normal Social Security retirement benefits.

HB 2 was described as providing “a fair system for which workers who are injured will be paid,” by Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, when the bill was amended in the Senate last week.

Under HB 2, as amended by the Senate, workers’ compensation medical benefits would have to be paid to certain permanently partially disabled workers beyond 15 years if a state administrative law judge deems the benefits medically necessary. The bill would also add to the list of injuries for which benefits must be paid as long as there is a disability, among other provisions.

An additional Senate change agreed to by the House would extend the period for all workers’ comp income benefits to age 70 or four years after the date of the injury, whichever comes last.

Voting against the bill in the House was Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville, who said earlier this session that his data on the state’s workers’ comp loss ratios and premiums show the system is doing well.

Gentry, who lost one of his arms in a work accident over two decades ago, said he voted against the bill “because voting ‘yes’ is giving up on my brothers and sisters in the disabled worker community who have been knocked down, have gotten back up and, like me, refuse to quit.”

HB 2 was amended and passed by the Senate on a 23-14 vote last week.

--END--

 

March 27, 2018

 

State lawmakers adjust 2018 session calendar

FRANKFORT -- Lawmakers have decided to convene the Senate and House on Thursday, March 29, instead of Wednesday, March 28, as originally planned.

Lawmakers serving on a free conference committee are expected to continue state budget negotiations tomorrow.

The updated 2018 General Assembly calendar can be viewed here: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/calendars/18RS_calendar.pdf

 

--END--

  

March 27, 2018

 

11-week abortion measure goes to governor

FRANKFORT—Legislation that would ban an abortion procedure known as a D & E in Kentucky beginning at 11 weeks of pregnancy for most women is on its way to becoming law.  

House Bill 454 received final passage in the House today by a vote of 75-13 after being amended and passed by the Senate on a vote of 31-5 last week. The only change made to the bill by the Senate adds Kentucky’s statutory definition of an “unborn child,” which current law defines as “an individual organism of the species homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth.”

HB 454 would only ban the D & E—or dilation and evacuation—procedure starting at 11 weeks except in medical emergencies. It would not ban other forms of legal forms of abortion until week 20 of pregnancy, when all types of abortion are prohibited in Kentucky except in emergency cases.

A D & E is described by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as an abortion that uses “sharp instrument techniques, but also suction and other instrumentation such as forceps, for evacuation.”

HB 454 sponsor Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, says the D & E procedure comprises around 16 percent of abortions performed in Kentucky. The purpose of the bill is to codify “the state’s valid interest in banning this brutal, intentional dismemberment procedure,” Wuchner said earlier this session.

Intentional violation of HB 454—of which Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, is also a primary co-sponsor—would be a Class D felony, with an exemption for the woman on whom the procedure is performed.

Among those voting against the measure was Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, who said legislation similar to HB 454 has been found unconstitutional in other states.

“In Alabama, this was challenged in federal court and declared unconstitutional. Texas — challenged in federal court and declared unconstitutional,” Palumbo said, adding that HB 454 would impact patient health care options.

Wuchner, however, said HB 454 is in the “state’s interest.”

“This (bill) here in the Commonwealth is about the humane treatment of an unborn child, to protect that unborn child from dismemberment,” she said.

--END--

 

March 23, 2017

 

This Week at the State Capitol

FRANKFORT – There are always surprises in sessions of the Kentucky General Assembly. But one safe assumption when a state budget must be approved is that Senate and House members will form a committee in the session's final days to iron out differences in each chamber’s preferred state spending plan.

That’s what happened this week as Senate and House members created a conference committee in the hopes of reaching an agreement on Kentucky’s next two-year budget before a legislative recess that’s scheduled to start on March 29.

While many parts of the two chambers’ budgets are in agreement with each other, there are notable differences in each chamber’s spending priorities. Among the questions conference committee members are confronting are:

-- How much should the budget depend on possible new revenue sources? The House plan made spending decisions based on the possibility of new revenue sources, most notably a proposed 50 cents per pack increase in the cigarette tax and a 25 cent per dose tax increase on prescription opioids at the distribution level. The Senate plan is not based on any tax increases.

-- How should increases in funding for public pension systems be prioritized? Compared to the House plan, the Senate plan directs a larger percentage of its pension funding to the least-funded systems -- the state employee’s system and the police system – rather than the teachers’ retirement system, though the teachers’ plan would still be funded at levels required by statute.

-- How far should spending cuts go? The Senate plan restored some, but not all, of the cuts to state agencies, including universities, that were proposed in the governor’s original budget proposal. The House plan included less spending cuts and would have spared most university funding.

These are just several among a range of complex budget issues that lawmakers will work on resolving in the days ahead. Their goal is to agree upon a budget early enough that they’ll still have a chance to override vetoes, if the governor casts any, before the session ends.

While work on the budget continued this week, a number of other bills advanced, including measures on the following topics:

Price gouging. Senate Bill 160 would clarify laws aimed at preventing price gouging during emergencies. The bill specifies that fines could be imposed if a retailer suddenly increases the price of goods more than 10 percent when the governor declares a state of emergency. The legislation received final passage on a 58-36 vote in the House on Tuesday and has been delivered to the governor to be signed into law.

Police protection. House Bill 193 would increase penalties for intentionally exposing a law enforcement officer with bodily fluids or waste. The crime would be considered a misdemeanor, though felony charges could be imposed if the bodily fluids carries a communicable disease that’s likely to be passed to the officer. The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and now goes to the full Senate.

Dyslexia. House Bill 187 would require the state Department of Education to make a “dyslexia toolkit” available to school districts to help them identify and instruct students who display characteristics of dyslexia. On Thursday, the House voted 87-0 in agreement with a Senate amendment to the bill, which now goes to the governor to be signed.

Abortion. House Bill 454 would prohibit a certain type of abortion procedure, known as a D & E, if a woman is more than 11 weeks pregnant. The legislation does not ban other types of abortion procedures. The bill passed the Senate 31-5 on Thursday and has been returned to the House for consideration of a Senate amendment.

Opioids. Would allow police in the state’s high-population areas – Louisville, Lexington and some Northern Kentucky counties-- to detain people revived from a heroin overdoses and place them in a center equipped to deal with substance abuse disorder and acute opioid overdoses. The bill passed in the House on Tuesday on a 92-3 vote and has been delivered to Senate for further consideration.

Financial literacy. House Bill 132 would require Kentucky high school students to pass a financial literacy course before graduating. The bill receive final passage in the House on an 88-3 vote on Wednesday and has been delivered to the governor. 

Revenge porn. House Bill 71 would increase penalties for posting sexually explicit images online without the consent of the person depicted. The crime would be Class A misdemeanor for the first offence and Class D felony for subsequent offences. Penalties would be even more severe if the images were posted for profit. The bill passed the House 90-2 on Thursday and now goes to the governor’s office.

To offer feedback to lawmakers on the issues under consideration at the State Capitol, call the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

 

--END--

 

March 22, 2018

 

Senate approves worker’s comp bill

FRANKFORT – A bill that supporters say is needed to control workers’ compensation losses following a 2017 Kentucky Supreme Court decision cleared the state Senate today on a 23-14 vote.

House Bill 2, as amended, is a response to the 2017 Kentucky Supreme Court ruling in Parker v. Webster County Coal, said Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, who presented the bill. That ruling declared unconstitutional the state workers’ compensation system’s practice of terminating workers’ comp income benefits once an injured worker qualifies for normal Social Security retirement benefits.

HB 2 would not impact injured workers currently receiving workers’ comp benefits, Stivers said. In future cases, it would limit benefits to workers with certain injuries to 15 years, with a chance after 15 years to be recertified to continue receiving benefits. 

“But truly, I believe it to be a fair system for which workers who are injured will be paid,” Stivers said.

Other provisions would increase the percentage of the average weekly wage that can be paid as income to injured workers and revise medical treatment guidelines and limits on attorney fees, among other things.

Voting against HB 2 was Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, who said there was no compelling need for the proposed law. He said Kentucky’s workers’ compensation fund is fiscally sound.

“We all want jobs,” McGarvey said. “We all want businesses to be here, but we can be for business without being anti-worker. That is what this bill is.”

Stivers said the measure was a result of compromises.

“I’m not going to say that everybody agrees with everything in this,” he said, “but it is something a lot of people have had input in. It started over a year ago.”

HB 2 now goes back to the House for consideration of the Senate change.

-- END --

 

March 22, 2018

 

Senate green lights road plan

FRANKFORT – The Senate approved today a $2.5 billion Biennial Highway Construction Plan that would focus on the safety and maintenance of Kentucky’s bridges. 

But such important infrastructure projects will be threatened in the future, warned Senate Transportation Committee Chair Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, who presented the highway construction plan, contained in House Bill 202.

“We have a perfect storm that is going to hit us in two years,” he said, adding that the federal government will reduce the amount it pays for road projects across Kentucky. The feds currently pay 80 percent, with the state picking up the remaining 20 percent, of many projects.

Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, praised Harris for presenting a fiscally sound plan while the federal match is still at 80 percent.

“This is a road plan that is balanced,” McDaniel said. “We have seen a lot that are not in the past. It takes an exceptional amount of discipline to put forward a plan like that. And frankly, in many ways, an exceptional amount of courage.”

He said Harris has shown that in his steadfast stewardship of the highway construction plan.

HB 202 passed by a 37-0 vote.

The accompanying six-year road plan, found in House Joint Resolution 74, also passed the Senate today by a 37-0 vote. The resolution includes more than $4 million in projects that are not funded in the two-year plan.

All the measures now go back to the state House for consideration of changes made in the Senate.

-- END --

 

March 22, 2018

  

Senate approves 11-week abortion measure

FRANKFORT – A second-trimester abortion procedure known as D & E would be prohibited in Kentucky for most women who are at least 11 weeks into their pregnancy under a bill that passed the state Senate today by a 31-5 vote.

House Bill 454, as amended, would not ban abortion at or after 11 weeks but would ban the D & E – or dilation and evacuation – procedure except in medical emergencies. A D & E is described by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as an abortion that uses “sharp instrument techniques, but also suction and other instrumentation such as forceps, for evacuation.”

“Abortions by dismemberment, crushing or suction are brutal procedures which are and should be considered repulsive, barbaric and inhumane by any societal standards,” said Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, who presented HB 454. “This bill upholds basic human dignity.”

One lawmaker voting against the bill was Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, who told the Senate that HB 45 would outlaw the safest abortion producer – forcing women to seek out riskier, more dangerous, producers.

“We don’t even stop there. We want to pass a law that has been unanimously ruled illegal,” said Thomas, adding federal courts struck down similar laws in Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana.

Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, said Kentucky is in the jurisdiction of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati, and that no federal judge from that circuit has had a chance to rule on this type of law.

HB 454 now goes back to the House for consideration of a Senate change.

-- END --

 

March 22, 2018

  

Dyslexia intervention bill goes to governor

FRANKFORT— The Kentucky House has given final passage to a bill that would guide local school district efforts to identify and teach young students with dyslexic traits.

House Bill 187, sponsored by Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, and known as the “Ready to Read Act” was approved by the House on a final vote of 87-0 today. The bill would require the state to make a dyslexia “toolkit” available to all school districts by next January to guide instruction of students with dyslexic traits in kindergarten through third grade. Districts could then develop policies to help those students, including policies for identification of students who display characteristics of dyslexia.

Districts that choose to develop such policies would be required to provide the state with specific data by June 30 of each year, including data on the number of students in the district who were identified as displaying dyslexic traits and the number of students evaluated.

Also, a study project would be created to help the state learn more about early screening and intervention services for children with dyslexic traits. Three school districts—one urban, one suburban, and one rural – will be selected by the state to participate in the project, which would last three school years.

HB 187 would also require Kentucky colleges and universities—subject to available funding—to include training on dyslexia identification and interventions by the 2019-2020 academic year for students studying to become school teachers.

Dyslexia is defined by the bill as “a specific learning disability” that “is characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.” Wuchner said in testimony on HB 187 in committee earlier this session that dyslexia is believed to affect nearly 60,000 Kentucky students.

“That would be the size of one of our largest or second largest school districts that may be affected by dyslexia,” she said.  

HB 187 now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

--END--

 

 

March 22, 2018

 

‘Revenge porn’ bill goes to governor

FRANKFORT—A bill that would make it a crime to post sexually explicit images of someone online without that person’s consent is on its way to the governor to be signed into law.  

House Bill 71, sponsored by Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Ft. Wright, aims to crack down on so-called “revenge porn” – sexually-explicit photos or videos often used to humiliate the person photographed or turn a profit for the person posting the photos online.

Penalties for posting such an image would be a misdemeanor for a first offense or a Class D felony for each subsequent offense. If the image was posted for profit, the penalties would be ramped up to a Class D felony for a first offense and a more serious Class C felony for subsequent offenses.

Those who post such material could also be liable in civil court, where $1,000 in damages could be assessed under HB 71 for each image each day it remains online after a request has been made to remove it. Additional language would prohibit an online entity from demanding payment to remove the image or images.

While penalties for violators would be serious in many cases, those convicted under the legislation would not have to register as a sex offender under Kentucky law.

HB 71, which passed the Senate on a 37-0 vote yesterday, received final passage in the House today on a vote of 90-2.

--END--

 

March 22, 2018

 

Judicial redistricting bill goes to governor

FRANKFORT—A judicial redistricting bill that would add court judgeships in a few areas of the state and remove judgeships from other areas has received final passage on a vote of 63-31 in the Kentucky House.  

House Bill 348, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, would add family court judges to the judicial circuit serving Pulaski, Lincoln and Rockcastle counties and the judicial circuit serving Boone and Gallatin counties. A third family judge would be added in Bullitt County, where a district judgeship would be converted to a family court judgeship to accommodate the change.

Judgeships that would be eliminated as of 2023 to help pay for the new seats include a circuit judgeship in Floyd County and district judgeship in far West Kentucky. The West Kentucky position would be created by combining two districts – one in Fulton and Hickman counties and one in Carlisle and Ballard counties—into one district.

Nemes said HB 348 adjusts judgeships according to caseload when he spoke on the bill before the House Judiciary Committee in early March. He said the circuits in southern and northern Kentucky which are slated to receive new judges under the bill especially have “a tremendous need.”

“There’s a lot of places in Kentucky where judges are working extremely hard but in those two places – I don’t see how they’re even getting the job done, they’re so overworked,” said Nemes.

One House member voting against the bill was Rep. Larry Brown, R-Prestonsburg. The Floyd County judgeship that would be eliminated by the bill serves citizens in his district.

“I think the numbers were askew,” said Brown. “And I think we’re being unfairly punished in Floyd County by losing a circuit judge who has done nothing but his job, and done it above and beyond the call—having to go to different circuits and take care of business there as well.”

The legislation would also require the Kentucky Supreme Court to certify the need for any changes in the state’s judicial circuits or districts based on an eight-year review of the courts by the Administrative Office of the Courts. That review may be ordered by the state Supreme Court starting in 2020.  

HB 348, which was approved by the Senate on a vote of 32-5 yesterday, now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

--END--

 

March 22, 2018

  

Police protection bill advanced by Senate panel

FRANKFORT -- A bill that would increase penalties for intentionally exposing a law enforcement officer to bodily fluids or bodily waste was approved today by the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 7-0 vote.

House Bill 193 intends to “fill in the gap” in the law for protection of Kentucky law enforcement officers, said Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, the sponsor of HB 193. The measure passed the House last week with an 81-3 vote.

Under the bill, exposing an officer to bodily fluids or waste would be a misdemeanor, although felony charges could be applied if the bodily fluids or waste carry a communicable disease that could likely be transmitted.

There were concerns raised that a felony may be too strong of a charge for such an offense, with Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, saying there’s a possibility the penalty may be lowered to a misdemeanor when the bill is considered in the full Senate.

Sen. John Schickel spoke in favor of HB 193 today in committee as a retired law enforcement officer.

“This is an excellent bill. Our police officers need these protections,” said Schickel. 

HB 193 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

--END--

 

March 22, 2018

 

Joyce Honaker announced as 2018 Vic Hellard Jr. Award winner

FRANKFORT – Joyce Honaker, whose public service career included a stretch as the lead staff member for one of the General Assembly’s busiest committees, was announced today as the recipient of the 2018 Vic Hellard Jr. Award.

Honaker is known around the Capitol for the diligence and professionalism she put into her work for state lawmakers and for being a role model to her coworkers at the Legislative Research Commission (LRC.) She worked at LRC for 32 years, from 1971 until her retirement in 2003, most notably as the Committee Staff Administrator for the State Government Committee.

Honaker said she is pleased and appreciative to be recognized with LRC’s highest honor. She noted that the high standards she tried to follow during her career were set by the award’s namesake, Vic Hellard, who served as LRC Director from 1977 until 1995. He passed away in 1996.

”Vic certainly gave us the encouragement needed to do a good job and to do the kind of research the legislators wanted and needed,” said Honaker.

Honaker was known for holding many of the same values as Hellard, said LRC Director David A. Byerman.

“Joyce was a manager who knew how to give staff the freedom and flexibility while also holding them to a very high standard,” he said. “She is still remembered fondly for the work she did and the professional way that she did it.”

Many of LRC’s top committee staff members served under Honaker’s tutelage and speak highly her managerial acumen. They also praise the way she excelled in the support role she played in the state’s redistricting efforts. By leading a large team that provided staff support for lawmakers’ complex responsibility to redraw boundaries for the state’s legislative and congressional districts, she proved to be a trusted and steady leader in a challenging position.

During her career, Honaker was also known for the valuable contributions to the National Conference of State Legislatures, where she was one of the founding members of the Research and Committee Staff Section (RACSS) in 1987. She served as the staff section’s first chairperson. Under her leadership, RACSS began a concerted effort to broaden its scope and expand professional development opportunities to a broader range of staff professionals. NCSL also selected Honaker to travel abroad and work with staff in newly developing countries like Namibia, Nigeria and Hong Kong as a consultant.

Honaker will be recognized as the 2018 Vic Hellard Jr. Award recipient today in the Senate and House chambers. A reception later in the day in the Capitol Annex will honor her and the two other finalists for the award, former LRC workers Jim Swain and the late Gordon Adkins. 

--END--

 

March 21, 2018

 

Senate plan tackles shortage of judges

FRANKFORT – With no revenue to create new judgeships, the state Senate approved a measure today to “redeploy” judges to regions seeing population growth.

House Bill 348, as amended by the Senate, would add family court judges to both the judicial circuit serving Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties and judicial circuit serving Boone and Gallatin counties. Those new judgeships would be filled during the general election in November so the new family courts could be operational by Jan. 7 of next year.

“The current family judge for Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties is currently doing the work of almost three judges,” said Sen. Rick Girdler, R-Somerset. “That in and of itself is almost criminal. 

