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Recent News

Testimony highlights desire for an electric vehicle tax - 11/22/21

Legislative panel hears testimony on bill to curtail distracted driving - 11/16/21

Committee hears testimony on proposed air ambulance membership subscription regulations - 11/09/21

Proposed bill aims to give first responders COVID-19 death benefits - 10/19/21

Kentucky General Assembly to begin 2022 session on Jan. 4 - 10/11/21

Lawmakers hear testimony on student mental health crisis - 10/05/21

Bipartisan bill extending unemployment eligibility to domestic violence victims in the works - 09/23/21

Legislative panel hears testimony on issues facing municipal utility companies - 09/22/21

Kentucky's first pandemic-era special session wraps - 09/10/21

Lawmakers approve joint resolution extending COVID-19 emergency orders - 09/07/21

Lawmakers prepare for possible special session to address COVID-19 obstacles - 09/02/21

Legislative panel hears testimony on issues facing Kentucky hospitals - 08/26/21

Proposed bill aims to match ex-felons with careers - 08/12/21

Proposed bill aims to slap down SLAPP lawsuits - 08/05/21

Legislative committee hears update on employment, inflation and labor force - 08/05/21

LRC tech workers receive national award - 08/05/21

Lawmakers briefed on banking in the pandemic era - 08/03/21

LRC offers latest guidance to citizens attending legislative meetings - 08/02/21

Legislative panel takes pulse of first responders - 07/21/21

State Commission on Race and Access begins work in Frankfort - 07/21/21

Legislative panel hears testimony on how to reduce the cost of local jails - 07/08/21

Capitol campus reopening allows citizens to attend legislative meetings - 07/07/21

Lawmakers present pre-filed bill to ensure critical race theory isn't taught in schools - 07/06/21

Doctors testify on cause of infant, maternal mortality to legislative panel - 06/17/21

New state laws go into effect June 29 - 06/10/21

Chief Justice previews courthouse tech upgrades - 06/03/21

Legislative committee hears update on 'last mile' broadband expansion project - 06/02/21

Lawmakers hear update on student participation in last academic year - 06/01/21

Citizens have many ways to stay connected to legislative action - 05/27/21

LRC to follow new mask recommendations - 05/13/21

Registration open for continuing legal education seminars - 05/03/21

Kentucky General Assembly’s 2021 session ends - 03/30/21

Lawmakers approve bill to limit no-knock warrants - 03/30/21

Full-day kindergarten received passing grade - 03/30/21

General Assembly overrides budget vetoes - 03/29/21

Variety of bills receive final passage before veto recess begins - 03/17/21

Lawmakers approve bill allowing students to retake a year of school - 03/17/21

Lawmakers pass bill raising felony theft threshold - 03/16/21

Billboard regulation bill heads to governor - 03/16/21

Lawmakers approve second pandemic-era budget - 03/15/21

Bill criminalizing sex crimes by police officers headed to governor's desk - 03/12/21

Regular vision screening for drivers in sight - 03/12/21

School choice bill advances to Senate - 03/11/21

Anti-riot bill heads to KY House - 03/11/21

Senate eyes vision tests for drivers renewing licenses - 03/10/21

Budget meetings to be held next week - 03/05/21

Bill aims to reel in insulin drug prices - 03/05/21

House approves rental property protection bill - 03/05/21

General Assembly passes bill to reopen schools to in-person learning - 03/04/21

Mental health and addiction coverage bill passes - 03/04/21

Bill to protect pregnant inmates clears House committee - 03/03/21

Roadside billboard bill bound for full Senate - 03/03/2021

House approves bill to exempt those with serious mental illnesses from death penalty - 03/02/21

UI benefit legislation head to KY House - 02/26/21

Election reform bill heads to KY Senate - 02/26/21

Door may be closing on some no-knock warrants - 02/25/21

KY House sends firefighter mental health bill to Senate - 02/25/21

Lawmakers adjust General Assembly’s 2021 Session Calendar - 02/25/21

KY Senate passes bill to study racial gaps - 02/24/21

Committee approves student rights bill - 02/24/21

Bill to cap cost of of insulin heads to Senate - 02/23/21

House passes updates to child support laws - 02/22/21

Bill targeting sex crimes by police goes to House - 02/22/21

Kentuckians have toll-free way to share feedback with lawmakers - 02/17/21

Kentucky General Assembly will not convene this week - 02/16/21

Ky. Senate and House won't convene Tuesday due to winter storm - 02/14/21

Historical horse racing machine bill heads to Governor's desk - 2/12/21

Pandemic, social justice focus of annual Black History Celebration - 2/12/21

Police accountability bill heads to KY House - 02/11/21

Victim privacy bill moves to KY Senate - 2/09/21

Teachers' retirement bill clears the House - 2/04/21

Vaccine opt-out bill moves to KY House - 2/04/21

Police accountability bill heads to full Senate - 2/04/21

Bill to protect livestock receives bipartisan support - 2/03/21

Bill to curb trashing of rentals goes to House - 02/03/21

Lawmakers adjust General Assembly’s 2021 Session Calendar - 02/02/21

LRC to speed online posting of proposed bill changes - 02/02/21

Lawmakers vote to override vetoes - 02/02/21

Requesting to testify becoming easier with online application - 02/01/21

LRC staff working remotely Jan. 20 - 1/19/21

The verdict: Lawmakers OK change to judicial venues - 1/14/21

Budget advancement sets stage for negotiations - 1/13/21

Lawmakers begin budget process - 1/11/21

'Born-alive' bill heads to governor's desk  - 1/09/21

Lawmakers act on bill relating to COVID-19 restrictions on schools, shops - 1/09/21

House committee approves 'born alive' bill - 1/08/21

KY Senate passes 'Born-Alive' act - 01/8/21

Lawmakers adjust General Assembly’s 2021 Regular Session Calendar - 01/07/21

Lawmakers seek say in executive orders and regs - 01/7/21

House passes bill to reopen businesses, schools - 01/7/21

Senate panel advances bill on executive orders - 01/7/21

'Born-alive bill clears Senate committee - 01/6/21

Bill regarding tobacco settlement funds advances - 01/6/21

Many ways to stay connected to General Assembly action - 12/21/20

Lawmakers share details on health-related legislation - 12/16/20

LRC launches card-writing initiative for holidays - 12/9/20

Veterans group unveils 2021 legislative priorities - 11/19/20

Legislative panel hears testimony in favor of gas tax increase - 11/17/20

Committee hears testimony on proposed education-related legislation - 11/13/20

COVID-19 vaccine plan shared with lawmakers - 10/29/20

Paid parental leave for state workers studied - 10/27/20

Lawmakers express concerns about COVID-19's impact on child abuse cases - 10/15/20

Lawmakers hear testimony on substance abuse treatment programs, needs - 10/14/20

Testimony highlights potential for local government power over fluoride, tobacco marketing - 09/23/20

Lawmakers express concerns over proposed increase in food manufacturing fees - 09/17/20

Legislative panel briefed on general election costs - 09/16/20

Lawmakers discuss COVID-19 transportation guidelines for schools - 09/16/20

Calendar set for General Assembly's 2021 session - 09/10/20

Testimony outlines pandemic concerns in long term care facilities - 08/27/20

Proposal to curtail conversion therapy studied - 08/26/20

Legislative panel briefed on fiscal year outlook - 08/20/2020

Lawmakers hear testimony on reopening school - 08/19/20

Lawmakers receive update on food insecurity, food banks - 08/13/20

Researchers advocate for permanent expansion of telehealth services - 08/12/20

COVID-19's impact on mental health and physical wellbeing a concern for lawmakers - 07/30/20

Legislative panel gets update on ‘direct ship’ law - 07/30/20

Lawmakers study impact of COVID-19 on KY vets - 07/29/20

Lawmakers briefed on elections in COVID-19 era - 07/28/20

Lawmakers discuss curtailing no-knock warrants - 07/28/20

Reports reveal child abuse and foster care needs - 07/23/20

Legislative panel focuses on police body cameras - 07/09/20

New laws go into effect next week - 07/08/20

Lawmakers hold hearing on UI benefit payment delays - 06/26/20

Today’s legislative committee meetings will be livestreamed - 06/25/20

State legislators to hold Thursday meetings via videoconference - 06/24/20

Legislative panel hears police reform proposals - 06/04/20

          Educators discuss teaching during COVID-19 - 06/02/20

          State revenue shortfalls projected                

                 COVID-19 concerns mean fewer people on Capitol campus, but public has ways to stay connected

                 Legislative leaders direct LRC staff to assist with unemployment benefits backlog

                 KY General Assembly adjourns 2020 session

                General Assembly overrides budget vetoes        

 

 

Nov. 22, 2021

 

Testimony highlights desire for an electric vehicle tax

 

 

Sen. Michael J. Nemes, R-Shepherdsville, asks a question about an electric vehicle tax during Monday's Interim Joint Committee on Local Government meeting.   A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT— Counties across the Commonwealth would like to see lawmakers make a few changes during the upcoming 2022 legislative session.
 