The new judgeships would be paid for by the elimination of a circuit judge in Floyd County and a district judge in far West Kentucky by 2023. The change in far West Kentucky would be handled by combining two district judgeships – one in Fulton and Hickman counties and one in Carlisle and Ballard counties – into one district judgeship. The circuit judgeship for those counties is already combined.

HB 348 would also convert a district court judge to a family court judge in Bullitt County.

Girdler said HB 348 is not the statewide judicial plan the Kentucky Court of Justice spent more than two years researching and developing and that the Senate passed last session. 

“We are simply reallocating existing resources to address an emergency situation,” he said, adding the judges are being removed from areas seeing a decline in population.

Another provision of HB 348 would require the Kentucky Court of Justice to resubmit a new judicial redistricting plan to the General Assembly before Dec. 31, 2020, for consideration in the non-budget session in 2021.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said HB 348 was just a first step in ensuring residents of the growing regions of the state have access to justice.

“This bill is a compromise on that judicial redistricting plan,” he said. “I know after a long time in this chamber that you don’t give up the good for the sake of the perfect and sometimes you take half of a loaf instead of the whole loaf.”

Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, said taking away judges from areas projected to lose population becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy 

“This bill has a negative impact on us in the mountains,” he said. “We continue to see this attempt to shift some of the judges out of the mountain region.”

He said rural areas hit by the loss of coal jobs need more, not less, support from the state 

Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, stood in support of the bill.

“Should we have gone further? Without a doubt,” he said, “but at least we got a start on having policy and process to determine how we create or decertify judgeships in the future.”

HB 348 now goes back the House for consideration of the Senate change.

-- END --

March 21, 2018

 

Financial literacy bill on way to governor

FRANKFORT—Kentucky public school students would have to satisfy a financial literacy requirement before they could graduate high school under a bill now on its way to the governor’s desk.

The requirement under House Bill 132, sponsored by Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, and Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, would be implemented beginning with students entering the 2020-2021 ninth-grade class.

DuPlessis said before a House floor vote on HB 132 in January that the bill would ensure that every Kentucky public high school graduate is taught how to budget, save, and invest.

“If we want to fix financial illiteracy, we must get away from the notion that it is a privilege to know how money works,” DuPlessis told his House colleagues.

Coursework or programs that would meet the requirement under HB 132 would be determined by the high school’s school-based decision making council or principal, according to the bill. Guidelines for the coursework or program would be developed at the state level with local programs aligned to the state standards. 

HB 132 initially passed the House on a vote of 68-24. It was amended and approved by the Senate earlier this week on a 35-3 vote. Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, presented the bill for a vote on the Senate floor.

“The lack of financial literacy is costing our state money,” said Wise. “When people are deep in consumer debt, they tend to file for bankruptcy more often, they are more likely to need state assistance, and they certainly are not adding to the consumer economy when they send the majority of their spending capability in interest payments to out-of-state credit card companies.”

HB 132 passed on a final vote of 88-3 today in the House. It has been sent to the governor to be signed into law.

--END--

  

March 21, 2018

 

Standards-for-treatment disorders bill goes to governor

FRANKFORT— A bill that would attack Kentucky’s opioid crisis through better state substance use disorder treatment and recovery program standards has received final passage in the Kentucky House.

House Bill 124, sponsored by House Health and Family Services Committee Chair Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, and Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, would require enhanced licensure and quality standards for substance use disorder treatment and recovery after a state review of current statewide standards, subject to available funding. Enhanced standards would cover residential, outpatient and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) services, according to the bill.  

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

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

HB 124 was amended in the Senate on a 36-0 vote late last week to include FDA-approved MAT treatment for inmates who are opioid-dependent or who have other substance abuse disorders.

“As some of those products that are used for medically-assisted treatment come to market and come to bear, there are more products now that could be used in the corrections environment that minimize diversion, and that’s why this piece was added,” said Wuchner.

HB 124 received final passage in the House today on a vote of 93-0. The bill was initially passed in the House on an 85-2 vote in January. 

--END--

 

March 21, 2018

  

Senate bill to curb gun violence OK’d by House panel

FRANKFORT--Legislation to curb gun violence by convicted felons passed the House Judiciary Committee today on an 18-0 vote.  

Senate Bill 210 would increase penalties that can be imposed on convicted felons for possession of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes.

Senate Majority Caucus Chair Dan Seum, R-Fairdale, the sponsor of SB 210, said during a legislative committee meeting earlier this month that the legislation resulted from a request by Louisville’s mayor, police and prosecutors to address gun violence throughout Kentucky.

Louisville Metro Police Major Billy Hibbs, who specializes in investigating gun-related crimes, supported SB 210 before the committee today.

”What we’re seeing is the same repeat offenders. They’ve been told not to possess a weapon, and they continue to do it,” said Gibbs. “We need this bill.”

SB 210 now goes to the full House for consideration. 

--END--

 

March 21, 2018

  

Law enforcement mental health bill passes

FRANKFORT – Law enforcement officials who encounter tragic and horrific events while on the job would get mental health and wellness support under a measure on its way to the governor after receiving final passage yesterday on a 38-0 vote in the state Senate.

“On a personal note, from being involved in a fatality accident about two years into my career, I can tell you firsthand the value of this type of program,” said Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, a former police officer who presented the measure, known as House Bill 68. “Back during those times, there were no supports in place. You simply went to a physiatrist for an evaluation. He or she either said you were fit or you were not fit for duty – and that was the end of it.”

He said he that fatal accident almost ended his career, in part, because he didn’t receive helpful counseling.

“Those things do not go away,” Carroll said of the fatal wreck. “Those are memories that stay with you your entire life. Sometimes they are very difficult to deal with.”

At the center of the measure is post-critical incident seminar, or PCIS. It is a program established by the FBI in the 1980s and first adapted by South Carolina. Kentucky would be about the 10th state to adopt it.

The initiative would be paid with donations, grants and money from the state Department of Criminal Justice Training budget. The state budget would contain no new money for the initiative.

SB 68 also contains an emergency clause, meaning it would become law upon the governor’s signature. The House passed HB 68 on a 95-0 vote last month.

-- END --

 

March 20, 2018

 

Senate passes state spending plan

FRANKFORT – The latest version of Kentucky’s next budget passed the Senate today – and it contained no new taxes.

“It reflects our priorities by committing to not raising taxes on hardworking Kentuckians for errors of omission or commission from previous generations of politicians,” said Senate Appropriations and Revenue Chair Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill. “We placed high priority, and honored the requirement of the constitution, to present a balanced budget.”

He said the budget, contained in House Bill 200, reflects a commitment to public safety by investing in law enforcement, the state crime lab, frontline social workers and foster and adoption services.

McDaniel said HB 200, as amended in committee, further reflected a commitment to education. He said it did this by investing record amounts in per-pupil funding for schools, known as Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK), and funding school transportation at historic records. That’s in addition to moving to performance-based funding for the state’s eight public universities while ensuring funding for Western Kentucky University and Northern Kentucky University are on par with the state’s other six universities.

“We also maintain our focus on solving the thorniest issue facing the commonwealth, which is the unfunded liabilities in our pension systems by investing record dollars into the Kentucky Retirement Systems, while fully funding the statutory requirement to the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System,” McDaniel said.

He added that the Senate’s version of the budget does not continue to fund the legislators’ own retirement plan. That money is instead budgeted for the Kentucky Employee Retirement System non-hazardous plan, which McDaniel said was the worst-funded pension in the nation.

The Senate plan added another $100 million per fiscal year for the state police retirement system. That is in addition to $425 million for the fiscal year 2019 and $392 for fiscal year ’20 for that non-hazardous retirement fund.

For the teachers’ retirement system, the Senate plan provided the 13 percent statutory required funding. While the Senate plan doesn’t contain $59.5 million for retired teachers’ health care, it would use a nearly $1 billion trust fund to pay for the insurance. McDaniel said the bill would also ensure the retirees’ premiums wouldn’t go up just because of that funding change.

The Senate plan added language to direct $8.5 million in the fiscal year 2019 to the state education department for local school districts that are impacted by the loss of tax revenue on unmined mineral assessments. That’s in addition to $1.75 million in each fiscal year for school technology in coal counties.

Those provisions, and others designed to help Eastern Kentucky, prompted Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, to praise the Senate plan. He said the budget would keep some Eastern Kentucky school districts from having to close their doors. Smith said, however, that he hopes more funding for the area could be added as the bill works its way through the remainder of the legislative process.

“But every investment comes with a cost,” McDaniel said. “We are not able to invest in many programs to attract new industries and create expansion opportunities, but we do invest in our most valuable resources. That is our teachers, public servants and our children.”

McDaniel said the governor’s proposed budget recommended reductions of 6.25 percent in the upcoming biennium in most budget areas. He said the Senate’s version of the budget generally applied the cut to the executive branch except for veterans’ affairs and state police. 

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said legislators should have been given more time to review a measure that directs how Kentucky will spend about $22 billion over the next two fiscal years.

“But no matter what is in the budget, I don’t think that it fully and accurately captures the idea that we don’t have enough money to run the basic needs and obligations of state government as it currently exists,” he said. “Until we recognize that, and until we do something about that, we will not be passing or providing the funding for a government the people of Kentucky require.”

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, said the Senate vote was just a step in the process, adding the budget would change in a conference committee. That’s a group of legislators who meet for the purpose of reconciling differences between House and Senate versions of bills.

“Yes, to many this is a hard-candy Christmas,” he said in reference to the lean budget. “There comes a time when you have resources that are tight. We have a lot of issues here we have to deal with that are not normally on the table.”

He then warned of the chaos of not passing a budget.

“I can tell you that’s very unpleasant,” Buford said. “The schools don’t get their money. No one gets their money. You kind of leave it on the governor’s table to make these necessary government expenditures, and it is not fun.”

HB 200 passed by a 26-11 vote. 

Also approved today were the amended legislative budget (House Bill 204) and judicial budget (House Bill 203), which where were passed by Senate votes 36-2 and 26-12 respectively. McDaniel said both HB 204 and HB 203 budgets contain 6.25 percent cuts for all non-constitutional functions.

All three bills now go back the House for consideration of the Senate changes.

-- END --

  

March 20, 2018

 

Opioid overdose bill goes to Senate

FRANKFORT—Those who overdose on heroin or other opioid drugs in Kentucky’s largest population areas would be immediately detained by first responders and taken to a hospital under a bill that has passed the House.

House Bill 428, sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, would specifically apply to overdose victims in Lexington, Louisville, or areas like Northern Kentucky where adjoining counties each have populations over 90,000.

Moser, who is the director of the Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, said the need for the bill was brought to her attention by first responders who she said are often called to resuscitate the same person for opioid overdose multiple times. Moser said there were over 15,100 emergency medical runs requiring resuscitation due to opioid overdoses in Kentucky last year, not counting more than 2,000 runs in Jefferson County alone. 

First responders “brought this issue to me because they are unable to get the folks into treatment when they are resuscitated,” said Moser. “These folks wake up and they are able to just get up and walk away and refuse treatment” even though she said they may still be under the influence of drugs.

“They need to get to a hospital for stabilization, referral to treatment and further treatment and this is what this bill seeks to do,” said Moser.

Failure to receive appropriate treatment for opioid overdose often leads to death, with 1,404 deaths from opioid overdose reported in Kentucky in 2016 alone, said Moser. 

“Death is a distinct possibility with opioid overdoses,” she said.

HB 428 passed the House on a 92-3 vote. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

  

March 20, 2018

  

Bill targeting pharmacy benefit managers amended by House

FRANKFORT—A Senate bill that would level the playing field for reimbursement of Medicaid managed care fees to Kentucky’s independent pharmacies has been returned to the Senate with some House changes.

Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, passed the Senate 32-4 and was sent to the House for agreement in early March. The bill would address lack of reimbursement to independent pharmacies by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and Medicaid managed care organizations, or MCOs, by requiring the state Department for Medicaid Services to directly administer its outpatient pharmacy benefits.

House-approved changes to SB 5 would further clarify where the roughly $1.7 billion in state funds spent on Medicaid managed care pharmacy benefits each year are going, said Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville. Rowland, who presented SB 5 for a vote before the full House, said Kentucky doesn’t know where the money goes now due to a contractual loophole.

Because of the loophole, he said “Kentucky Medicaid has no contractual authority over the PBMs. As a result, Medicaid cannot currently account for how that $1.7 billion in taxpayer money is currently spent. 

SB 5 as amended by the House would answer the question of how much of that money “is going to Kentucky pharmacists, how much is going PBMs, and how much is going to the MCOs,” he said. It would specifically require PBMs to report fees assessed on pharmacies they own compared to fees assessed on independent pharmacies and remove PBM authority to set reimbursement rates and give that power to the state Medicaid program. It would also require the state Medicaid program to approve certain contracts, and approve new fees that MCOs or PBMs try to impose on a pharmacist.

Noncompliance by PBMs could result in fines or license suspension ordered by Medicaid program or state Department of Insurance, said Rowland.

The House voted 97-0 to approve SB 5 with its changes. The bill now returns to the Senate for agreement with those changes.

--END--

 

March 20, 2018

 

Eye bill receives final passage

FRANKFORT—A bill regulating online eye exams and prescriptions offered in Kentucky is on its way to the governor after receiving final passage on an 88-0 vote in the state House yesterday.

HB 191 “permits the use of telehealth and it permits consumers to choose where they purchase their glasses and contact lenses,” the bill’s sponsor Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, told the House in a floor debate on the bill earlier this session.

The Senate amended and passed the bill on a vote of 36-0 last week.

HB 191 would require those offering eyeglass or contact prescriptions based on eye tests offered by smartphone app or online to have the prescription signed off on by a Kentucky licensed medical provider.

Those buying the products would have to be at least age 18 and have received an in-person eye exam within the last two years. 

HB 191 was filed in response to a rise in online companies that allow Kentuckians to get virtual eye exams, and prescriptions based on those exams, without input from licensed Kentucky medical professionals.  

--END--

 

March 19, 2018

 

Line-of-duty death benefits bill goes to Senate

FRANKFORT—Line-of-duty death benefits for spouses of police and other hazardous duty personnel in the state’s public retirement systems would increase under a bill that has cleared the Kentucky House.

House Bill 185, sponsored by Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, would increase line-of-duty benefits for surviving spouses from 25 to 75 percent of the deceased individual’s monthly average rate of pay, with dependent children also receiving a share. It then goes a step further to allow surviving spouses to continue receiving a portion of the death benefit when he or she remarries, at a reduced rate of up to 25 percent of the late former spouse’s monthly average pay.

Blanton, a retired Major with the Kentucky State Police, said the legislation will apply to the family of any hazardous duty worker in state’s public retirement systems – from state troopers, local police and sheriff’s deputies to firefighters and others.

“We owe this to them,” said Blanton.

The bill had bipartisan support in the House, which voted 89-0 to approve the measure.

Among those sitting in the House gallery listening as Blanton presented the bill were the widows of Richmond Police Officer Daniel Ellis, Louisville Metro Police Officer Nick Rodman and Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis. All three officers were killed in the line of duty in recent years.

House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, said he is close friends with several people who were also close to Officer Rodman.

“A lot of times we hear about tragedies like this that happen to families all across Kentucky, and a lot of times we’re kind of numb to it because it doesn’t impact us personally,” said Shell, who said he voted in honor of Officer Rodman in his friends’ stead and also in honor of other fallen officers.

Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, who represents Officer Rodman’s family in her district, also spoke in support of HB 185. She said the officer’s death less than a year ago “rocked our south end community in Louisville.”

“I’m glad that those of us in the legislature today who voted yes are finally catching up and putting policy in place that recognizes the sacrifice that the families of our fallen officers make,” she said.

HB 185 now goes to the Senate for consideration.  

--END--

 

March 19, 2018

  

Senate approves personal finance education bill 

FRANKFORT – Reading, writing, arithmetic – and financial literacy.

The state Senate approved a measure today that would require a financial literacy course as a high school graduation requirement. The legislation, known as House Bill 132, passed by a 35-3 vote.

Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who presented the bill, said it was needed because Kentucky ranks 48th in financial literacy.

“The lack of financial literacy is costing our state money,” he said. “When people are deep in consumer debt, they tend to file for bankruptcy more often, they are more likely to need state assistance and they certainly are not adding to the consumer economy when they send the majority of their spending capability in interest payments to out-of-state credit card companies.”

Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, asked how the measure would be paid for before voting for HB 132. Wise said the state education department is working to provide funding for those schools who do not have the resources available.

The Kentucky Board of Education would be responsible for establishing the standards and graduation requirements for financial literacy, according to HB 131. Completion of courses or programs that meet set financial literacy standards would become a graduation requirement beginning with students entering ninth grade in 2020-’21. 

Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, said other states have found success in teaching financial literacy before talking about some model programs.

“I do think financial literacy is so important for all of us,” he said. “I look forward to voting for it.”

Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, stood in support of HB 132 and said he filed a similar measure last session.

“This is a bill I am certainly glad to see in this chamber,” he said. “I believe this bill will have more impact on the future of Kentucky than most bills we are going to have on this floor this year.”

HB 132 now goes back to the House for consideration of the change made in the Senate.

-- END --

 

March 16, 2018

  

This Week at the State Capitol

March 12-16

 

FRANKFORT -- The first piece of legislation to pass a legislative chamber this week dealt with making playground equipment accessible to all children. One of the final bills of the week to advance through a chamber focused on the mental health of students. In between, lawmakers cast votes on a range of topics including bike safety, health care, prayer, and teen marriage. 

It was a particularly busy week at the State Capitol as lawmaker moved into the home stretch of the General Assembly’s 2018 session. There are now eight legislative days until final adjournment. For a bill moving through the process to have a chance to be signed into law, it must pass the Senate and House by the session’s final day, which is scheduled for April 13.

Legislation that moved closer to becoming law this week included measures on the following topics.

Felons. Senate Bill 210 would increase penalties against convicted felons for possessing a firearm while committing certain crimes. The measure was approved by the Senate on Wednesday and has been sent to the House for consideration.

Criminal gangs. House Bill 169 would increase penalties for those recruiting others into criminal gangs. The bill, which would make such recruiting a crime, is intended to target the threat posed by gangs that deal in illegal drugs, weapons, human trafficking and other criminal behavior. The legislation was approved by the House on Thursday and has been sent to the Senate.

Playgrounds. House Resolution 191 encourages local governments and public agencies that provide playgrounds to offer play equipment that can be enjoyed by all children regardless of their physical or mental abilities. The resolution was approved by the House on Monday. 

Mental health. House Bill 604 would require school districts to employ at least one mental health professional for each 1,500 students. The bill passed the House on Friday and has been sent to the Senate.

Prayer. House Bill 40 would designate the last Wednesday in September of each year as “A Day of Prayer for Kentucky's Students.” This measure would enshrine in statute a day that has already been observed by some students in recent years. Under the bill, students would be encouraged to pray, meditate, or reflect “in accordance to their own faith and consciences” on the prayer day. They would also be allowed to participate in a student-initiated event before the start of the school day. The bill was approved by the House on Thursday and has been sent to the Senate.