One of those changes includes establishing an electric vehicle tax or fee.
 
Representatives from the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) presented the group’s 2022 legislative agenda to the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government today.
 
“The time for Kentucky to address this is now,” said Shellie Hampton, KACo director of government affairs. “Thirty states, including all of our neighbors, have already instituted an electric vehicle fee.”
 
Hampton also noted that many of the states that have implemented electric vehicle fees share the revenue with county governments.
 
KACo reports that nearly 40% of county roads are in need of moderate to significant repair, and that county governments own and maintain half of the roads in the state. Currently, counties only receive a portion of the motor fuel tax funds from the state to fund their own road departments.
 
Hampton said while electric vehicles account for less than 1% of vehicles in Kentucky, and the initial revenues from an electric vehicle tax would be small, that number is expected to grow. 
 
“Automakers that account for roughly a quarter of the global auto sales in 2019, including Ford, GM, Volvo and Mercedes, announced earlier this month that they will all work toward phasing out sales of gasoline and diesel powered vehicles by 2040 worldwide,” Hampton said.
 
Sen. Michael J. Nemes, R-Shepherdsville, asked if there had been a discussion about not establishing a separate electric vehicle tax and implementing just one “usage tax” instead. 
 
Jim Henderson, KACo executive director and CEO, said ultimately, KACo would like to see counties receive more money to take care of roads and bridges.
 
“As Shellie mentioned earlier, there are projections that as many as 30% of the cars that will be sold new by 2030 will be electric,” Henderson said. “So whatever we do, we really can’t wait much longer to start thinking about an alternative funding source for transportation.”
 
As of 2 p.m. Monday, no bills relating to an electric vehicle tax or fee had been pre-filed by any lawmakers. The Kentucky General Assembly cannot take any action on any proposed legislation until the 2022 legislative session begins on Jan. 4.

 

END

 

 

Nov. 16, 2021

 

Legislative panel hears testimony on bill to curtail distracted driving

 

 

Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, holds up a cell phone as he shares his plans with the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation to file a bill to require the hands-free use of a personal communication device while driving. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT— While a ban on texting and driving is not new, Kentuckians may soon be asked to put their phones down while driving altogether.
 
Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation on Monday about his intentions to file a bill for the 2022 legislative session that would only allow the hands-free use of a personal communication device while driving.
 
“We’re talking about proposed legislation that’s intended to save lives and improve public safety,” Tipton said.
 
Under this proposed legislation, personal communication devices are defined as a text messaging device, a stand-alone computer, a tablet, a laptop, a notebook computer, a personal digital assistant, a GPS system, a telephone or any device capable of displaying a video, movie, or visual image.
 
The measure would make using your hands to operate a personal communication device while driving illegal. It would also prohibit drivers from unbuckling their seatbelt to reach for a device.
 
Drivers can, however, use a hands-free Bluetooth device to make phone calls while driving.
 
Lawmakers cannot make any decisions on any proposed legislation until the next legislative session begins on Jan. 4. Tipton said if the general assembly adopts this measure, there would be a grace period until Oct. 1, 2022, where drivers would receive a warning.
 
After the grace period, drivers would be fined at least $50 but no more than $100 for a first or second offense, according to a draft of the bill request. On third offense or if the offense results in an accident, the penalty would be at least $100 but no more than $199. If the offense occurs in an active school zone or construction zone, the penalty would be at least $200 but no more than $250. Traffic school would be allowed for a first offense.
 
Kentucky would not be the first state to implement this type of law, Tipton said. According to Jennifer Smith, CEO and founder of StopDistractions.org, 24 states have adopted this type of legislation, including Tennessee, Virginia and Indiana.
 
This not the first time Tipton has sponsored a bill like this. He sponsored House Bill 255 during the 2020 legislative session, which did not make it to a floor vote in either chamber.
 