Revenge porn. House Bill 71 would criminalize “revenge porn,” the online posting of sexually explicit images or videos without the consent of the subject. The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday and now awaits action by the full Senate.

Child Protection. Senate Bill 137 would help in the prosecution of child molesters by allowing out-of-court statements from children who have been sexual abused to be admissible in court, under certain circumstances. The measure was approved by the Senate on Wednesday and has been sent to the House for further action.

Bicycle-safety. House Bill 33 would require drivers to keep vehicles at least three feet away from bicyclists during an attempt to pass. If that much space isn’t available, the driver must use “reasonable caution” when passing cyclists. The bill has been passed by both chambers and is ready to go to the governor so that he can consider signing it into law.

Teen marriage. Senate Bill 48 has received approved by both legislative chambers and now goes to the governor’s desk. If signed into law, the measure would prohibit anyone under the age of 17 from getting married. It would also require a district judge to approve the marriage of any 17-year-old. While current law states 16- and 17-year-olds can be married with parental consent, a district judge can approve the marriage of a child below the age of 16 if the girl is pregnant.

The big issue expected to command much attention in the days ahead is consideration of the state budget proposal, which has already been approved in the House and now awaits Senate action.

Citizens who want to weigh in on the state’s spending priorities or any other matters can share thoughts with Kentucky lawmakers by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at (800) 372-7181.

--END--

 

 

March 16, 2018

  

Mental health bill aimed at curbing school violence clears House

FRANKFORT—A bill that lawmakers hope will address the mental health needs of Kentucky public school students in response to school shootings like the one at Marshall County High School in January made it through the Kentucky House today.

House Bill 604, sponsored by Rep. Will Coursey, passed by the House today on a vote of 81-1.  The bill would require school districts or public charter schools to hire or contract with one mental health professional per every 1,500 students as public or private funds become available, beginning with the 2019-2020 school year. That mental health professional would help meet another requirement in the bill directing all public schools to adopt a “trauma-informed approach” that focuses on the needs of struggling students to create safer schools.

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, defines a “trauma-informed approach” as realizing “widespread impact of trauma and … potential paths for recovery,” recognizing signs of trauma, and responding “by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures and practices.”

It would be the duty of the mental health professional under HB 604 to build a trauma team that would “provide training, guidance, and assistance” to school and staff and help students in need, with guidance also provided by the state Department of Education in the form of a toolkit including strategies for building a trauma-informed approach.

Coursey, D-Symsonia, filed HB 604 in the aftermath of a Jan. 23 shooting in his district in which two Marshall County High School students – Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, both age 15—were killed when a classmate allegedly opened fire at the school. At least a dozen other individuals were shot but survived, with many others sustaining injuries.

“While we will never be as we were, I’m proud to say that who we are hasn’t changed,” Coursey told the House.

Coursey said HB 604 is based on the fact that many students have no one at home to talk to when they are facing a traumatic event like a parent’s divorce or some other loss. And while schools cannot control what happens at home, Coursey said “they can and should help whenever possible.”

“My sincere hope is that we can find the money in our budget to bring these (mental health professionals) into our schools as soon as possible,” he said.

Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, enthusiastically supported the bill. The retired public school educator said guidance counselors in schools are “overwhelmed” and cannot meet all the needs of their school’s students. 

Riley said while HB 604 will help to create a better school culture. “If we don’t do this in schools, we are going to continue to have problems,” he said.  

HB 604 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

--END--

 

March 16, 2018

 

Regulatory fee measure goes to Senate

FRANKFORT—A bill that would allow many of the fees collected by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to be set by the Cabinet—and not the General Assembly—has narrowly been approved by the state House.

House Bill 327, sponsored by Rep. Russell Webber, R-Shepherdsville, passed the House 46-40. Should it become law, regulatory fees for services ranging from assisted living facilities and child care facilities to restaurants and hotels would be removed from state law and set by state regulation, with some prescribed limits.

Only Kentucky birth certificate fees collected by the Cabinet would remain in state law, according to the bill.

Webber said the bill will let the Cabinet keep up with costs that current statutory fees don’t cover.

“What’s happening now is the Cabinet, to cover those fees, is having to go and use General Fund dollars because those amounts are no longer sufficient,” he said.

Eighty percent of state fees are already set by administrative regulation, Webber added.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, was one House member who voted against the bill. Wayne said HB 327 would give non-elected state officials authority that should remain with elected state officials.

“We will be abdicating our authority to bureaucrats to set fees, to basically tax our citizens here,” said Wayne. “So I strongly suggest that we reject this legislation and we keep our power as representatives of the people to set the taxes in the Commonwealth.”

Among those supporting the bill was Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, who said the legislation will ensure the regulatory fees go to their intended purpose.

“These fees are established so the (Cabinet) can regulate their departments,” said Gooch.  

HB 327 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.  

--END--

 

March 15, 2018

 

Gang violence legislation moves to Senate

FRANKFORT—Criminal gang members could face felony instead of misdemeanor penalties for gang recruitment and spend more time in jail under a bill that has cleared the Kentucky House.  

House Bill 169 sponsor Rep. Robert Benvenuti said a rise in criminal gangs targeting children as young as eight years old makes HB 169 necessary. He said current state laws don’t adequately target the threat posed by gangs recruiting children and adults to traffic in drugs, weapons and human beings in Kentucky.  

HB 169 will modernize state law “so that we ensure, to the best of our ability, that gangs do not continue to grow and to devastate every corner of this Commonwealth,” said Benvenuti.  

Specifically, the bill would make it a felony for adults – who now face misdemeanor charges for criminal gang recruitment--to engage in that crime. It would also allow minors who recruit members of criminal gangs to face felony charges after a first offense.

Additionally, the bill would define a “criminal gang” as three or more people who share a name, hand gestures, symbols or other chosen traits, has been officially identified as a gang, and has at least two members who have been involved in a “pattern” of criminal activity. It would also tighten the definition of a criminal gang syndicate while outlining rules for judicial treatment of criminal gang members. 

Voting against HB 169 was Rep. Attica Scott, who questioned the bill’s cost – which a fiscal note attached to HB 169 estimates could cost $19.5 million over several years—and its intention.

“I voted no on HB 169 because it is designed to lock up as many young people of color as possible,” Scott said. “And I voted no because $19 million, even over 10 years, is a lot of money to spend to incarcerate more bodies.”

Three floor amendments to the bill were voted down before HB 169 was approved by the House on a vote of 71-17.

The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

  

March 15, 2018

  

Bill would create annual “Day of Prayer” for Kentucky students

FRANKFORT—An annual day of prayer for Kentucky’s students would become part of state law under a bill passed today in the House.

House Bill 40 sponsor Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, said the annual prayer event has been proclaimed by Kentucky’s governor the past two years. HB 40 would designate the last Wednesday of September each year as “A Day of Prayer for Kentucky’s Students” by law, and require the governor to issue an annual proclamation for the event.

Huff said that HB 40 is respectful of all faiths by asking that Kentuckians spend the day praying, meditating or reflecting “in accordance with their own faith and consciences.” Students would be allowed to participate in the event at school before the start of the instructional day.

“Their event at school will be student-initiated and conducted, and always before the start of the school day,” Huff said.   

The Kentucky event would be part of a global prayer initiative that Huff said would be held the same day.

The idea for HB 40 was raised by students in Huff’s district and others who she said “want to know that we are all united in this effort and that, on that particular day each year, we will be united with them.”

“Given all that our students are facing … Our students need to know that we are standing with them,” she said. “We all need to embrace this and be united in an effort of support in each individual’s manner of prayer for our schools, students and administrators.”

HB 40 passed on a vote of 83-5 and now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

 

March 15, 2018

 

Revenge porn bill passes in Senate committee

FRANKFORT – A Senate committee advanced a bill today that would criminalize “revenge porn,” a phrase used to describe sexually explicit images or videos posted online without the consent of the subject.

The measure, known as House Bill 71, would make the first offense a misdemeanor and any subsequent offenses a Class-D felony. If a defendant profited from spreading the images online, the penalties would be enhanced to a Class-D felony for the first offense and a more serious Class-C felony for subsequent offenses.

HB 71 would also pave the way for victims of revenge porn to file lawsuits against the person who posted the images. Damages would be $1,000 for each image and each day the image remained online after it was requested to be removed. Another provision would prohibit an online operator from demanding money to remove revenge porn.

Some exemptions to HB 71 would include images involving voluntary nudity in public.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, spoke in favor of HB 71 during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.

“This isn’t just a hypothetical,” he said. “This is something that happens every day.”

HB 71 passed the committee by a 6-0 vote. The measure is now before the Senate for further consideration.

-- END --

 

March 15, 2018

  

Bill makes changes to rape and sodomy laws

FRANKFORT -- The Senate has advanced a measure to broaden the state’s rape and sodomy statutes. 

House Bill 101 would expand third-degree rape or sodomy to include an adult having sex with a 16 or 17 year old if the age difference is 10 years or greater. A violation of HB 101 would be punishable by up to five years in prison. HB 101 passed the Senate yesterday by a 34-1 vote.

Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, said HB 101 would stop an accused rapist from mounting a trial defense that the sexual intercourse was consensual when the victim was 16 or 17 and the defendant was at least 10 years older.

He asked fellow parents to image their 16-year-old son or daughter being sexually involved with an adult 10 or more years older.  

“This would put a stop to that,” Schroder said. “Currently, it is appalling but it is not criminal. This would make it criminal.”

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, stood in support of HB 101. He said 24 other states have passed similar laws in light of compelling evidence for the need.

“Children of this age demand protection,” Westerfield said.

HB 101 now goes back to the House for consideration because the Senate amended the bill.

-- END --

 

March 14, 2018

  

Net metering bill passes House, moves to Senate 

FRANKFORT—A bill that would let state regulators determine how much solar customers in Kentucky are credited for their surplus power narrowly passed the state House yesterday by a vote of 49-45.

House Bill 227 sponsor Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, said the bill as passed would amend the state’s law on net metering—which Gooch said requires “rooftop solar” customers be paid the “full retail rate” for surplus solar energy fed into the electrical grid—by letting the state Public Service Commission decide how much net metering customers should be compensated, and what costs they should pay.

Existing private net metering customers and those who buy existing net-metered property would be grandfathered in through 2043, with the bill taking effect in 2019, said Gooch.

Gooch said solar customers don’t pay maintenance, transmission and many other costs that electric utilities and their customers pay. Because of that, he said, the current rate structure for net metering benefits only solar customers.

“It’s critical that the system costs of net metering not be shifted to non-net metered customers,” he said.  

Any concerns about whether the bill will put solar contractors out of business were also responded to by Gooch. “They will still sell solar panels to people who want them,” he said. “It may take delay their payoff a little bit longer, but … we still believe it is a viable option.” 

Rep. Phil Moffett, R-Louisville, express concern about the legislation, saying that only a fraction of the state’s electric power is generated by solar power.

“I find this bill really to be a solution looking for a problem,” Moffett said, saying the legislation is not urgent in a state with such low use of solar power.

Also speaking against the bill was Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg. Hatton, who expressed concern about the possibility of increased electricity costs.

“This bill creates an unlevel playing field favoring utility-owned solar over private home owner or small-business owned solar,” she said. “Kentucky solar businesses will close, and the energy rates will continue to climb and utilities eliminate their competition.” 

One lawmaker who supported the bill was Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge. Linder said HB 227 prevents what he called a “reverse Robin Hood” that requires utility customers to help pay the cost of solar installation. He said that cost runs around $20,000 per house, according to committee testimony.  

“I don’t know about you, but not a lot of people in my district have $20,000 sitting around to put solar on their house,” said Linder.

HB 227 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

--END--

 

March 15, 2018

 

Online eye-exam bill passes Senate

FRANKFORT – Kentucky is a step closer to regulating online businesses offering prescription eyeglasses and contacts to individuals who take vision tests on their computers or smartphones.

The move came yesterday when the Senate amended and then unanimously passed House Bill 191. The measure would require the person taking the online test for a prescription to be 18 or older and have received an in-person exam within the last 24 months.

The online services would also be required to have doctors licensed in Kentucky signing off on the prescriptions or findings of the virtual exams. Other provisions of HB 191 would hold online exams to the same standards as in-person exams, require the online companies to register with the state attorney general and require them to carry liability insurance.

“House Bill 191 protects consumers who use these technologies and provides consumers the same protections they would have if they got their prescription from an in-person exam,” said Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, said the amendment changed the language in HB 191 to make it congruent with Senate Bill 112, a measure promoting the use of telehealth in Kentucky. SB 112 passed the Senate last month and is now being considered in the House.

“We wanted to make sure the language in (HB 191) would still permit people to use telehealth for their eye examinations,” Alvarado said.

HB 191 now goes back now goes back to the House for consideration of the Senate change. 

-- END --

 

March 15, 2018

 

Bill addresses the prosecution of child molesters

FRANKFORT – A bill that would make it easier to prosecute child molesters is currently in the House for consideration.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 137, would allow out-of-court statements from a child who has been sexually abused to be admissible in court, under certain circumstances. It passed the Senate by a 29-9 vote yesterday.

The sponsor, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, emphasized the child’s statements would not automatically be admitted at trial. He said SB 137 would set up a mechanism for the statements to be considered. For example, there would still have to be an evidentiary hearing.

“We should allow this evidence to be considered by courts of law for the benefit of child victims of these heinous crimes,” Westerfield said.

He said SB 137 is needed because currently a child’s statements made out of court are considered hearsay and inadmissible at trial. Westerfield said that means when a teacher is told by a child that he or she has been sexually abused that statement can’t be used as evidence at trial. 

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, voted against the measure, in part, because he said the Kentucky Supreme Court and the state bar association was better equipped to address the issue.

“We certainly want to help prosecute individuals who have committed these heinous acts against children,” Jones said. “I’m just not sure it is appropriate to do it through the mechanism we are using to change the rules of evidence.”

He said SB 137 was “ripe for abuse,” particularly in child custody cases.

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, said as a former police officer he had worked child sexual abuse cases where justice wasn’t served because the victim’s statements to adults were ruled hearsay.

“It is my belief that the passage of this bill will bring justice for our kids who are victims, especially those that are victims of sexual or physical abuse,” Carroll said. “There are offenders, abusers of children, who are getting away with it because there is no way for the court to consider these statements. That should change.” 

-- END --

 

March 14, 2018

 

Bill seeks to address felons carrying guns

FRANKFORT – Legislation to curb gun violence by convicted felons passed the state Senate today by a 36-0 vote.  

The measure, known as Senate Bill 210, would increase the penalty imposed on a convicted felon for possession of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes.

“In other words, it enhances the penalties the second time around,” said Majority Caucus Chair Sen. Dan “Malano” Seum, R-Fairdale.

He said he introduced SB 210 at the request of Louisville’s mayor, police and prosecutors who are exploring ways to reduce gun violence. There were 127 murders in 2016 and 117 murders last year just in the city. And for every person fatally shot there are three wounded by gunfire. 

“That kind of sums up our gun violence,” Seum said.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, spoke in support of SB 210. He said gun violence is also a problem in Northern Kentucky and Lexington.

“We are just kidding ourselves if we think that if we don’t address this gun violence that it will just go away on its own,” he said. “It’s not. This legislation is very appropriate.”

SB 210 now goes to the House for consideration.

-- END --

  

March 14, 2018

 

Senate bill promotes safe disposal of narcotics

FRANKFORT – In an effort to help curb Kentucky’s opioid epidemic, the state Senate passed a measure today that would encourage the use of a drug disposal product to help patients safely get rid of unused painkillers.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 6, would require a pharmacist to offer to sell or distribute the drug disposal product with every prescription filled for a drug containing an opiate, benzodiazepine, barbiturate, codeine or amphetamine. SB 6 would also require the pharmacist to consult with a patient about the importance of the proper disposal of unused, expired or unwanted prescription drugs.

“This is important legislation,” said sponsor Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington. “The eyes of the nation are on Kentucky today.”

She said Kentucky has a chance to lead the nation in passing legislation to promote the use of this type of drug disposal product. It works by filling the prescription bottle with water, adding the drug disposal product (sold in the form of a powder) and shaking the bottle for about 30 seconds.

What is left is a biodegradable gel-like substance that is safe to be thrown away in the trash, Kerr said, adding that it would not contaminate water supplies.

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said he supported the concept of SB 6 but couldn’t vote for it because the legislation didn’t provide a funding mechanism, though he acknowledged the benefits of safely disposing painkillers.

“It makes no sense to me whatsoever that the insurance companies and Medicaid would not want to pay for this because they are going to save a ton of money,” he said, adding that the drug disposal product costs a little over $1 but a single opioid overdose costs between $58,000 to $94,000 in medical expenses.

SB 6 passed by a 34-2 vote. It now goes to the House for further consideration.

-- END --

  

March 14, 2018

  

Child marriage bill proceeds to full House

FRANKFORT—Legislation that would rein in child marriage across Kentucky was approved unanimously today by the House Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 48, sponsored by Rep. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, would prohibit anyone under the age of 17 from getting married in Kentucky. Another provision would require parental input for 17-year-olds wanting to marry.

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

Donna Pollard, who at age 16 married a 30-year-old man with her mother’s consent, spoke in support of HB 48 before the committee vote. Pollard said her marriage resulted in domestic violence and sexual exploitation.

In Kentucky, there were 11,000 reported cases of child marriage from 2000 to 2015. Of those marriages, only 7 percent were between two minors, said Pollard.

SB 48 now goes to the full House for its consideration. It passed the Senate by a 34-3 vote on March 7.

--END--

  

March 14, 2018

 

Bill addresses the prosecution of child molesters

FRANKFORT – A bill that would make it easier to prosecute child molesters is currently in the House for consideration.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 137, would allow out-of-court statements from a child who has been sexually abused to be admissible in court, under certain circumstances. It passed the Senate by a 29-9 vote yesterday.

The sponsor, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, emphasized the child’s statements would not automatically be admitted at trial. He said SB 137 would set up a mechanism for the statements to be considered. For example, there would still have to be an evidentiary hearing.

“We should allow this evidence to be considered by courts of law for the benefit of child victims of these heinous crimes,” Westerfield said.

He said SB 137 is needed because currently a child’s statements made out of court are considered hearsay and inadmissible at trial. Westerfield said that means when a teacher is told by a child that he or she has been sexually abused that statement can’t be used as evidence at trial. 

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, voted against the measure, in part, because he said the Kentucky Supreme Court and the state bar association was better equipped to address the issue.

“We certainly want to help prosecute individuals who have committed these heinous acts against children,” Jones said. “I’m just not sure it is appropriate to do it through the mechanism we are using to change the rules of evidence.”

He said SB 137 was “ripe for abuse,” particularly in child custody cases.

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, said as a former police officer he had worked child sexual abuse cases where justice wasn’t served because the victim’s statements to adults were ruled hearsay. 

“It is my belief that the passage of this bill will bring justice for our kids who are victims, especially those that are victims of sexual or physical abuse,” Carroll said. “There are offenders, abusers of children, who are getting away with it because there is no way for the court to consider these statements. That should change.”

-- END --

March 13, 2018

 

Body camera bill passes House, moves to Senate

FRANKFORT—A bill that would specify when footage from body cameras worn by law enforcement may be accessed and used by the public received approval today in the state House.

House Bill 373 sponsor Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said the growing popularity of body cameras among law enforcement agencies has made the legislation necessary since footage from those cameras is not currently addressed in the Kentucky Open Records Act. That is the state law that provides legal access to public records.

“What the bill does is it says when a department decides to wear body-worn cameras that we’re going to create a construct around how that video is to be used and when it can be released because our current Open Records law does not address it and leads to a lot of confusion,” said Benvenuti.

HB 373 would allow public agencies to restrict access to footage from body cameras worn by law enforcement in specific cases, said Benvenuti, including but not limited to cases where a recording shows the interior of specific places (including private homes, medical facilities, or jails), a deceased person’s body, evidence of sexual assault, nude bodies, a child under the age of 18, or the inside of a women’s shelter.

Restricted access would be lifted, he said, when a recording depicts use of force by a law enforcement officer, shows someone being arrested, involves a formal complaint against law enforcement, or when a recording is requested by a criminal defendant or his or her attorney.

Benvenuti said the scene of a motor vehicle fatality is an example of an incident that may be recorded by body camera but which law enforcement likely does not want to be made public.

“That’s obviously not footage we would want put out on YouTube or the internet,” he told the House.

Benvenuti emphasized that HB 373 would in no way require law enforcement agencies to buy or use body cameras, adding “that is up to individual departments and their communities to decide whether or not they have the resources and the availability and the training to use those body cameras. So this bill has nothing to do with that.”  

HB 373 passed the House by a vote of 94-2. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

--END--

  

March 13, 2018

  

Attorney concealed-carry bill passes the House 

FRANKFORT--The House today approved a bill that would add to the list of state attorneys allowed to carry concealed weapons nearly anywhere in the state.  

Under House Bill 315, the deputy attorney general, assistant deputy attorneys general, assistants, and special attorneys would have permission to carry a concealed weapon during their working years or retirement if the attorney has the proper license. The only place where concealed-carry would be limited for the attorneys would be in jails or other detention facilities, where carrying a concealed weapon on the premises would require permission of the jailer or warden.

HB 315 sponsor Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, spoke of the importance of the proposal on the House floor today.

“These attorneys handle some of the most complex cases including murder cases, homicide cases, and appeals,” said Benvenuti. “They deserve the very same protection that we give all our other prosecutors here in Kentucky.”

Passing the House on a 90-6 vote, HB 315 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.   

--END--

 

March 13, 2018

 

Home Baking Bill Passes Senate Committee 

FRANKFORT -- Legislation that would allow Kentucky home bakers to sell products out of their own kitchens as long as they follow certain labeling and sanitation guidelines passed the Senate Agriculture Committee today.

House Bill 263 would require anyone looking to sell baked goods out of their home to be registered with the state and have a mandatory inspection, said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield.

Under Kentucky’s current laws, someone could face a $5,000 fine or up to 30 days in jail for selling baked goods to customers from their home kitchen.

This bill “ensures that a safe marketplace can exist for home bakers,” said Rep. Heath.

Home baked products could be sold by pick-up or delivery at markets, roadside stands, community events, or online under HB 263.

After passing the full House last week, HB 263 has now passed the Senate committee with a 9-0 vote. The measure now goes to the full Senate for its consideration.  

--END--

March 12, 2018

 

Bicycle-safety bill coasts through Senate

FRANKFORT – The state Senate passed a bill clarifying how motorists interact with bicyclists by a 36-0 vote today.

The legislation, known as House Bill 33, would require drivers to keep vehicles at least three feet away from bicyclists during an attempt to pass. If that much space isn’t available, HB 33 states that the drivers must us “reasonable caution” when passing cyclists. Another provision allows a driver to cross a yellow line to pass as long as the cost is clear.

An amendment would prohibit cyclists from riding more than two abreast in a highway lane unless the roadway is marked for bicycle use.

When Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, presented the HB 33, he said the Senate had passed similar legislation during the prior two sessions that didn’t become law.

HB 33 now goes back now goes back to the House for consideration of the Senate change. 

-- END --

March 12, 2018

 

11-week abortion measure goes to Senate

FRANKFORT—A second-trimester abortion procedure known as D & E would be prohibited in Kentucky for most women who are at least 11 weeks into their pregnancy under a bill that has cleared the state House.  

House Bill 454 passed the House by a vote of 71-11. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

HB 454 would not completely ban abortion at or after 11 weeks but would ban the D & E—or dilation and evacuation—procedure except in medical emergencies. A D & E is described by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as an abortion that uses “sharp instrument techniques, but also suction and other instrumentation such as forceps, for evacuation.”

Abortion procedures that would still be allowed in the state should HB 454 pass into law are induction abortion, which uses medication to induce labor, and dilation and curettage (D & C), which uses suction.  

HB 454 sponsor Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, said the D & E procedure is used in approximately 16 percent of abortions performed in Kentucky. The purpose of her bill, she said, is to codify “the state’s valid interest in banning this brutal, intentional dismemberment procedure.”

Intentional violation of the HB 454 would be a Class D felony under the legislation, with an exemption for the pregnant woman on whom the procedure is performed.

One lawmaker voting against the bill was Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, who told the House that similar legislation has already be found unconstitutional in Texas. Marzian said abortion decisions should be left up to a woman and her physician.


“I respect women and their families and their doctors to be able to make a choice about their personal, private medical decisions,” said Marzian.  

House Bill 454, which is also sponsored by Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, is the second bill proposing limits on abortion procedures to make it to the floor of the Kentucky House in a little over a year. Legislation prohibiting abortions in Kentucky at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except when the mother’s life is in danger, passed into law in 2017 under Senate Bill 5.

--END--

 

March 12, 2018

 

Insurance fraud bill moves to Senate

FRANKFORT--Legislation that would create a new range of penalties for those who have committed insurance fraud is currently in the Senate for consideration.

Penalties in House Bill 323, sponsored by Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, would be based on the amount of fraud that has been committed. Felony penalty levels would be defined for insurance fraud ranging from $10,000 to $1,000,000 or more, with misdemeanor penalties for fraud of lesser amounts also defined.

The bill passed the House 83-0 on Friday.

“You don’t have to take my word for it that it (insurance fraud) is a problem in Kentucky,” said Riggs as he presented the bill on the House floor last Friday. The National Insurance Crime Bureau has placed Kentucky as a top ten state for insurance fraud, Riggs said.

Victims of insurance fraud, and their insurers, would also be able to seek compensation in civil court for their damages under HB 323, which is another change to current law, added Riggs.

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, also spoke of the importance the legislation on the House floor.

“It gets the whole system, hopefully, focused on prosecuting and taking these issues seriously,” Nemes said.   

--END--

 

March 9, 2018

 

This Week at the State Capitol

FRANKFORT – Capitol observers have been tuned in for months to find out what form lawmakers’ public pension reform plans might take and how legislators would cast their first votes on the issue.

They got some answers as Senate Bill 1 advanced through a Senate committee this week. 

On Wednesday, the latest version of proposed pension was approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee on a  7-4 vote. By week’s end, though, the legislation had taken an uncertain turn as it was recommitted back to the committee for further review rather than coming up for a vote in the full Senate. 

In looking at the issue, lawmakers are striving to establish sound financial footing for ailing pension systems that are estimated to have unfunded liabilities between $40 billion and $60 billion. Additional funding for pension systems is part of the budget proposal that is moving through the legislature. Senate Bill 1 proposes changes to the system that would help reduce unfunded liabilities in a number of ways, such as by reducing the cost-of-living adjustments for retired teachers pensions from 1.5 percent to 1 percent until the teachers’ system is 90 percent funded.

While much of the focus was on the pension bill this week, a number of bills on other issues also moved through the legislative process:

Disabled Parking Permit. House Bill 81 would limit eligible individuals or organizations to one free permanent or temporary disabled parking placard while requiring $10 for each additional placard. The measure, which is meant to limit the misuse of disabled parking permit placards, passed the House by an 85-10 vote. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

Bicycle-safety. House Bill 33 would require drivers to keep vehicles at least three feet away from bicyclists during an attempt to pass. If that much space isn’t available, the driver must use “reasonable caution” when passing cyclists. In hopes to increase roadway safety, HB 33 passed a Senate committee this week and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Pregnant Inmates. Senate Bill 133 would improve outcomes for pregnant inmates by limiting shackling during childbirth and by allowing access to substance abuse treatment. ­­­The bill is intended to ensure pregnant women are receiving proper nutrition behind bars, adequate sanitary items, and undergarments. SB 133 has passed the Senate and now goes to the House for further consideration.

Fertility Treatment. Senate Bill 95 would require health insurers of cancer patients to cover fertility preservation, the process of saving or protecting eggs, sperm or reproductive tissue so that a person can use them to have biological children in the future. To give hope to men and women facing infertility caused by cancer treatments, SB 95 has been approved by the Senate and now goes to the House for further consideration.

Abortion. House Bill 454 would ban an abortion procedure known as a “D & E” for women who are at least 11 weeks into their pregnancy except in medical emergencies. The measure would not result in a complete ban of all abortions after 11 weeks but would solely target D & E procedures described as an “intentional dismemberment procedure.” Passing a House committee this week, HB 454 now goes to the full House for consideration.

Road Plan. House Bill 202 would create a two-year state Road Plan that would authorize over $2.4 billion for bridges, repaving and other road and highway projects statewide through 2020. The plan focuses on road safety as well as economic development for Kentucky. Passing the House this week with a 66-25 vote, HB 202 now goes to the Senate or its consideration. 

Holocaust Education. House Bill 128 would require public middle and high schools across Kentucky to teach their students about the Holocaust and other internationally-recognized acts of genocide. To ensure that students are being given Holocaust curriculum based in fact, HB 128 passed the House by a vote of 93-1 and now goes to the Senate.  

To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s Message Line at 1-800-372-7181.  People with hearing difficulties may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the TTY Message Line at 1-800-896-0305.

 

--END--

 

March 9, 2018

 

 

Anti-child pornography measure goes to governor’s desk

FRANKFORT—A bill that would more tightly secure materials held in court proceedings that depict child pornography is on its way to becoming law.  

House Bill 120, sponsored by Rep. Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown, received final passage by a vote of 83-0 today in House. The bill, which first passed the House in January, was amended and unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday.

“The point of this bill is stop the proliferation of child pornography through the court system, to make sure if it’s used as evidence it can’t be then further distributed,” said McCoy.

HB 120 requires that law enforcement or the prosecutor secure any child pornography or material depicting a sexual performance by a minor in their custody that is part a criminal or civil proceeding. Any request to copy the material by a defendant in the case would be prohibited as long as the material is made “reasonably available” at a designated facility to the defendant and his or her attorney for legal purposes.

The bill also specifies that the court would not be responsible for storing such material except by court order, and then only if the material is introduced as an exhibit for trial.

The bill now goes to the governor to be signed into law.  

--END--

 

March 8, 2018

 

Bill to amp up pharmacists’ role in opioid fight goes to Senate 

FRANKFORT—Kentucky’s community pharmacies would play a bigger role in the state’s fight against opioid addiction under legislation that has passed the state House.

House Bill 246, sponsored by pharmacist and State Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, and Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, would create a pilot program to gauge the effectiveness of a community pharmacy care delivery model for dispensing of non-controlled medication assisted therapy for those with opioid use disorder, or OUD, under approved protocols.

The pilot program would be implemented by the state, as funds are available, “to determine practices that increase access to treatment, reduce frequency of relapse” and help to control costs. Counties or populations chosen to participate in the program would be designated by the state.

“Successful completion of the pilot project will demonstrate the impact of the community pharmacy practice model,” said Bentley, adding that HB 246 would be “a model for Kentucky and maybe a model for the United States.”

Pharmacist and State Rep. Robert Goforth, R-East Bernstadt, said HB 246 would allow the state to build on existing regulations that authorize pharmacists to dispense non-controlled medication like naltrexone under approved protocols.

Goforth said barriers to access to long-acting naltrexone and a lack of reimbursement now keep community pharmacists from participating in naltrexone-based medication assisted therapy programs.    

“Pharmacists are highly-educated health care professionals with unparalleled accessibility and can play a larger role in addressing this significant public health issue” involving opioid addiction, he said.

HB 246 passed the House on a vote of 90-0. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

 

March 7, 2018

 

Holocaust education bill passes House, goes to Senate

FRANKFORT—Public middle and high schools across Kentucky would be required to teach their students about the Holocaust and other internationally-recognized acts of genocide under a bill which has passed the state House.

The legislation is House Bill 128, sponsored by Rep. John Carney, R-Campbellsville, and Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville. It was championed this session by eighth-grade students and their teachers from the private St. Francis of Assisi School in Louisville, many of whom were on the House floor when the bill was passed.

Carney, who chairs the House Education Committee, said that “most school districts are already teaching the Holocaust,” which was the systematic killing of an estimated 6 million Jewish people in the 1930s and 1940s under the direction of the Nazi regime.  “Unfortunately, there are some folks in society who are beginning to question it.”

HB 128 will ensure middle and high students in Kentucky are taught a Holocaust curriculum based in fact, he said.

Marzian recognized the students from St. Francis of Assisi School for their work.

“They have worked so hard on this piece of legislation and have such social justice hearts that it’s been a pleasure,” she said.

Also present on the House floor for the passage of HB 128 was author and Holocaust teacher Fred Gross who survived the Holocaust as a child.  HB 128 includes a provision that would cite the legislation the “Ann Klein and Fred Gross Holocaust Education Act” in honor of Gross and Klein, a survivor of Auschwitz and a Holocaust educator who died in 2012.

A few lawmakers said that, while they support the bill, other crimes against humanity should also be recognized.   

Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, who voted for the measure, expressed concern about putting more mandates on public school teachers.

“I believe that everybody should know what happened in the Holocaust, the horrors of the Holocaust. I continue to have problems, however, as the session goes on, that we require more, and more and more from our teachers and our schools,” said Bechler.  

HB 128 passed the House by a vote of 94-1. It now goes to the Senate.  

--END--

 

March 7, 2018

 

Road plan, related bills pass House, sent to Senate 

FRANKFORT—A two-year state Road Plan that would authorize over $2.4 billion for bridges, repaving and other road and highway projects statewide through 2020 passed the House today by a vote of 66-25.

Road safety is at the top of the list for the road plan found in House Bill 202, which House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation Chair and bill sponsor Rep. Sal Santoro, R-Florence, said would invest nearly $1 billion in bridge and road work across the Commonwealth.

“Today a bridge collapsed in Letcher County,” said Santoro, adding that bridges in 103 of the state’s 120 counties are deficient. “So, the plan – we’re going to fix these bridges in the Commonwealth. It’s time.”

The plan would also focus on projects that boost economic development, like $14 million proposed in HB 202 for transportation infrastructure to support EnerBlu, Inc. The California-based company announced last year its plans to locate a lithium battery gigafactory manufacturing facility in Eastern Kentucky, along with offices in Lexington. 

“This legislator knows our rural roads and our people in our rural communities need help, and we’re going to take care of them,” Santoro told the House. HB 202 is also sponsored by House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah. 

One of the lawmakers voting against the road plan in HB 202 was Rep. Chris Harris, D-Forest Hills, who is from Pike County. Harris said tens of millions of dollars in projects that are “vital to opening up the roads in Eastern Kentucky” were completely removed from the plan.  

“They’re not moved back, they’re not bumped back to a different time, not delayed, they’re just taken out like they don’t exist,” said Harris. “This is not what the people in Pike and Martin counties expect from their leadership.”

Funding for the two-year road plan would come from the state Transportation Cabinet budget found in HB 201, sponsored by Rudy. Approved by the House today on a 78-16 vote, that bill includes funding for both the biennial Road Plan, airport and railroad improvements and Cabinet operations, along with other needs

The last four years, or so-called “out years,” of the state’s larger six-year Road Plan—which includes the two-year Road Plan—are found in House Joint Resolution 74. The resolution, sponsored by Rudy and Santoro, includes over $4 billion in projects that are not scheduled for funding in the two-year Road Plan but may be funded in the future. That legislation was also approved by the House, 71-21

All of the measures now go to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

March 7, 2018

 

11-week abortion measure passes House panel

FRANKFORT—A House committee voted today to ban an abortion procedure known as a “D & E” for women who are at least 11 weeks into their pregnancy except in medical emergencies.

HB 454 sponsor Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, told the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week that her bill would not completely ban abortion at or after 11 weeks, but would target only the D & E—or dilation and evacuation—procedure which she described as an “intentional dismemberment procedure.”

Specifically, HB 454 would prohibit any abortion that “will result in the bodily dismemberment, crushing or human vivisection of the unborn child” when the likely post-fertilization age is 11 week of more, except in a medical emergency.  A D & E is described by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as an abortion method that uses “sharp instrument techniques, but also suction and other instrumentation such as forceps for evacuation.”

“While there is no doubt that I am pro-life, this is not a total ban on abortion in the Commonwealth after 11 weeks, but a prohibition on a procedure that is gruesome, brutal and not necessary since women have other methods available to them,” said Wuchner.

Wuchner said other procedures that a woman can pursue for abortion at or after 11 weeks include dilation and curettage (D & C) and induction abortion.

Those speaking against the bill in committee this week included Marcie Crim of the Kentucky Health Justice Network. Crim said that of the 42 million abortions that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates are performed worldwide each year, at least 20 million are considered “unsafe.”

“Where there are restrictive abortion laws, there are unsafe abortions,” Crim told the committee.

Intentional violation of the HB 454 would be a Class D felony under the legislation, with legal immunity for the pregnant woman on whom the procedure is performed.  

House Bill 454 is the second bill proposing limits on abortion procedures to make it to the floor of the Kentucky House in a little over a year. Legislation prohibiting abortions in Kentucky at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except when the mother’s life is in danger, passed into law in 2017 under Senate Bill 5.

HB 454, which is also sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, now goes to the full House for its consideration.

--END--

 

March 7, 2018

 

Attorney concealed-carry bill given committee OK

FRANKFORT--The House Judiciary Committee today approved a bill that would add to the list of state attorneys allowed to carry concealed weapons nearly anywhere in the state.