Kathleen Strack, a co-founder of Two Eyes, Just Try, testified alongside Tipton on Monday. Her brother died near Verona, Kentucky, in 2015 after his truck was hit by a distracted semi-truck driver. Strack said the driver of the semi had been sending and reading text messages for miles leading up to the accident.
 
“Distracted driving is 100% preventable, just like drunk driving,” Strack said. “The difference is drunk driving has become socially unacceptable. That’s not the case for distracted driving.”
 
Steve Blackistone, the state and local liaison for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), also joined the conversation. He said NTSB supports this type of legislation.
 
“As a result of our investigations, we’ve seen firsthand that distraction is a growing and life-threatening problem,” Blackistone said. “To reduce the crashes and injuries and deaths, drivers completely need to refrain from engaging in these distractions.”
 
While discussing the proposed bill, a few lawmakers asked about the effectiveness of the state’s texting while driving ban. Tipton said that it is not uncommon for someone accused of texting while driving to say, “No, I wasn’t texting I was putting in a phone number,” or some other excuse. This legislation would attempt to close that loophole.

 

 

 

 

END

 

 

Nov. 9, 2021

 

Committee hears testimony on proposed air ambulance membership subscription regulations

 

 

Rep. Deanna Frazier, R-Richmond, shares how she would like to see state regulation of air ambulance membership subscriptions during Tuesday's Interim Joint Committee on Banking and Insurance meeting. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT— The likelihood of needing an air ambulance is rare. However, many Kentuckians are taking the cost of that service into consideration.
 
Thousands of Kentuckians have air ambulance membership subscriptions to pay any remaining costs that health insurance may not cover. During today’s Interim Joint Committee on Banking and Insurance meeting, Rep. Deanna Frazier, R-Richmond, shared how she believes those membership subscriptions need more oversight.
 
“These memberships are products that transfer an unknown amount of risk to the policy holder to the air ambulance company in exchange for a premium payment,” Frazier said. “Why aren’t these policies regulated as insurance?”
 
Frazier added that she does not seek to ban air ambulance membership subscriptions. Instead, she wants to ensure consumer protection.
 
“It’s time that we take a hard look at these policies and provide consumers of Kentucky with needed protections from predatory policies and marketing tactics,” Frazier said.
 
Frazier also questioned whether or not air ambulance membership subscriptions will be needed once the federal No Surprises Act goes into effect on Jan. 1. This federal law will prohibit surprise medical bills for patients who receive emergency care from out-of-network providers at in-network facilities. Patients will only be responsible for paying their co-pays and deductibles.
 
Chris Brady, general counsel at Air Methods Corporation, an air ambulance company, testified alongside Frazier. Air Methods does not offer air ambulance membership subscriptions. Instead, Brady said the company works with insurance companies to make sure its services are covered as an in-network service.
 
Brady testified that Air Methods would like to see state regulation of air ambulance membership subscriptions as a form of supplemental insurance.
 
Representatives of Global Medical Response’s Air MedCare Network and Air Evac Lifeteam testified against state regulation of the services.
 
Jason Monday, national director of field sales for Air MedCare Network, said the subscriptions his company and other Global Medical Response (GMR) companies offer are not the same as supplemental insurance.
 
Monday said GMR has contracts with several insurance companies, including Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, where services are considered in-network and more than 80% of its services are covered by certain insurance companies. For those with a GMR subscription, the remaining balance is paid in full.
 
Monday also said existing laws and court cases already establish air ambulance subscriptions as distinct from insurance.
 
During discussion, Rep. Tom Smith, R-Corbin, said his constituents are happy with their air ambulance membership subscriptions.
 
“I can’t see where we’re going to benefit as legislators to bring oversight to the problem that doesn’t exist,” Smith said, adding he understands that those in favor of oversight are arguing there is a problem and he’s willing to listen.
 
As of this afternoon, no lawmakers have pre-filed any air ambulance-related bills for the 2022 regular session. Lawmakers cannot act on any proposed legislation until the legislative session begins on Jan. 4.

 

 

END

 

 

Oct. 19, 2021

 

Proposed bill aims to give first responders COVID-19 death benefits

 

 

Rep. Thomas Huff, R-Shepherdsville, presents Bill Request 430 to members of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government today alongside Zoneton Fire Protection District Chief Kevin Moulton. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT— While most of the world quarantined, first responders faced the COVID-19 pandemic head on.
 
Unfortunately, some first responders have died from COVID-19 after being exposed in the line of duty, and their families quickly learned they did not qualify for first responder death benefits.
 