Under House Bill 315, the deputy attorney general, assistant deputy attorneys general, assistants, and special attorneys would have permission to carry a concealed weapon at any time if a proper license has been obtained. The only place where concealed-carry would be limited for the attorneys would be in jails or other detention facilities, where carrying a concealed weapon on the premises would require permission of the jailer or warden.

”These are prosecutors that are highly specialized, they’re in the Attorney General’s office, and they often go into very difficult, dangerous circumstances, and I think they deserve the same personal protection that we give every other commonwealth and county attorney in the state,” HB 315 sponsor Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said in committee today.

Kentucky Deputy Attorney General J. Michael Brown also came before the committee to show his support for HB 315.

“I think these lawyers, these dedicated professionals, deserve equal protection like the other people in the law enforcement community,” said Brown.

Passing the committee on a 16-1 vote, HB 315 now goes to the full House for consideration. 

--END--

 

March 7, 2018

  

Senate Panel approves bicycle-safety bill

FRANKFORT -- Legislation aimed at increasing roadway safety for both motor vehicles and bicyclists passed the Senate Transportation committee today.  

House Bill 33 would require drivers to keep vehicles at least three feet away from bicyclists during an attempt to pass. If that much space isn’t available, the bill says that the drivers must us “reasonable caution” when passing cyclists.

HB 33’s sponsor, Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, said such measures are needed to protect cyclists in Kentucky, which has had 15 fatalities in the past two years due to cyclist accidents.

The measure, which was approved by the House on Feb. 9, now goes to the full Senate for consideration. 

--END--

 

March 7, 2018

 

Finalists for Vic Hellard Jr. Award announced

FRANKFORT -- Though their job duties varied greatly during careers at the Legislative Research Commission (LRC), Gordon Adkins, Joyce Honaker, and Jim Swain all now share a common distinction: Each was announced today as a finalist for the 2018 Vic Hellard Jr. Award, the highest honor given by LRC. 

The Hellard Award is given each year to someone who served the LRC with skill, dedication, professionalism, integrity, and dignity. The award alternates annually between past and current LRC staff members. This year’s award honors a past LRC worker.

The award’s namesake, Vic Hellard Jr., was director of the LRC staff for 19 years before retiring in 1995. He passed away in 1996.

Seven nominations were received for this year’s award before a selection committee narrowed the list down to the three finalists: 

·         Gordon Adkins, served as the LRC’s Telecommunications Supervisor until he passed away last year.

 

·         Joyce Honaker served LRC as the Committee Staff Administrator for State Government until her 2003 retirement.


·         Jim Swain was LRC’s Chief Information Officer until his retirement in 2016.

 

“The nominees for this year’s Vic Hellard Jr. Award read like an All Star Team of LRC alumni,” said LRC Director David Byerman. “The selection committee struggled to narrow this extraordinary field down to these three finalists. These three finalists truly exemplify everything that is special about LRC employees: their love of the institution, indefatigable attitude, and commitment to public service inspire us all.”

Additional information on the 2018 finalists, including excerpts from their nomination letters, can be viewed online: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/2018HellardFinalists.pdf. 

Ellen Hellard, the widow of Vic Hellard Jr., served as chair of the selection committee for the 2018 Vic Hellard Jr. Award. Past award winners Sally Everman (2015), Scott Payton (2016), and Sheila Mason (2017) served on the panel, along with LRC Director David Byerman and LRC Deputy Director for Committee and Staff Coordination Robert Jenkins.

The 2017 Vic Hellard Jr. Award will be presented during House and Senate floor sessions March 22nd at the State Capitol. All finalists will be honored at a reception at the Capitol.

The Vic Hellard Jr. Award goes each year to someone who embodies the values that longtime LRC Director Vic Hellard Jr. brought to his long career: A public servant of vision, appreciating history while finding new ways to do things, someone who champions the equality and dignity of all, nurtures the processes of a democratic society and promotes public dialogue while educating and fostering civic engagement, approaching that work with commitment, caring, generosity, and humor.

Hellard was known as a champion of legislative independence who played an instrumental role in the modernization of the legislative institution and nonpartisan staffing. Serving nearly two decades at the helm of LRC, he was known not just for his contributions to an independent General Assembly, but also for his wit, appreciation of history, and his mentoring of hundreds of young people who now serve the people of the Commonwealth and carry on his legacy.  

--END--

 

March 6, 2018

 

Disabled parking placard bill goes to Senate

FRANKFORT—Legislation designed to limit misuse of disabled parking permit placards in Kentucky moved a step closer toward final passage today.

House Bill 81, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, would limit eligible individuals or organizations to one free permanent or temporary disabled parking placard while requiring $10 for each additional placard. Unique decals would replace handwritten permit information on the placards upon renewal, making them harder to alter, said Miller.

Those most in need of the placards would be able to keep a permanent placard for six years  instead of the current two before having to renew the permit while others would find it easier to get a temporary placard, said Miller. Temporary placards could be attained via a statement attesting to the disability by a physician assistant, physical therapist or occupational therapist for the first time under the law, with other providers also being able to provide required proof.

“The intent of the bill is cut down on fraud that we obviously have, make it easier to get temporary (placard) stickers, and allow those who really need them to find parking places,” Miller told the House.

Miller said the legislation is needed mainly because of a 10-year-old court case that led to the removal of all fees for disabled parking placards in Kentucky. He said the number of placards issued in the Commonwealth grew from around 32,600 to over 298,000 in the aftermath of that case. 

Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, who voted in favor of the bill, praised a provision that would set the expiration date of the placards in the permit holder’s birth month, instead of on the date that the permit was issued.

“That was one of the suggested changes that my constituent (made),” Cantrell said. “So I do think that it will streamline the process and hopefully make it easier for these people who are truly in need.”

HB 81 passed the House by a vote of 85-10. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration.  

--END--

 

March 6, 2018

 

House receives bill encouraging palliative care

FRANKFORT – A measure designed to encourage the widespread adoption of palliative care to those who need it passed by a vote of 36-0 today in the state Senate

Known as Senate Bill 149, the legislation would establish the Palliative Care Interdisciplinary Advisory Council within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The groups would make recommendations on how to improve and expand palliative care and educate patients about their options. 

“It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, strain and stress of a serious illness,” said sponsor Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville. “Research points to palliative care results in extending survival. It is appropriate at any stage and any age of a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.”

She said recent studies indicate that palliative care can provide substantial reductions in medical costs by closely matching treatments with the patient’s goals.

“When pain and stress are alleviated, the length of stay at hospitals can be reduced,” Adams said. “Having a team determine what services are truly needed can also reduce costs. And developing a transition plan for safe discharges results in less readmissions, translating to less costs.”

Sen. David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, spoke in support of the measure. He said the goal of SB 149 is to maximize the effectiveness of palliative care initiatives in Kentucky by ensuring comprehensive and accurate information is available to the public, health care providers and health care facilities.

“It is a difficult conversation, but it is one everyone should engage in,” Givens said. “The dignity that we want to give to so many also needs to be given to people who are dying – and it is a hard thing to do. It is a hard thing for our society and culture to accept, but it is something we are all going to face.”

SB 149 now goes to the House for consideration.

-- END --

  

March 6, 2018

 

Fertility treatment coverage bill goes to House

FRANKFORT – Men and women facing infertility because of cancer treatments would find new hope under a measure approved by the state Senate today.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 95, would require health insurers of cancer patients to cover fertility preservation, the process of saving or protecting eggs, sperm or reproductive tissue so that a person can use them to have biological children in the future.

“Many young adults who undergo chemotherapy, radiation and other harsh treatments often compromise their fertility as a result,” said Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington.

She said she introduced the legislation after hearing the story of Melissa Thompson. The Connecticut woman became a national advocate for legislation like SB 95 after her health insurer refused to pay for her fertility preservation treatment when she was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer at the age of 32.

“It is such a tragedy that many of our young people ... win the fight to stay alive but lose one of life’s greatest blessing and joys – that of having children,” Kerr said. “We have a tremendous opportunity to give young cancer survivors hope.”

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, spoke in support of SB 95. He said the cost of the coverage would be negligible to health insurers. Buford also thanked one of the largest health insurers in Kentucky, Anthem, for not opposing SB 95.

“They understood the necessity of this and how we can help those individuals who are about to lose the ability to ever have a child,” Buford said.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, said many side effects of illnesses are temporary but infertility is not one of those.

“This bill gives our young women, men and children – who suffer one of the most common and toughest health challenges – the possibility of extending the miracle of life,” said Alvarado, who is a pediatrician.

Sen. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown, stood to explain his “yes” vote.

“I think it is a landmark bill,” he said. “It is outstanding in every way ... and I urge my colleagues to support it.”

It passed by a 34-3 vote.

 

--END--

 

March 6, 2018

 

Benefit fraud bill clears House 63-32

FRANKFORT— Legislation aimed at rooting out fraud from the state’s Medicaid and food stamps programs has passed the Kentucky House.

House Bill 363 sponsor Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, said the bill would require the state to track enrollees in the programs at set intervals for changes in eligibility based on lottery winnings, employment, changes in residency, or other life changes. 

Any “change in circumstances” that could affect someone’s eligibility for Medicaid benefit or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits-- formerly known as food stamps-- would require a review of that individual’s case, according to the bill. No waiver of SNAP requirements would be allowed unless the state unemployment rate reaches at least 10 percent, or by determination of the state.

“Essentially, the bill is an attempt to turn back the fraud and abuse in these programs,” said Huff. She said examples of fraud have included lottery winners not reporting their income and SNAP electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards being sold for profit.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, challenged the legislation, asking why supporters of the bill feel the state should “police the poor.”

“It seems to me, if the federal government wanted to set up some guidelines on these, they would set the guidelines themselves,” said Wayne.

HB 363 supporter Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said the bill is needed because many who don’t need the benefits are taking them away from those who do.

“The real shame is when someone who does not (qualify) pushes a child or someone who is truly disabled out of line,” he said.

HB 363, which is also sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, cleared the House by a vote of 63-32. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

--END--

  

March 6, 2018

  

Road plan, related bills OK’d by House budget committee

FRANKFORT—The House budget committee today approved a two-year state Road Plan that would authorize over $2.4 billion for bridges, repaving and other road and highway projects statewide through 2020.

House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation Chair Rep. Sal Santoro, R-Florence, told the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee that the plan found in House Bill 202 would undergird economic development, safety, and road and bridge maintenance, with bridges at the top of the list.

Over $545 million would be authorized in the Road Plan to replace or repair structurally-deficient bridges in 103 of Kentucky’s 120 counties, said Santoro, who is sponsoring HB 202 with House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah. 

“These bridges will be replaced or repaired,” he told the committee. 

The plan would also inject over $365 million over the biennium into road resurfacing and paving projects that Santoro said are now underfunded

“We have a $1 billion resurfacing backlog,” said Santoro.

For economic development, the Road Plan would focus on state and regional needs. Santoro said the plan authorizes, for example, $14 million for transportation infrastructure to support the EnerBlu Inc. energy storage production facility locating in Pikeville. The California-based company announced last December that it was investing over $400 million to locate a facility in Pikeville and offices in Lexington.  

All funding for the two-year Road Plan would come from the state Transportation Cabinet budget found in HB 201, sponsored by Rudy. That legislation, also approved by the committee today, includes funding for both the biennial Road Plan, airport and railroad improvements, and Cabinet operations among other funding needs.

The Road Plan would hold overprogramming– or planned overspending—to seven percent, said Santoro. Overprogramming in the 2016-2018 Road Plan approved two years ago was around 214 percent, he said.

Rudy said overprogramming at the level of past budget cycles “gives the administration a blank check.”

“I think this is very responsible. It is not based on any new revenue in the Road Plan,” although new revenue may be addressed this session, said Rudy. “(This) shows we are the policy makers and we’ll make the decisions.”

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, voted against the bill, saying he needed time to study it. He also said lawmakers need to look at new funding sources, calling the current funding formula—which is based on the gasoline tax—out of date in an age of electric and hybrid vehicles. 

“We’re afraid to jack the gasoline tax up to where we’ll have enough money, so it’s an examination that needs to take place in this body,” said Wayne.

The last four years, or so-called “out years,” of the state’s larger six-year Road Plan—which includes the two-year Road Plan—were also adopted with the committee’s approval of House Joint Resolution 74. The resolution, sponsored by Rudy and Santoro, includes over $4 billion in projects that are not scheduled for funding in the two-year Road Plan but may be funded in the future.

“This will not be funded in the biennium. We are just preparing for the future in case great things could happen this legislative session,” Santoro said in his explanation of HJR 74.

All three measures now go to the full House for its consideration.

--END--

 

March 6, 2018

  

Senate moves auto insurance legislation

FRANKFORT – A bill that would change the personal injury protection (PIP) coverage required in all Kentucky automobile insurance policies has passed the state Senate.

Sen. Rick Girdler, R-Somerset, said he introduced the measure, known as Senate Bill 121, to stop very specific abuses in PIP, intended for those injured in automobile wrecks to quickly be reimbursed for medical bills and lost wages without regard to who was at fault. SB 121 passed yesterday by a 21-16 vote.

“As an insurance agent, I’ve had the opportunity to see the impact of insurance fraud and abuses firsthand,” Girdler said. He added that since legislators voted to require PIP in the ‘70s, structural flaws in state statutes and adverse court decisions have combined to make PIP a “hotbed for abuse of practices and outright fraud.” 

He said the state insurance department reported that about 70 percent of fraudulent insurance claims reported in Kentucky are related to PIP.

Girdler said there were two chief problems with PIP. He said the first was that all bills are presumed to be reasonable and required to be paid within 30 days. “This has allowed unscrupulous providers, a small subset of all providers, to engage in abusive practices and outright fraud,” he said.

“Second, unlike workers comp and health insurance, there is no limitation on PIP charges,” Girder said. “It is the only insurance coverage which is billed at retail. As a result, consumers see their $10,000 in benefits used up quickly by charges.”

Sen. Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, spoke against SB 121. He said what’s allowed to be charged for worker compensation claims isn’t enough money to cover most medical providers’ expenses. Jones said the bill would “deny access of care for people who have been in a motor vehicle collision.”

“Really, this is a bill that is another anti-consumer piece of legislation,” he said

Girdler said SB 121 would limit the types of medical services PIP reimburses to services performed by licensed practitioners or which are designed to serve a legitimate medical purpose. It also would eliminate excessive billing by requiring medical providers to charge the same price as worker compensation claims. Girdler said those amounts are generally lower than the “retail rate” currently being charged in PIP cases.

An amendment, however, would allow a hospital to charge more than what’s required in worker compensation claims but less than the retail rate. Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, who filed the amendment, said that charge would generally be about 20 percent less than the retail rate.

 

-- END --

 

March 5, 2018

 

Senate moves bill aimed at pregnant inmates

FRANKFORT – A measure designed to improve outcomes for pregnant inmates by limiting shackling during childbirth and by allowing access to substance abuse treatment has moved to the state House.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 133, passed by a vote of 33-4 today in the Senate.

“The criminal justice system was built for men,” said Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, who introduced the bill. “The overwhelming majority of offenders are male. Most victims are male. Most police, prosecutors and correction officers are male, but Kentucky’s female inmate population is growing.” 

As of 2017, Kentucky has the second-highest female incarceration rate in the country, she said. One in four of the women who enter a Kentucky jail or prison is pregnant or has a child under the age of one.

“Kentucky has the opportunity to make a bold proclamation in 2018 that men and women are different and have different needs, especially while incarcerated,” Adams said. “Senate Bill 133 is a bill that prioritizes above all else the welfare of babies and the women who are carrying them.”

Other provisions of SB 133 would also ensure pregnant women receive proper nutrition behind bars, adequate sanitary items and undergarments.

“Lastly, this bill prioritizes the health and welfare of all women by expanding access to emergency protective orders,” Adams said. 

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, spoke in opposition to SB 133. He said he just objected to a provision that would allow pregnant women to be released from jail for drug abuse treatment. Carroll emphasized that he shared everyone’s goal of improving the well-being of pregnant women and babies. 

“I believe it will also lead to drug dealers using pregnant women to mule, or transport, their drugs in increasing numbers,” Carroll said while explaining why he voted against the measure. “Why? Because the woman will be released as long as she follows the pregnancy-release conditions.”

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington – the longest-serving female Senator in Kentucky – said she couldn’t be more proud to vote for SB 133.

“It is humane,” she said. “It is decent, and it is right.

She said it wasn’t a contradiction to be tough and crime and to support SB 133.

“This ... gives these babies a chance at having a mama that can emerge from the fog of drugs,” Kerr said. 

-- END --

 

 

March 5, 2018

 

Judicial review bill clears House committee 

FRANKFORT—A bill that would create three new family court judgeships in Kentucky was approved today by the House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 348, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, would add family court judges to both the judicial circuit serving Pulaski, Lincoln and Rockcastle counties and the judicial circuit serving Boone and Gallatin counties.  

“Those two (circuits) in particular have a tremendous need. There’s a lot of places in Kentucky where judges are working extremely hard but in those two places—I don’t see how they’re even getting the job done, they’re so overworked,” said Nemes.

The third family court judgeship would be created in Bullitt County where a district judgeship would be converted to a family court judgeship to accommodate the change, said Nemes.

A circuit judgeship in Floyd County and a district judgeship in far West Kentucky would be eliminated by HB 348 as of 2023 to pay for the family court judgeships created by the bill, said Nemes. The change in far West Kentucky would be handled by combining two district judgeships – one in Fulton and Hickman counties and one in Carlisle and Ballard counties – into one district judgeship.

“This circuit is already combined, and so we’re combining the district judges there and taking one judge away from what will be the combined district,” Nemes said of the proposed change in West Kentucky.  “That is, according to the numbers, the lowest caseload of any district judge in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”  

A light caseload was also the reason for targeting Floyd County Circuit Court for elimination of a judgeship, according to Nemes. But Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, disagreed with the proposed change. She ended up voting against the bill in committee.

Although Floyd County isn’t in her district, Hatton said she thinks HB 348 “disproportionately affects my mountain community and especially that district, where they already share judges who travel far distances.” 

Additionally, HB 348 would allow the Kentucky Supreme Court to direct a review every eight years of Kentucky’s judicial circuits and districts to determine if there is any need to rearrange them.  Nemes said the review would “tell us what the caseload looks like, whether there needs to be, or should be, some changes within the circuits and districts.”

HB 348 now goes to the full House for its consideration.

--END--

 

March 2, 2018

 

This Week at the State Capitol

Feb. 26 – March 2

FRANKFORT -- The Kentucky General Assembly’s 2018 session passed a couple big milestones this week as the deadline to introduce new bills arrived in the House on Tuesday and in the Senate on Thursday.

Capitol observers now have a complete view of the subjects that will be considered this year on major issues like education, taxes, and health care as well as on lesser-known matters like shark fins, nail salons, and elk.

The big issue of the week, though, was the passage of a state budget plan and a revenue-generating measure in the state House of Representatives.

The budget bill, House Bill 200, restores many of the programs that were cut in the governor’s original budget proposal while also providing more funding for education and public safety. The plan would protect school transportation funding and boost per-pupil school funding to the highest level ever. It also provides funds to help the state police modernize an aging fleet with 260 new cruisers and 800 new rifles.

The plan would also increase funding for the Kentucky Retirement Systems by $774.5 million and the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System by 89.1 million to meet the full actuarial require contribution for public pensions.

Still, spending cuts for many parts of state government remain in the spending plan. Many state agencies would see 6.25 percent cuts, the same amount as proposed in the governor’s original spending plan.

House Bill 200 passed the House on Wednesday on a 76-15 vote.

The revenue bill, House Bill 366, passed the House the same day on a 68-25 vote. Under this measure, taxes on packs of cigarettes would go up 50 cents and prescription opioids would be taxed at 25 cents per dose at the distribution level, which means the increase is intended to be paid for by manufacturers and not passed on to consumers.

Many other bills also took steps forward in the General Assembly this week, including measures on:

Truck Platooning. Senate Bill 116 would allow truck platooning. The term refers to two or more individual commercial vehicles traveling together in sync with electronically coordinated speeds through wireless communication. With safety and fuel-efficiency benefits for drivers, SB 116 passed the Senate unanimously and now goes to the House for consideration.

Adoption and Foster Care. House Bill 1 would allow the state to petition for involuntary termination of parental rights of a mother who won’t seek drug treatment within 60 days after giving birth to a drug-addicted baby. The measure would also expand the definition of a “blood relative” for child placement and ensure that dependent, neglected or abused children placed in foster care are reunified with family or placed in a new permanent home in a timely manner. HB 1 passed the House by a vote of 94-1 this week and now goes to the Senate.

Breweries. House Bill 136 would increase the cap on packaged beer to individual customers for Kentucky’s craft brewers. It would also allow craft brewers to start sending their wholesale tax payments directly to Kentucky Department of Revenue. The bill received final passage this week and is headed to the governor’s desk.

Peer-Reviews. House Bill 4 would exempt doctors’ reviews of other doctors in medical-malpractice lawsuits from discovery, a pre-trial procedure in a lawsuit to obtain evidence. Peer review is used to determine whether accepted standards of care have been met and be a source of information for physicians. In hopes to prevent physician errors, HB 4 received final passage by a vote of 25-13 and has been sent to the governor’s desk. 

Volunteer Jurors. Senate Bill 87 would allow Kentucky’s 54 judicial districts to accept volunteers for jury duty. These volunteer jurors would still be subject to jury selection and voire dire like any other person called for jury duty. After passing a Senate committee this week, SB 87 now goes to the Senate floor for further consideration.

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

--END--

 

March 2, 2018

 

Pawnbroker bill given final passage in House, goes to governor 

FRANKFORT—Thieves who try to pawn or sell items they have stolen would face more scrutiny at Kentucky pawn shops under a bill now on its way to the governor’s desk.  

Pawnbrokers in Kentucky already keep a register of their transactions, as required by law. House Bill 74, sponsored by Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg, would upgrade the process by requiring the register be made available online to law enforcement and include not only dates but also the amounts of pawned items, along with a government-issued picture ID number of the person pawning or selling items.

“This is a wonderful tool for our law enforcement officers to have to help return stolen articles to their rightful owners,” King told the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee when it heard the bill in January.

A “full description” of all property that is purchased or received as collateral or security would have to be included in the register, with the make, model, color, size, manufacturer and any distinguishing marks of the property required as part of the description. 

HB 74 would also require that secondhand merchandise bought by pawnbrokers be held at least 12 days before it is resold, and that law enforcement give a pawnbroker a case report or other documentation that an item is reported as stolen before property is released to law enforcement by a pawnbroker.

HB 74, which received final passage by a 75-2 House vote today, had passed the Senate unanimously in February.

Similar legislation passed the House last year but did not become law. That legislation was also sponsored by King.

--END--

 

March 2, 2018

 

Military recruitment bill passes House, goes to Senate

FRANKFORT--Legislation that seeks to help high school students pursue military careers moves to the Senate after an 81-1 vote today in the state House.

House Bill 362 sponsor Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, spoke of the benefits of the bill in a Feb. 28 meeting of the House Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee, which he chairs.

“It is a way that we could leverage additional opportunities for Kentucky students to be exposed to career opportunities that they may not be aware of,” Moore said.

HB 362 would require schools throughout Kentucky to annually offer the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test to students in grades ten through twelve. The test would be paired with career counseling with individualized learning plans for each student.

The bill would also offer students up to four excused absences from school to meet with a recruiter of the Armed Forces of the United States or Kentucky National Guard to encourage and accommodate students seeking a military career.

Although several schools already offer the ASVAB, it is currently not required, according to Moore. HB 362 would change that for Kentucky high schools.

Moore assured his committee in February that the legislation would not put a financial burden on Kentucky schools. Testing and counseling would be offered as a free service to both the teachers and students, he said.

HB 362 now goes to the Senate for its consideration. 

--END--

 

March 2, 2018

 

Infrastructure security measure clears state House, 80-1 

FRANKFORT—Those who snoop around Kentucky’s electrical power facilities, railroad yards, water supply systems or other key infrastructure sites could face criminal charges under a bill that has cleared the state House.

House Bill 324, sponsored by Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Ft. Wright, would create the crime of “trespass upon key infrastructure assets” for prosecution of those who knowingly enter or stay on property where key infrastructure assets are located, or who use a drone to monitor or take photos, videos or collect other information of key assets without prior approval. 

Key infrastructure assets would be defined by the bill as electrical power plants or nodes, natural gas and petroleum facilities, rubber or hazardous chemical manufacturing plants, railroad yard and tunnels, water supply systems, military weapon system facilities, or wireless communications facilities.

HB 324 “is about providing safety and security, and protecting proprietary interests,” St. Onge said of the legislation.

If prosecuted, those who violate the law one time could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor which carries up to 90 days if convicted. A second or subsequent offense would be a Class A misdemeanor, with each conviction carrying up to 12 months in jail.

When asked if the bill would hinder news media from using drone technology to cover fires or other events, St. Onge said that activity would not be affected by HB 324. She said HB 22—another drone bill she is sponsoring this session which passed the House in January and is now before the Senate—would set out permitted and prohibited uses of drones in Kentucky. 

HB 324 passed the House on a vote of 80-1. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

 

March 2, 2018

  

Senate moves to keep liquor license quotas

FRANKFORT – The Senate passed a measure yesterday to preserve the status quo in determining how many package liquor licenses are issued in individual cities and counties by a 32-4 vote.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 110, would do that by codifying in law rules that limit the number of licenses available for retail package liquor stores. Currently, the number of licenses is limited based on the population of a given community. That number is generally capped at one license per 2,300 people for package stores.

President Pro Tempore Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, said he filed SB 110 in response to proposed administrative regulations to change the current scheme.

He said voters who backed recent ballot measures allowing liquor sales in their communities did so knowing how many liquor stores would be permitted under the quota system. Those voters never anticipated that the state would later lift the caps on the number of alcohol licenses issued in any one city or county, Higdon said.

Out of Kentucky’s 120 counties, 89 are wet or have wet cities. Higdon said five of those counties and 28 cities have reached their quotas for retail package liquor stores.

An amendment filed by Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, would ensure quotas for retail drink licenses would not be codified into statute 

He said the Northern Kentucky counties of Campbell and Kenton need more retail drink licenses – partly because of their proximity to Cincinnati. Schroder said a waiting list for these specific types of licenses is impeding economic development in Northern Kentucky.

-- END --

 

March 2, 2018

  

Senate bill targets pharmacy benefit managers

FRANKFORT – A bill that would put the state back in charge of its Medicaid drug program has moved to the House.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 5, passed by a vote of 32-4 yesterday in the Senate. Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, said he introduced the legislation because pharmacy-benefit managers (PBMs) hired by the state’s Medicaid managed-care organizations (MCOs), are not paying Kentucky's independent pharmacies a fair price for their drugs – which is putting them at risk of closing.

“That’s not free market,” Wise said. “That’s not capitalism. It’s gaming a system to close our local businesses – and it isn’t right.

He said the dominate PBM in Kentucky, which also own their own chain of pharmacies, are only paying independent pharmacists a professional dispensing fee of 85 cents per prescription. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services states that fee should be around $10.64, plus the cost of the drug being dispensed

“I’m all for companies making a profit,” Wise said. “I don’t have any issue there at all. I’ve been proud to vote for several pieces of legislation last session, and even this session, to create a better business climate in Kentucky so those companies can make a profit.”

Wise said SB 5 is designed to take the money that PBMs and MCOs are sucking out of the $1.7 billion Kentucky spends on pharmacy benefits and instead use, at least a portion of the money, to pay a federally recommended minimum dispensing fee to pharmacies.

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, spoke in favor of SB 5

“The legislation we pass today might not end up passing the whole General Assembly,” he said. “It may not make it through the governor’s office. But what you do here today is send a message.”

Buford expressed frustration that the PBMs wound not provide an explanation on where all the money is going if independent pharmacists are reimbursed so little.

Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, stood to explain his “no” vote. He expressed concerns that the state Medicaid commissioner said SB 5 would cost Kentucky taxpayers an additional $36 million a year. That was his agency’s official estimate of the bill’s cost, attached to it as a fiscal note.

“It has become abundantly clear that there are problems,” Schroder said of PBMs. “The main one I see is a transparency problem. I hope we can address those problems, but with that fiscal note, I vote ‘no’ today.” 

-- END --

 

March 2, 2018

 

Medical tort-reform bill moves to House

FRANKFORT – The Senate approved an omnibus medical tort-reform measure yesterday that would regulate everything from trial attorney fees, medical record copying charges and which malpractice lawsuits can advance in the courts.

Among its many provisions, Senate Bill 20 would require medical malpractice lawsuits to contain an affidavit of merit. That’s a document stating that at least one doctor agrees the claim has merit.

A medical review panel opinion in favor of a patient would fulfill the affidavit of merit requirement. Senate Bill 4 from 2017 created panels of experts to review claims of medical error or neglect. If the medical review panel finds in favor of the medical provider, however, the patient would still have to get an affidavit of merit to advance to court.

A second provision would impose contingency caps on attorney fees in medical malpractice cases. An amendment would set those caps at no more than 33 percent of any awarded damages.

“Some will argue this is an infringement on the free market,” Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, who introduced the legislation. “I feel it is a protection against predatory legal practices in Kentucky.” 

A third provision is known as the “I’m sorry” clause. It would allow health care workers to express condolences or apologies to patients or families without fear of having those words used against them in a lawsuit.

A fourth would regulate fees for copying medical records. An amendment included an exemption from medical record copying fees for pro bono and Social Security disability cases.

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, stood to oppose the bill. He said placing artificial caps on attorney fees would discourage quality lawyers from taking medical malpractice cases.

“It is a fundamental right in this country to contract with a legal representative of your choosing and to be able to negotiate a fee amount,” he said, adding that those agreements have to be in writing and reasonable under ethics rules governing lawyers. “It is shameful what is happening here.”

Jones said SB 20 would impede “free-market economics.”

Alvarado said SB 20 was modeled after Delaware where medical malpractice attorneys thrive under conditions SB 20 seeks to put in place in Kentucky.

“None of the concepts in this bill are new,” he said. “All the tenets in this bill exist in other states.”

SB 20 passed the Senate by a 20-16 vote. It now goes to the House for consideration.

-- END --

March 1, 2018

 

$22.5 billion state spending plan passes House, moves to Senate

FRANKFORT— A $22.5 billion state spending plan that would shore up funding for public education and public safety while ensuring that Kentucky meets its obligation to fund the state employees’ and teachers’ retirement systems passed the state House today on a 76-15 vote.

House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, said House Bill 200 meets the “overall theme of what the Governor (Bevin) was committed to do” by fully funding the state pension systems, keeping the state debt percentage below six percent, and building the state’s “rainy day” emergency fund up at least $250 million.

Rudy said he hopes any agreements that need to be reached on the budget with the Senate are reached in a “timely fashion where we will be able to keep our constitutional ability to override (any) vetoes.” 

Most state agencies will take a 6.25 percent baseline cut from their budgets in the biennium as recommended by the governor while several areas will see additional funding, especially for public pensions for public employees and teachers.  HB 200 would increase funding for the Kentucky Retirement Systems by $774.5 million and the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System by $89.1 million to meet the full actuarial required contribution (or ARC) for state employee and teacher pensions. Full funding for teacher retirement would be provided at the school district level while health coverage for retired teachers would be secured with an additional $59.5 million in the bill, which would also ensure funding of health care for active school employees.

For K-12 education, HB 200 would boost base per-pupil funding for K-12 education, or SEEK, to a record level of $4,055 in the first year of the biennium and $4,056 in the second year. It would also increase school transportation funding to $127.8 million in each year of the budget cycle to restore funding that was not found in earlier budget proposals.

More than $100 million is proposed in the bill for new hires that would help implement proposed adoption and foster care reforms in HB 1, a bill that passed the House on Wednesday. And additional funding for public safety is also included, including funds for 260 new cruisers and 800 new rifles for state troopers and additional funds for legal aid and day treatment for troubled juveniles.

Voting in support of HB 200 was Rep. Wilson Stone, D-Scottsville, who said he supported the budget plan for its value to public education.

“I rise to say I voted ‘yes’ because I think we made a statement today for public education in Kentucky,” said Stone. “The way to a better Commonwealth (is) through education.”

Retired public educator Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, voted against the proposal for what he said was its use of the state’s public employees’ health plan transfers to balance the plan.

“You’re saying, ‘Well, this is a vote for education.’ Lord knows, as a person who’s come out of education, I’m supporting education and I try to support education each and every time,” said Graham. “But what really galls me is we’re taking funding for the health care of our public employees to try to balance this budget.”

Kentucky prohibits revenue measures from being included in its state spending bills, so the revenue increases for the next two-year state budget were approved separately by state lawmakers. The funding required to carry out the appropriations in HB 200 is found in HB 366, approved by the House today on a vote of 68-25. 

The revenue bill, as HB 366 is called, includes a couple of tax increases – a 50-cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax beginning this July and a 25-cent per dose fee on opioids at the distribution level. Both revenue sources are projected to rake in an extra $377 million over the two-year budget cycle for the Commonwealth. (Other revenue changes in HB 366 would bring in around $123 million in additional revenue over the next two years, for a total of around $500 in new revenue over the biennium.) 

Voting in support of both HB 366 and HB 200 was Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, the chair of the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Justice, Public Safety and Judiciary. Nemes said the revenue bill and budget plan in HB 200 has been praised by educators in his public school district and beyond.

“You should vote yes on this, and you should vote yes on the budget. Stand with the teachers and stand with the highest education funding in the history of this Commonwealth,” Nemes said. 

Both bills were also supported by another Louisville lawmaker, House State Government Chair Rep. Jerry Miller who said other options should be considered when looking for future revenues. Miller has filed HB 229 this session which proposes amending the state Constitution to allow regulated casino gaming in Kentucky.

“Keep in mind we have a stream of revenue we are not tapping and that is gaming. We have an opportunity to have an income stream,” said Miller, R-Louisville. “We need to wake up and recognize that casinos would help the urban areas generate tax revenue to support the rest of the state.”

Also approved today by the House were the state Legislative and Judicial budgets, which were passed without much fanfare by House votes of 83-7 and 84-8 respectively.

All four bills now move to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

 

March 1, 2018

 

Legislature eases sales cap at microbreweries

FRANKFORT – Kentucky’s craft brewers would be allowed to sell more packaged beer to individual customers visiting their breweries under a bill headed to the governor’s desk.

House Bill 136 received final passage by a vote of 33-3 today in the Senate. The bill would increase what breweries can sell onsite to three cases and two kegs per customer. A second provision would allow breweries to sell one case per customer at fairs and festivals in wet jurisdictions

A third provision would allow craft brewers to start sending their wholesale tax payments directly to the Kentucky Department of Revenue. Craft brewers currently pay their wholesale taxes to their distributor who keeps 1 percent before forwarding the rest of the money to the revenue department.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, presented HB 136 on the Senate floor. He said the legislation would encourage the continued growth of Kentucky’s microbreweries. The burgeoning industry has invested close to $79 million into the state in recent years and currently employs more than 600 Kentuckians, according to previous testimony on the bill.

“There is just no question at all ... that one of the great success stories has been our craft breweries in the last 10 years,” Schickel said. “They are one of the most professional, hardworking entrepreneurs in our commonwealth.”

He said microbreweries locating in the urban core are leading a renaissance in cities across Kentucky.

-- END --

  

March 1, 2018

 

The verdict: Senate committee OKs volunteer jurors

FRANKFORT – A Senate committee approved a bill today that would alter aspects of jury service throughout the commonwealth.

Senate Bill 87 would allow Kentucky’s 54 judicial districts to accept volunteers for jury duty. These volunteer jurors would still be subject to jury selection and voire dire like any other person called for jury duty, said Sen. Dan “Malano” Seum, R-Fairdale, who introduced the legislation. The volunteer could only serve as a juror once a year, according to the bill’s language.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, a lawyer by trade, cast the only vote against SB 87.

“I just like the random cross section of society that a jury in its present form takes,” she said, “and I think that’s important to access to justice and yielding a good, fair result.”

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, a former law enforcement official, voted for the measure but expressed concern.

“My concern is that we hold the jury sacred as being a jury of your peers both in the Kentucky Constitution and the United States Constitution,” he said.

SB 87 now goes to the Senate floor for further consideration.

 

-- END --

February 28, 2018

 

Adoption and foster care reform bill passed by House

FRANKFORT— Months of work spent researching possible changes to Kentucky’s adoption and foster care system culminated today with House passage of a bill to reform the system.

House Bill 1 sponsor and House Majority Caucus Chair David Meade, R-Stanford, says the bill will improve Kentucky’s adoption and foster care system for more than 8,600 children in state out-of-home care who may or may not be able to return home to family.

Meade, who is the father of both an adopted child and a biological child, said it takes “a special love” to foster a child, adopt a child, and give birth to a child who the birth parent may not be able to keep.

“We owe it to all these children, the parents, and the families across the state to start reforming a system in desperate need,” said Meade of the bipartisan bill that grew out of the work of last year’s House Working Group on Adoption. “This is an opportunity to do something truly remarkable for the children and the families of this state and start changing lives for some of the most vulnerable.”

A key provision in the bill would allow the state to petition for involuntary termination of parental rights of a mother who won’t seek drug treatment within 60 days after giving birth to a drug-addicted baby. It is considered less severe than an earlier provision removed from HB 1 that would have allowed mothers to face child abuse charges if their child is born drug-addicted.