Rep. Thomas Huff, R-Shepherdsville, told lawmakers on the Interim Joint Committee on State Government today he hopes to change that with Bill Request 430.
 
Huff was inspired to write the legislation after tragedy struck his home district. Last December, the Zoneton Fire Protection District in Bullitt County lost its fire chief and its interim fire chief to COVID-19 related complications within two months of each other.
 
“This is a bill for first responders; these are our heroes,” Huff said. “They jump in there when your house is on fire… they don’t take your temperature. They don’t put a mask on. They run in there and get you out.”
 
BR 430 would amend current statute on death benefits to include COVID-19 on the list of illnesses that can qualify a deceased first responder’s family for death benefits. Statute already defines first responders as police officers, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, correctional officers and active duty Kentucky National Guard members.
 
Huff told lawmakers BR 430 would be retroactive, meaning any first responders who have died due to COVID-19 complications since March 6, 2020, would qualify. Huff said when he prefiled the bill on Aug. 30, there had been 11 first responder deaths in Kentucky. He expects more have died since then.
 
If the bill becomes law, families who qualify would receive $80,000.
 
Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, said he would like to see medical personnel who work in correctional facilities included in the bill.
 
“I think they’re first responders too,” Graham said. “… That’s the thing I think many of us are concerned about. We don’t want to leave out anyone who are first responders.”
 
Lawmakers cannot take action on BR 430 until the 2022 legislative session, which begins Jan. 4.
 
The next Interim Joint Committee on State Government meeting is scheduled for Nov. 22 at 1 p.m.

 

 

 

END

 

 

Oct. 11, 2021

 Kentucky General Assembly to begin 2022 session on Jan. 4

FRANKFORT – State lawmakers have finalized a calendar for the 2022 Regular Session with plans to convene the General Assembly on Jan. 4 and adjourn April 14.
 
The session is scheduled to last 60 days, the maximum allowed under the state constitution in even-numbered years. Lawmakers will have until Feb. 28 to introduce bills in the House and March 2 to introduce bills in the Senate. 
 
The General Assembly will not meet on Jan. 17 in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or on Feb. 21 in observance of Presidents’ Day. The calendar also provides a 10-day veto recess from March 31 through April 12, a time when lawmakers typically return to their home districts to await possible vetoes from the governor.
 
Legislators are scheduled to return on April 13 and 14 for the final two days of the session.
 
The 2022 session calendar is available at:
https://legislature.ky.gov/Documents/22RS_Calendar.pdf

 

END

 

Oct. 5, 2021

 

Lawmakers hear testimony on student mental health crisis

 

 

Rep. Shane Baker, R-Somerset, asks what parents can do to help the student mental health crisis during today's Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT— Children of all ages across the Commonwealth are facing a major mental health crisis.
 
Student mental health professionals testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Education today on what the Kentucky legislature can do to help students suffering from mental illness and suicidal ideation.
 
The speakers proposed legislative solutions that include more mental health first aid training for teachers at all grade levels and more social-emotional learning programs to prevent mental health issues before they begin. A workforce shortage in the mental health field is also a concern along with a dearth of funds to hire professionals in schools. 
 
Linda Tyree, the crisis response director for the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative (GRREC), said the cooperative is typically called into schools after a death or serious injury of a student or staff member. More recently, GRREC has been called in to aid students suffering from depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a nationwide mental health crisis, especially for students who spent most of the last school year learning remotely, Tyree said.
 
“We know there was a lot of exposure to trauma, to stress, family stress, and even exposure to pornography when they’re learning online,” Tyree said. These challenges, along with the normal problems of adolescence, have taken a major toll, she added.
 
Amy Riley, a school counselor at Mercer County Schools, said her school is suffering severely from the student mental health crisis.
 
“There were weeks this past spring, shortly after returning from virtual learning, that we would assess two to three students a day for viable suicidal threats,” Riley said. “Many students had to be hospitalized or closely monitored.”
 
Riley told lawmakers she works with children who are 8 to 10-years-old and before coming to testify, she did a suicide risk assessment on a 9-year-old.
 
Riley said Kentucky’s schools are in desperate need of more mental health professionals.
 
“It is my earnest plea that when making crucial funding decisions you not forget the mental health needs of Kentucky students,” Riley said. “Any money and resources spent on mental health needs in Kentucky schools is money that will have an infinite return for the investment.”
 
Marsha Duncan, a social-emotional learning specialist for LaRue County Schools, testified that in the last two years she’s done risk assessments on children as young as third-grade, which was a first for her in more than 20 years in public education.
 
“The needs are many, but the resources are few,” Duncan said, adding a lack of people entering the mental health field and a lack of funding for schools and communities to address mental health needs is a major issue facing the Commonwealth.
 
Duncan said many students are dealing with grief. Some are mourning the loss of someone they knew to COVID-19 and others are mourning the loss of fun activities and normalcy. Children are also afraid of getting sick or losing someone else they love, she added, and adults in schools are suffering from mental health issues too.
 
Following the testimony, committee co-chair Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, asked if the speakers had statistics on the youth suicide rate in Kentucky.
 
Comparing a three-month period in the last year to the same time in 2019, the youth suicide rate increased 57%, Tyree said. Just last Thanksgiving, GRREC assisted a school district following the suicide of an 11-year-old. Tyree said that’s the youngest death by suicide she’s seen.
 
Rep. Shane Baker, R-Somerset, asked what parents, educators and community members can do in regards to prevention.
 
Riley responded that one thing parents can do is become very involved in the social-emotional learning at their child’s school and to advocate for a strong tier-one social-emotional learning curriculum.
 
Tyree agreed, adding that tier-one social-emotional learning means that every kindergartener and first-grade student participates in lessons on how to articulate their feelings, regulate their feelings, and develop other social-emotional skills.
 
Although lawmakers cannot take legislative action on this issue until 2022, Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, who is also an elementary special education teacher, said she would strongly support additional funding for mental health counselors in schools.
 
Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, said he would reach out to university presidents about their mental health professional programs and recruitment.
  

 

 

END

 

 

Sept. 23, 2021

 

Bipartisan bill extending unemployment eligibility to domestic violence victims in the works

 

 

Rep. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville, and Rep. Samara Heavrin, R-Leitchfield, present a bill they are drafting for the 2022 regular session to help domestic violence victims qualify for unemployment insurance during today's Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Workforce Investment meeting. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT— Domestic violence victims often face many barriers when it comes to escaping their abuser.
 
Two Kentucky lawmakers shared plans today with the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Workforce Investment that they hope will eliminate one of those barriers.
 
Rep. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville, and Rep. Samara Heavrin, R-Leitchfield, are drafting a measure to allow anyone who loses their job or must quit their job due to dating violence or abuse, sexual assault or stalking to qualify for unemployment insurance.
 
Kulkarni, Heavrin and others filed a similar bill during the 2021 regular legislative session, but the measure did not make it to the House or Senate floor for a vote. Kulkarni said they hope to pre-file the bill again for the 2022 regular session in October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
 
“This something that I’ve worked on for the past few sessions that was brought to me by constituents,” Kulkarni said. “And it’s an issue that at the same time it is desperate and urgent, (it is) something that is also clouded with silence and a lot of stigma attached to it.”
 
Katie Showalter, a social work professor at the University of Kentucky and a gender-based violence and employment expert, testified that gender-based violence is a major issue in Kentucky.
 
“Kentucky is the second highest state in the U.S. for rates of domestic violence with 1 in 3 women and 1 in 8 men experiencing (domestic violence) in their lifetime,” Showalter said.
 
Survivors often experience 15 days of work loss per year, and many victims are financially dependent on their abusive partners, Showalter added. Abusers often use control of finances to further isolate and abuse their partners.
 
“Income loss is a huge issue for survivors, but it is also tied to the loss of other resources like social relationships and benefits for the survivor,” Showalter said. “So it’s really like a chain reaction that survivors are experiencing…
 
“We are seeing lots of unemployment and specifically unemployment insurance would really help victims who are experiencing intimate partner violence, sexual violence or stalking to regain stability.”
 
Kulkarni said 39 other states already extend some form of unemployment insurance benefits to domestic violence survivors.
 
The current draft of Kulkarni and Heavrin’s bill would require survivors to provide documentation in order to qualify for benefits. Currently, that documentation could be police or court records, a sworn statement from the survivor or other documentation from a shelter worker, attorney, member of the clergy or medical professional.
 
Kulkarni said benefits would be charged against the state’s pooled account and would not be a financial burden on employers.
 
Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, asked if there would be any sort of counseling requirement. Kulkarni said the current draft of the bill does not have one, but added that some states waive the job search requirement if an applicant is seeking counseling.
 