“Make no mistake though—when you see these children drug addicted…it’s one of the worst things you can do to a child. It’s not acceptable and it should be the crime,” said Meade.

Provisions in HB 1 that would expand the definition of a “blood relative” for child placement and ensure that dependent, neglected or abused children placed in foster care are reunified with family or placed in a new permanent home in a timely manner were also considered key to the bill’s passage, Meade explained.

The bill would require more case reviews for each foster child, and require that children in foster care for 15 cumulative months out of a 48-month period be reunified with family “if it’s safe to do so,” said Meade. If not, the state could start the process of petitioning the courts for termination of parental rights.

In keeping with around 27 other states, Kentucky would also create a confidential “putative father registry” under HB 1. The registry would allow a man who thinks he could be the father of a child – but whose paternity hasn’t been established and who was not married to the child’s mother before or at the time of birth – to register with the state in order to be notified of the child’s prospective adoption.

More work on adoption and foster care could come in later years through the work of a Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee that would be created by HB 1, said Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively. Jenkins co-chaired the House adoption working group last year with Meade.

“The decision to terminate someone’s parental rights is a very, very serious and important one. And I think this task force was very open to trying to balance those rights with what is best for children,” Jenkins said, adding the new committee proposed in HB 1 can recommend changes as needed in future years.

HB 1 passed the House by a vote of 94-1. It now goes to the Senate.  

--END—

 

February 28, 2018

 

Pharmacy clawback bills goes to full House 

FRANKFORT—Legislation that would limit how much pharmacy benefit managers can claim from customer prescription drug payments has cleared a House committee.

Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, are entities that work with private insurers and programs like Medicaid to provide prescription drug benefits and process claims. Yet according to independent pharmacy owner Rosemary Smith, many PBMs are taking more than they should.

Smith, a co-owner of Jordan Drug pharmacies in Eastern Kentucky and founding member of KIPA (Kentucky Independent Pharmacist Alliance), said PBMs “clawback” part of a customer copay on drugs while prohibiting pharmacies from telling customers they can make what could be a less-costly cash payment instead.

“Because of PBM contracts, our pharmacists are not currently allowed to tell customers the cheapest way they can purchase their medication,” Smith told the House Banking and Insurance Committee.

Smith was before the committee to testify in support of Rep. Michael Meredith’s House Bill 463, which would prohibit PBMs from requiring drug payments in excess of required amounts, imposing penalties on pharmacies for complying with the proposal, or stopping a pharmacy from sharing information on more affordable cost options with consumers.

“What the bill does is it says when you come in to a pharmacy, the cost of a drug – the copay—can’t be higher than what the cash price would be,” Meredith told the committee, which voted unanimously to approve the bill.

Smith said her pharmacies and other independent pharmacies have personal relationships with many of their customers, most of whom have been customers for decades. The pharmacies want to be honest with those customers, she said.  

“It is truly heartbreaking for us in the pharmacy community to know this goes on when our lips are sealed,” she told the committee.

Meredith said PBMs have agreed to the language in the bill, which he added has had input from many stakeholders in the issue. 

“This bill is good for consumers in Kentucky. This bill is good for independent pharmacists and pharmacies in Kentucky,” he said.

HB 463 now goes to the full House for consideration.  

--END--

 

February 27, 2018

 

Truck platooning: It could be coming to KY roads

FRANKFORT – Semi-autonomous tractor-trailers could be coming to Kentucky’s highways under a bill that unanimously passed the state Senate today.

Senate Bill 116 would allow truck platooning. The term refers to two or more individual commercial vehicles traveling together in sync with electronically coordinated speeds through wireless communication. Once the vehicles get on the road and platoon mode has been turned on, the front vehicle’s driver is in control of the speed while the following driver is able to take his or her foot off the gas pedal and stay in sync with the vehicle ahead. 

“It is basically for the FedExs, UPSs, DHLs and Amazons of the world,” said sponsor Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, in reference to the shipping giants sprawling airfreight operations in Louisville and Northern Kentucky. Just this year, Amazon announced it would build a $1.4 billion hub at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport to support a fleet of 100 plus Prime Air cargo planes.

A floor amendment introduced by Harris would limit the platoons to two vehicles and require truck operators to submit a platooning plan to the state police for review.

Harris said trucks traveling as close as 250 feet apart are more fuel-efficient because air-drag friction is reduced significantly. He also said safety is also improved because trucks in platoon mode only need one-fifth of the time a human would need to react.

During a committee hearing on the bill earlier this month, the state transportation department endorsed the legislation.

SB 116 now goes the House for consideration. 

-- END --

 

February 27, 2018

 

Senate grants final passage to peer review bill

FRANKFORT – Doctors’ reviews of other doctors would not be admissible in medical-malpractice lawsuits under a bill headed to the governor’s desk. 

A measure, known as House Bill 4, received final passage by a vote of 25-13 today in the Senate. The legislation would exempt peer-review discussions from discovery, a pre-trial procedure in a lawsuit to obtain evidence. Peer review is used to determine whether accepted standards of care have been met.

“Very few health care initiatives have been shown to be more effective in improving health care safety/quality than medical safety peer review,” said Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, who presented the HB 4 on the Senate floor. “Yet, for decades, Kentucky has languished behind other states.”

Alvarado said candid peer review could be a source of information for physicians to learn from unexpected events and prevent future errors. He said that confidentiality of these discussions has traditionally been viewed as necessary to their effectiveness.

Without HB 4, Alvarado said health care professionals are muzzled, medical innovation is stifled and safety is reduced across Kentucky.

“House Bill 4 seeks to revert the years of underachievement by creating an environment in which medical safety peer review can improve health care for its Kentucky citizens as it is intended to do,” he said, adding that 48 other states already have protections provided by HB 4.

Majority Floor Leader Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said similar bills have been introduced in the Senate during the three prior sessions.

“For many in this chamber, hearing the final passage you just declared on House Bill 4 is the end of a long road,” he said after the vote was taken.

HB 4 passed the House by a 58-27 vote on Feb. 9.

-- END –

 

February 27, 2018

 

Bill to crack down on accessible parking abuses goes to House


FRANKFORT— Rep. Jerry Miller received a disabled parking placard after a knee replacement last fall.

The Louisville lawmaker said he only expected to use the placard for a few months, but received one that is good for two years with the expiration date written on the placard in so-called permanent ink.

“All you have to do is Google ‘how to remove Sharpie’ which, of course, is with a dry-erase, and you can change that expiration date to anything you want,” Miller, R-Louisville, told the House Transportation Committee today.  

Easy access to the placards—either by altering an existing one or receiving an extra placard free of charge from the state – would change under Miller’s House Bill 81.  

The bill, approved today by the committee, would limit applicants to one free placard, with each placard featuring a decal unique to the permit holder instead of numbers written in ink. Duplicate or replacement permanent or temporary placards would cost $10 each. Changes to the renewal process and cycle are also in the proposal.

Miller said the legislation was precipitated by a 2008 court case that led to the removal of fees on all disabled parking placards issued in the state. The number of placards issued has grown from around 32,600 to well over 298,000 since the fees were removed, said Miller.  

“That, coupled with my experience of trying to find a handicap parking spot many days, led me to the conclusion that this is a bill whose time has come,” he said. 

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet official Rick Taylor told the committee that providing the placards at no charge costs the state Road Fund around $102,000 a year.

Disabled parking permit holder David Allgood joined Miller and Taylor to speak in favor of HB 81. Allgood said the legislation addresses a “serious problem for those of us who rely on accessible parking spots.”

Allgood said improper use of placards by others affects individuals like him who need accessible parking to accommodate his van’s side-loading ramp.  

“It’s really preventative a lot of times when every parking spot you attempt to find is always full. That’s a major hindrance,” he told the panel.  

HB 81 now goes to the full House for its consideration.


--END--

 

February 27, 2018

 

Bill targets craft brewery package beer sales

FRANKFORT – A Senate committee approved a bill today that would increase the cap on package beer sales at Kentucky’s breweries.

Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, said the measure, known as House Bill 136, would increase the cap on on-premise package sales to 31 gallons, which equals two kegs, while still limiting the number of cases sold to three.

A second provision would allow craft brewers to start sending their wholesale tax payments directly to the Kentucky Department of Revenue, said Koenig, who testified in support of HB 136 before the Senate Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee. Craft brewers currently pay their wholesale taxes to their distributor who keeps 1 percent before forwarding the rest of the money to revenue department.

“House Bill 136 is vital to the continued growth of Kentucky’s hard-working microbreweries,” said Adam Watson of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers. “Our industry sector is growing. We have invested close to $79 million and employ over 600 Kentuckians. Most of this growth, almost all of it, has occurred in the last five years.”

Kentucky craft brews are sold in more than 6,700 retail locations across Kentucky, 40 states and 25 countries, he said.

“While it does not remove the arbitrary and unnecessary barrier holding us back from our potential, it does offer improvements in addressing the needs of our growing craft brewers,” said Watson, whose guild initially sought the removal of the cap.

Majority Floor Leader Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, called HB 136 a good first step but said he would eventually like to see the cap eliminated.

“I’ve learned after 15 years in this body that old Rolling Stones’ song, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want,’” he said.

Majority Caucus Chair Sen. Dan “Malano” Seum, R-Fairdale, said while SB 136 may not be perfect, he appreciated the compromise that was reached between craft brewers and the distributors and retailers.

“I have craft brewers in my Senate district, and I have a good friend who owns an independent beer distributor,” he said. “I didn’t want to see either one of them hurt. My advice was you get together and compromise on the bill and we will do our best to pass the bill as you agreed upon.”

SB 136 now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.

-- END --

 

 February 26, 2018

  

The Senate passes telehealth care bill 

FRANKFORT – The doctor will see you now – online.

The Senate passed a measure today to encourage the practice of incorporating new communication technologies when treating patients, broadly known as telehealth. Senate Bill 112 states that a doctor would be able to log in from anywhere in the world to treat a Kentucky resident. The physician, however, would still have to be licensed in Kentucky.  

“Telemedicine is gradually changing the way medicine is delivered,” said sponsor Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester. “Telemedicine allows providers to implement cost-saving strategies such as video conference follow-ups and remote patient monitoring that decreases hospitalizations and increases the quality of care. 

He said it also connects patients with specialists that may not have offices in the area and reduces the burden of long commutes to see doctors. He said that would be beneficial in rural communities that lack such specialists.

“Telemedicine has been proven to save money where implemented,” Alvarado said.

He cited a study which found savings of 7.7 percent to 13.3 percent per patient, per quarter, for chronically ill Medicare recipients. Alvarado added a telemedicine option available to employees of Kentucky has already saved the state $2.5 million.

Alvarado said SB 112 would pave the way for Kentucky to implement a telemedicine option for Medicaid recipients.

Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, introduced Senate Floor Amendment 3 which would prohibit telehealth from being used in the performance of an abortion. He said “webcam abortions” have been outlawed in 19 states. The amendment was adopted by a 32-2 vote.

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, voted for the bill but expressed concern that the measure didn’t provide a mechanism for health care providers and health insurers to negotiate reimbursement rates for telehealth visits. He said he was concerned the insurers would be forced to pay the same amount as they do for office visits.  

SB 112 passed by 36-0 vote. The measure now goes to the House for further consideration.

-- END --

 

 

February 26, 2018

  

Service animal standards bill goes to Senate

FRANKFORT – Persons looking for rental housing for themselves and their service animals would face some new rules under a bill approved today by the Kentucky House.

House Bill 329 sponsored Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, said the bill would allow a tenant with a disability or related need to make a “reasonable” request to keep an “assistance” animal—including a service animal—in his or her home. The landlord could seek more information to prove the need for the animal, according to the bill, “unless the person’s disability or disability-related need is readily apparent.”

Koenig said the legislation will ensure those who need assistance animals the most are able to have them.

“While service and assistance animals are mostly utilized appropriately by tenants in need of such animals, many others take unfair advantage … sidestepping no-pet policies,” said Koenig.

Websites, for example, are readily available that allow individuals to print off certificates verifying a pet is an assistance animal when the pet is not trained as such, he said.

To guard against such behavior, HB 329 would create a fine of up to $1,000 for making false claims or otherwise misrepresenting themselves or an animal in order to get an assistance animal accommodation.

“This is about protecting those who are need of these animals and not subjecting them to unnecessary scrutiny,” said Koenig.

Rep. Dean Schamore, D-Hardinsburg, who has rental properties, said he favors clear standards in housing accommodations for those with assistance animals.

“Being in this business, I hate to see people take advantage of a service animal,” said Schamore. “I have no-pet policies in my properties and some people take advantage of this. It’s hurt people who really do need a service animal.”

HB 329 cleared the House by a vote of 87-0. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration.  

--END--

 

February 2, 2018

 

This Week at the State Capitol

February 19-23, 2018

FRANKFORT -- The most-anticipated bill of the General Assembly’s 2018 session was unveiled this week with the introduction of a public pension reform bill in the Senate. 

The proposal is different in significant ways than the one that was unveiled last fall. Perhaps most significantly, the new plan does not call for moving public employees into a defined contribution 401 (k) –style system. Though some policymakers were philosophically drawn to the idea of going to such a system, it proved to be too costly, especially during tight budget times, legislative leaders said.

Those who unveiled the new plan, introduced as Senate Bill 1, say it is data-driven and based on actuarial analysis. The plan would fully fund public pensions and eliminate unfunded pension liabilities of an estimated $40 to $60 billion over several decades.

In addition to calling for more money to support the systems, the new approach would also achieve cost-savings in numerous ways, such as cutting in half the cost-of-living adjustments for retired teachers for 12 years. It would also prevent state employees from using sick time as a bridge to retiring early with full benefits.

The legislation will be debated in the legislative committee system before it has a chance to be heard by the full Senate. Legislative leaders say that actuarial analysis supporting the plan will be released to the public for review before lawmakers vote on the matter.

In other business this week, legislation on a number of other issues advanced:

Dyslexia. House Bill 187 would require the state to provide school districts with a “dyslexia toolkit” to guide instruction of students with dyslexic traits. In hopes to provide a mechanism to fund district support for dyslexic students, HB 187 has passed the House Education Committee and now returns to the full House for further consideration.

Terrorism. Senate Bill 57 would allow someone injured by an act of terrorism to file a claim for damages against the terrorist, giving the victim recourse through the state when federal law may not view an act as terrorism. With a 17-0 vote from the House Judiciary Committee, the measure now goes to the House floor for further consideration.

Pawn Shops. House Bill 74 would make it harder to pawn stolen items in Kentucky by requiring the daily transactions at pawnshops to be entered into a database accessible to police. After passing the state Senate with a 35-0 vote, the legislation now goes back to the House for consideration of a Senate amendment to the bill.

Sex Trafficking. Senate Resolution 149 recognizes the hospitality industry’s role in identifying and preventing child sex trafficking and encourages Kentuckians to patronize hospitality facilities that participate in the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct. With a 35-0 vote on the Senate floor, SR 149 has been adopted.

Sex offenders. House Bill 70 is an attempt to clarify and revise Kentucky’s restrictions on internet access for registered sex offenders after a unanimous decision by U.S Supreme Court last year that struck down a similar North Carolina ban. After passing the Senate Judiciary committee, HB 70 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Adoption and Foster Care. House Bill 1 seeks to alter several aspects of Kentucky’s current adoption and foster care laws. These provisions would allow the state to charge a mother with child abuse if she gives birth to a drug-addicted baby, streamline rules for termination of parental rights, and ensure that dependent, neglected or abused children placed in foster care are reunified with family or placed in a new permanent home in a timely manner. Passing through a House committee meeting this week, HB 1 now goes to the full House for consideration.

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

--END--

 

 

February 23, 2018

  

Home baker bill approved by House today

FRANKFORT—Home bakers and canners would be able to legally sell their products directly to consumers within Kentucky under a bill that was approved today in the Kentucky House.

House Bill 263 sponsor Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield, said before a House committee vote on the bill earlier this month that HB 263 would give home bakers, canners and other “home-based processors” the ability to sell the same homemade products that farmers already sell.  

Products that would be allowed for sale under HB 263 include processed whole fruit and vegetables, mixed greens, jams, jellies, sweet sorghum syrup, preserves, fruit butter, bread, fruit pies, cakes or cookies.

Any of these products could be sold from the processor’s home, by pick-up or delivery, at markets, roadside stands, community events, or online within Kentucky under the bill, said Heath.

“So House Bill 263 makes it allowable for home-based processors to directly offer their products for sale” while spelling out that home-based processors are not farmers or retail stores, he added.

The bill was unanimously approved by the House Health and Family Services Committee on Feb. 15.

Speaking in support of HB 263 in committee was Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, who said she recalled when the General Assembly made similar statutory changes to benefit farmers market events.

“We did that for the farmers markets, so I think this is a good bill,” she said.

HB 263 passed on the House consent calendar by a vote of 83-0. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

--END--

 

Feb. 23, 2018

 

KY Senate votes to strengthen laws against sexual molestation

FRANKFORT – Minutes after honoring the first woman to file a police complaint against former U.S.A. Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar, the Kentucky Senate unanimously passed legislation that would strengthen the state’s existing rape and sodomy laws. 

The measure, known as Senate Bill 109, passed yesterday by a 36-0 vote. It would amend current law to expand the legal definition of sexual intercourse for the crimes of rape and sodomy.

Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, said the vote was timely because SB 109 would ensure the sexual acts Nassar committed in Michigan would be considered rape under Kentucky law. Adams was a primary sponsor of the bill along with Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville. 

“Let’s make sure that here in Kentucky the punishment fits the crime and that crime is rape,” Adams said. “As uncomfortable as this subject is to discuss on the floor of the Senate, imagine the sheer trauma our survivors suffer.”

The woman honored on the Senate floor, Rachael Denhollander, wrote an opinion piece published earlier this year in The New York Times describing losing close friends after helping expose Nassar – once a leading doctor in the field of sports medicine – as a child molester. She detailed how she would avoid grocery stores on days when her picture appeared in newspapers and magazines covering the Nassar crimes. Denhollander, now living in Louisville with her husband, didn’t want their three young children to see the articles. 

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, presented Senate Resolution 220, honoring Denhollander’s tenacity.

“At the end of the day, it took the courage and bravery of one woman – one woman willing to stand up and speak out,” said McGarvey, who co-sponsored SB 109.

The resolution states at one of Nassar’s sentencing hearings, Denhollander gave this victim’s impact statement: "How much is a little girl worth? How much is a young woman worth? How much priority should be placed on communicating that the fullest weight of the law will be used to protect another innocent child from the soul-shattering devastation that sexual assault brings? I submit to you that these children are worth everything."

While Denhollander was the first to file a police complaint, more than 100 women and girls later came forward to report sexual abuse. Many joined Denhollander at the sentencing. 

Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, stood to speak on Denhollander’s courage. He said the vulnerable often look to elected offices or others to be their voice.

“Rachael is one of those voices,” said Schroder, who also co-sponsored of SB 109. “She experienced wrong and she decided to speak up.”

Nassar is serving up to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty in Michigan to charges stemming from molesting young gymnasts. The disgraced former doctor had already been found guilty of federal child pornography charges.

Denhollander now advocated for more legal protections for the young and venerable.

SB 109 now goes to the House for consideration. 

-- END --

 

February 22, 2018

 

Nominations being accepted for 2018 Vic Hellard Jr. Award 

FRANKFORT -- The Kentucky Legislative Research Commission (LRC) is accepting nominations for the 2018 Vic Hellard Jr. Award.

The award will honor a former LRC staff member who exemplifies the high standards and ideals of longtime LRC Director Vic Hellard Jr., who led the agency from 1977 until 1995. Hellard was a champion of legislative independence and played an instrumental role in the modernization of the legislative institution and nonpartisan staffing.

Any former LRC nonpartisan staff member who left service by Jan. 1, 2018 is eligible for the award.

A nomination should be made via a letter of no more than three pages and must be submitted to the Office of the Director of the LRC by noon on Friday, March 2. Nominations should be sent to:

Hellard Award Selection Committee

Attn: David A. Byerman, Director

700 Capitol Avenue, Room 300

Frankfort, KY 40601

Or by email at: HellardAward@lrc.ky.gov

Additional information about eligibility and nominations is available online at http://www.lrc.ky.gov/HellardAward/nomination.htm.

--END--

  

February 22, 2018

 

Adoption and foster care reform bill goes to full House

FRANKFORT—A family trip to Niagara Falls a couple of years ago became somewhat problematic for House Majority Caucus Chair David Meade and his family after they crossed into Canada.

Meade, R-Stanford, who was a co-chair of the 2017 House Working Group on Adoption, said the snag occurred when a border guard questioned the birth certificate of his Korean-born adopted daughter. Current state law requires birth certificates for those adopted outside the U.S. clarify that the birth certificate is not evidence of U.S. citizenship, he said.

“He would not let us cross until he got approval from his supervisor to do so,” said Meade.

House Bill 1, sponsored by Meade, would remove that language. It is one of dozens of proposed changes in the bill approved today by the House Health and Family Services Committee per recommendations of the working group.

The overall purpose of the reform bill, said Meade, is to begin to reform Kentucky’s adoption and foster care system for more than 8,600 children in state out-of-home care who may or may not be able to return home to family.

Some more significant provisions of the bill would allow the state to charge a mother with child abuse if she gives birth to a drug-addicted baby, streamline rules for termination of parental rights, and ensure that dependent, neglected or abused children placed in foster care are reunified with family or placed in a new permanent home in a timely manner.

“Right now, the Cabinet (for Health and Family Services) does a six-month case permanency review. We are also adding that every three months after that that they would go back and do another review on that child, just to make sure that we are keeping up with that child and are doing what is best in their plan,” said Meade.

In keeping with around 27 other states, Kentucky would also create a confidential “putative father registry” under HB 1. The registry will allow a man who thinks he could be the father of a child – but whose paternity hasn’t been established and who was not married to the child’s mother before or at the time of birth – to register with the state in order to be notified of the child’s prospective adoption.

More work on adoption and foster care could come in later years through the work of a Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee that would also be created by HB 1. It would be the job of that committee to “review, analyze, and provide oversight to the General Assembly on child welfare” in the state, according to HB 1.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, who co-chaired the 2017 adoption working group with Meade and joins him as a primary sponsor of HB 1, said she is proud of the bill. Jenkins, D-Shively, said HB 1 includes input from the executive and judicial branches and from First Lady Glenna Bevin, who Jenkins said was “very much involved” in the process.

“We were able to compromise on many, many areas, and I think we have an excellent work product here,” she said.  

HB 1 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

Feb. 22, 2018

  

Committee considers restricting sex offender use of social media

FRANKFORT – A bill relating to sex offender’s use of social media was approved today by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 70 is an attempt to clarify and revise Kentucky’s restrictions on internet access for registered sex offenders. Sponsor Rep. Joseph M. Fischer, R-Fort Thomas, said he introduced the measure after a unanimous decision by U.S. Supreme Court in June of last year struck down a similar North Carolina ban.

He explained that HB 70 is an attempt to narrowly tailor Kentucky’s statutes as to meet the new judicial standard and not restrict the First Amendment right to free speech. A federal judge had expressed concern the old restrictions prevented registered sex offenders from even logging onto the website of their local newspaper.

HB 70 would clarify the definition electronic communications, said Fischer, who worked with state police to draft HB 70’s language.

“He has taken our suggestions into his bill and we are very much in support of it,” said state police attorney Heather Wagers.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, voted for HB 70 but expressed concern that if the bill becomes law it would also be overturned in court.

Fischer said he thinks the measure could withstand any potential court challenge.

“With these changes I believe that the amended law (HB 79) will withstand constitutional scrutiny and still be a useful tool to help protect young people from known sexual predators,” Fischer said in closing of his presentation before the committee.

HB 70 now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.

-- END --

 

February 22, 2018

Sex trafficking prevention measure passes the Senate    

FRANKFORT – Following a growing recognition of the existence of child sex trafficking in the United States, the Kentucky Senate has approved a resolution in hopes of curtailing the crime. 

Senate Resolution 149 recognized the hospitality industry’s role in identifying and preventing child sex trafficking. The resolution also encourages Kentuckians to patronize hospitality facilities that participate in the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct. SR 149 was adopted yesterday on the Senate floor by a 35-0 vote.

The code of conduct is an “established initiative to provide support in training the travel and tourism industry in preventing sexual exploitation of children,” said Rep. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, who introduced the resolution

According to SR 149, an estimated 199,000 incidents of sexual exploitation of minors occur each year in the United States. Of those incidents, 45 percent of youth victims are exploited in hotels.

“Child sex trafficking is a serious issue that we hope our hospitality industry here in Kentucky will take a strong look at,” said Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, who stood in support of SR 149.

SR 149 passed out of the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee last week. During that meeting, Kerr said the hospitality industry can play an important role in preventing and disrupting traffickers who use the anonymity hotels provide to do their business 

Another person who testified at the meeting in support of SR 149 was Mary Kunze of the advocacy group Family Foundation of Kentucky.

“I believe that together we, the citizens of Kentucky, can make our state a safer place for our children and a place where exploiters know that they are not welcome,” she said.

This initiative to prompt the hospitality industry into action would encourage hotels, motels and tourism industries to educate their employees of the signs that surround trafficking, Kunze said. These warning signs can include young girls entering hotels alone with an out-of-state ID, paying for the room with cash or noticeably tense and alert behavior.

Kent Gilbert, president of the Kentucky Council of Churches also spoke at the committee hearing in supporter of SR 149.

 “Kentucky is a great state and we have a lot of folks come for tourism,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we’re not letting that greatness become a vehicle for exploitation.

-- END --

 

February 21, 2018

 

Workers’ comp reform bill moves to Senate

FRANKFORT—A bill that supporters say is needed to control workers’ compensation losses following a 2017 Kentucky Supreme Court decision cleared the state House today on a 55-39 vote. 

House Bill 2, sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, has the backing of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which has said HB 2 is a response to the 2017 Kentucky Supreme Court ruling in Parker v. Webster County Coal. That ruling declared unconstitutional the state workers’ compensation system’s practice of terminating workers’ comp income benefits once an injured worker qualifies for normal Social Security retirement benefits.

“Taking these critical steps will improve Kentucky’s competitive position by reducing system costs while improving treatment and outcomes for injured workers, allowing a faster return to work,” Kentucky Chamber’s Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Ashli Watts said in House committee hearings on the bill last week. 

Koenig echoed that sentiment today on the House floor, saying HB 2 restores the legislative intent of state law considered in the Parker decision.

“The Kentucky Coal Association testified during committee that they’ve been told to expect their rates to go up 25 percent just due to this one issue,” said Koenig.

Koenig has said that HB 2 will make Kentucky more competitive with surrounding states with lower loss ratios (claims paid versus earned premiums). Kentucky has a loss ratio of around 75 percent compared to fewer losses in surrounding states, according to an estimate shared by Koenig.

HB 2 would not impact injured workers currently receiving workers’ comp benefits, Koenig assured House members. In future cases, it would limit benefits to workers with certain injuries to 15 years, with a chance after 15 years to be recertified to continue receiving benefits.

Other provisions would increase the percentage of the average weekly wage that can be paid as income to injured workers from 100 percent to 110 percent and revise medical treatment guidelines and limits on attorney fees, among other things.

Voting in favor of the legislation was steel company owner Rep. Matt Castlen, R-Maceo, who said small businesses in Kentucky just want to be more competitive with peer states. 

“You act like we’re selling out to the corporate people. What about the people like myself who employ 70-plus people, who give back to the economy every day?” asked Castlen, “Am I a criminal because I want to vote for this bill because I feel like that we need to do things to allow us to be more competitive? Absolutely not.”

Voting against HB 2 was Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville, who told the House the bill will “cut medical benefits for the most vulnerable workers.” Gentry said his data on the state’s loss ratios and premiums shows the state’s workers’ comp system is doing well.

KEMI (Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance) and private insurance companies have done quite well in recent years despite these declining premiums, and have been accumulating profits and distributing dividends,” said Gentry. He said HB 2 adds “unnecessary cost” to the system.

HB 2 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

--END--

  

Feb. 21, 2018

 

Senators look to curb sales of pilfered items

FRANKFORT – It would get harder to pawn stolen loot under a measure that passed the state Senate today by a 35-0 vote.

Known as House Bill 74, the measure would require the daily transactions at pawnshops to be entered into a database accessible to police, said Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville.

“The pawnbrokers support this,” he said. “The police support this, and I promise you thieves do not support this.”

The database would include descriptions of identifying characteristics such as the make, model, color, size, manufacturer, vintage and distinguishing marks of all merchandise pawned or sold. Customers selling or pawning an item would have to give a form of identification but they would not have to provide their Social Security number.

A second provision would require secondhand merchandise sold to pawnbrokers to be held for a minimum of 12 days before being resold. A third provision would require police to provide a case report or other documentation that an item has been stolen before a pawnbroker will be required to surrender the item to law enforcement.

HB 74 now goes back to the House for consideration of a Senate amendment to the bill. 

-- END --

 

February 21, 2018

 

Terrorism bill approved by House panel

FRANKFORT -- The House Judiciary Committee advanced legislation today that addresses prosecution of terrorists under state statute.

Senate Bill 57 would establish the crime of terrorism as one punishable by imprisonment for life without probation or parole. It would also allow someone injured by an act of terrorism to file a claim for damages against the terrorist.

“It may be the first time this committee has heard or ever will hear a terrorism bill,” Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, the sponsor of SB 57, told the committee.

The bill allows for a more proactive approach toward terrorism rather than a reactive one, said Wise, a former FBI analyst who teaches graduate-level terrorism studies at the University of Kentucky. 

This legislation has been dubbed Andy’s Law after Andy Long, an American soldier who was fatally shot in 2009 outside of a military recruiting office in Arkansas by a self-proclaimed terrorist. 

Concerns with SB 57 were voiced by Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, who addressed whether federal or state agencies ultimately have jurisdiction over acts of terrorism.

By defining terrorism in state statute, SB 57 would allow families to seek recourse through the state when federal law may not view an act as terrorism, Sen. Wise said in response.  

With a 17-0 vote from the committee, the measure now goes to the House floor for further consideration.

--END--

 

February 20, 2018

 

Dyslexia intervention bills move to House floor

FRANKFORT—Bills that would help school districts identify and assist young students with dyslexic traits and provide a mechanism to fund district support for those students have passed the House Education Committee.

House Bill 187, sponsored by Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, would require the state to provide districts with a “dyslexia toolkit” to guide instruction of students with dyslexic traits. The toolkit would be ready next January, with districts required to have policies in place by next June that would help identify and assist students with dyslexic traits in kindergarten through third grade.

Three specific school districts would be selected to serve as “laboratories of learning” by the Kentucky Commissioner of Education, with districts chosen from urban, suburban and rural areas.

“We are going to work closely with these three districts to find good research methodologies to really identify and be able to take to scale the lessons we learn,” state Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt told the committee.

Wuchner said HB 187 would not require screening of every student but would instead provide tools to help districts assist students with “characteristics” of dyslexia, she said.  

Additionally, she said the bill would ensure that teachers are educated about dyslexia at the university level as of 2020.    

Funding for district support of students with dyslexic traits could come from HB 367, also sponsored by Wuchner. The bill would create a dyslexia trust fund administered by the state to finance district grants. Money for the fund could come from donations, gifts, public appropriations and proceeds from a “Dyslexia Ready to Read” specialty license plate that the bill would establish.

Dyslexia, as it would be defined by HB 187, is a “specific learning disability” marked by “difficulties with accurate or fluent work recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.”

Wuchner said dyslexia is believed to affect nearly 60,000 Kentucky students.

“That would be the size of one of our largest or second largest school districts that may be affected by dyslexia,” she told the committee.  

Testifying in favor of the bill was Miss Kentucky 2015 Clark Davis, who described herself as having “very, very severe dyslexia.” Although Davis has excelled academically and will graduate from the University of Kentucky this spring at age 20, she tearfully told lawmakers how dyslexia still affects her life.

“I had an exam in school last week and, for all of my accomplishments and for all the gifts that the Lord has given me, I looked at that paper and I couldn’t read the first two words,” she said. “And the worst thing about dyslexia is that you can’t describe it—you can’t describe it to people who don’t have it.”  

HBs 187 and 367 now return to the full House. 

--END--

 

February 16, 2018

 

This Week at the State Capitol

February 12-16, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

--END--

 

February 15, 2018

 

Bill to expand uses of jail canteen funds goes to governor

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

February 15, 2018

  

Senate gives final passage to organ donor bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- END --

 

February 15, 2018

 

Workers’ comp reform bill heads to House floor 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HB 2 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

February 15, 2018

 

Senate committee examines child marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- END --

 

February 14, 2018

  

Law enforcement protection measure goes to full House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HB 193 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

  

February 14, 2018

 

House OK’s hemp resolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

February 14, 2018

Barber and hairdresser fee bill OK’d by House committee 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HB 260 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

February 13, 2018

 

Senate passes bill directing money to jail security

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

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

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

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

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

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

HB 92 passed by a 34-2 vote.

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

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

-- END --

  

February 13, 2018

 

Eye bill clears House, rolls over to Senate 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

February 13, 2018

 

Senate committee moves alcohol-licensing bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

-- END --

February 12, 2018

 

Resolution asks Congress to remove hemp from definition of marijuana

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

February 9, 2018

 

This Week at the State Capitol

February 5-9, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

--END--

 

 

February 9, 2018

 

Homeschool sports bill wins House approval, goes to Senate 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

--END--

 

 

February 9, 2018

 

School district relief bill advances to Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

February 8, 2018 

 

Blow-drying bill passes Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- END –

 

February 8, 2018

 

Senate bill addresses pregnant workers’ rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- END --

 

February 8, 2018

 

Net metering bill gets go-ahead by House panel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

February 7, 2018

 

Senate weighs in on feed truck regs 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- END --

  

February 7, 2018

 

Gang violence legislation moves to House floor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HB 169 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

February 6, 2018

 

Senate moves accountability measure for cities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- END --

 

February 6, 2018

 

Relief bill for ailing school districts clears House panel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

February 6, 2018

Bill to require teaching of Holocaust passes committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HB 128 now goes to the full House for consideration.

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February 6, 2018

 

Essential skills bill approved by committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HB 3 now goes to the full House for consideration.

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 February 2, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

Bills that took steps forward this week include:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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February 2, 2018

 

 

Bicycle helmet bill rolls on to Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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February 1, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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February 1, 2018

 

Senate moves terrorism-related bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muhammad is now serving multiple life sentences in federal prison.

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

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February 1, 2018

 

Eye bill focused on online technology clears House committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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January 31, 2018

 

Financial literacy bill passes House, goes to Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HB 132 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.  

--END--

  

January 31, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SB 68 now goes to the House for consideration 

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January 30, 2018

 

General Assembly’s 2018 Session Calendar updated

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

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

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

The 2018 Regular Session Calendar can be viewed here.

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January 30, 2018

 

Life behind the wheel: Bill would let some inmates drive 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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January 30, 2018

 

Bicycle helmet requirement approved by House committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HB 52 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

January 29, 2018

 

Organ and tissue donation bill moves to Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

Jan. 25, 2018

 

Electrician licensing bill flows through Senate

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

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

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

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

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

SB 78 now goes to the House for further consideration. 

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Jan. 25, 2018

  

Bill to address state regulatory process clears House


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

 Jan. 25, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

January 24, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

Jan. 24, 2018

 

Senate passes bill requiring abstinence education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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January 24, 2018

 

Medical marijuana resolution clears House hurdle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

  

Jan. 24, 2018

 

Bill regulating naming of state property advances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- END --

 

January 24, 2018

 

Consumer credit protection bill passes House committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

HB 46 now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

January 24, 2018

 

Senate panel moves bill to let some prisoners drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- END --

 

January 23, 2018

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

January 23, 2018

 

Bill addressing electrician licenses goes to Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- END --

January 22, 2018

 

Marsy’s Law proposal passes House committee 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

January 19, 2018

  

House approves bills targeting child pornography, sex offenders

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

January 18, 2018

 

Bill addressing opioid crisis goes to House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

January 18, 2018

 

 

Bill would secure child pornography held in court proceedings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

 

January 18, 2018

 

 

Panel advances bill to give local governments more revenue options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

 

January 12, 2018

 

This Week in Frankfort

January 8-11

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other bills that took steps forward this week include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

--END--

 

January 12, 2018

  

LRC to host legislative agent workshop

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

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

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

The Legislative Ethics Commission will also offer a presentation 

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

--END--

 

January 11, 2018

  

State Senate and House will not convene Jan. 12

Winter Weather Advisory prompts adjustment to 2018 session calendar

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

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

--END--

 

January 11, 2018

Bill places focus on rare diseases

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

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

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

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

SB 7 now goes to the state House for consideration.

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

-- END --

 

 

 

January 11, 2018

 

 

Bill to change how State Treasury is funded goes to House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--END--

 

Jan. 11, 2018

 

Senate advances bill to change election dates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- END --

 

Jan. 11, 2018

  

Senate panel addresses dogs and cats left in cars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

-- END --

January 10, 2018

 

Senate moves to enshrine victims’ rights in KY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

-- END --

 

January 10, 2018

 

Bill places focus on rare diseases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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January 10, 2018

 

Organ and tissue donation bill advances

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.

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January 8, 2018

 

House panel advances two constitutional amendments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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January 5, 2018

 

This Week at the State Capitol   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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