Heavrin also responded that she is hesitant to add a counseling requirement since not everyone is ready to seek counseling right away.
 
“They’re not always able to go to counseling because the job might not allow them, so hopefully we can find a middle there that is helpful with the employee and employer,” Heavrin said. “But just to be empathetic, I think it is hard to push somebody to do counseling until they’re ready.”
 
Heavrin added survivors often have children and other things to consider when seeking help, but she is open to discussing the issue.
 
Kulkarni said they hope to work with more legislators and stakeholders before finalizing the draft and pre-filing the bill.

 

END

 

 

Sept. 22, 2021

 

Legislative panel hears testimony on issues facing municipal utility companies

 

 

Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, asks a question about what the legislature can do to help with water access during Tuesday's Interim Join Meeting on Local Government. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT— Three representatives from the municipal utility industry informed lawmakers Tuesday on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting local power, water, sewer, internet and telecommunication providers.
 
The representatives said action from the Kentucky General Assembly may be needed in the 2022 legislative session to help municipal utility companies combat workforce and infrastructure issues, among others.
 
Gary Larimore, executive director of the Kentucky Rural Water Association, told the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government his top legislative priority would be state financial incentives for employers that expand water and wastewater apprenticeships.
 
“We do have workforce issues, and we do need more qualified people,” he said.
 
Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, asked what the legislature can do to support rural areas in providing water and wastewater services.
 
While the legislature recently allocated millions toward increasing access to clean water, Larimore said outdated infrastructure needs to be replaced in many areas, even in water districts with infrastructure that is only 50 years old.
 
Workforce and infrastructure issues are not the only problems facing municipal utility companies. Many are facing financial issues. Larimore used a water district covering three Kentucky counties as an example.
 
The Warren, Butler and Simpson County Water District saw net income decrease by 35% during the 2020 calendar year, Larimore said.
 
A reduction of customer usage has played a major role. So has lost revenue from a moratorium on late fees and service suspensions during the early months of the pandemic, when many people were out of work, Larimore added.
 
“That left us with over $660,000 worth of delinquent electric and internet bills,” said Jeff Hurd, general manager of the Hopkinsville Electric System (HES) and president of the Kentucky Municipal Utilities Association. 
 
Municipal utilities have been working to recuperate some of the lost revenue related to late fees. However, it is unlikely every customer will be able to pay off their debt, despite financial assistance being offered to customers, officials reported.
 
For HES, only 84% of customers with delinquent bills completed their six month repayment plan, Hurd said. He also estimates HES lost around $55,000 in late fee payment revenue.
 
The cause for reduction of customer usage varies, Larimore said. Some areas have been monitoring a predicted decrease in population but the pandemic did exacerbate the issue.
 
Chase Azevedo, general manager of Georgetown Municipal Utilities, said the industry is also having supply chain and inflation issues. Chemicals to treat wastewater are in short supply, and prices of certain essential materials continue to fluctuate.
 
“Obviously this is all going to impact rates,” Larimore said. “Water rates are going to go up. That’s just inevitable.”
 
The next Interim Joint Committee on Local Government Meeting will be Oct. 19.

END

 

Sept. 10, 2021

 

Kentucky’s first pandemic-era special session wraps

 

 

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, explains Senate Bill 3 during a legislative committee hearing on Wednesday. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

 

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky General Assembly flexed its powers to shape the state’s COVID-19 response during a three-day special session lawmakers gaveled to a close Thursday night.

The governor called the extraordinary session after the state Supreme Court ruled that a lower court incorrectly blocked laws limiting the executive branch’s emergency powers. Lawmakers used the opportunity to extend some emergency executive actions, eliminate others, try new strategies to mitigate COVID-19 and provide relief to institutions strained by the pandemic. Those include schools, hospitals, nursing homes and businesses. 

Lawmakers stressed they would monitor the implementation of the legislation and the evolving pandemic during the remainder of the interim, the period between regular sessions where lawmakers study, propose and prefile bills. Legislators will have an additional opportunity to act when they return for the 2022 Regular Session in early January.

The actions taken during the special session break down into the following categories, including one non-pandemic related measure:

Education: Senate Bill 1 will prioritize in-person learning at public schools while shifting decisions about COVID-19 protocols to locally-elected school boards, including whether students should wear a mask.

The first provision will allow school districts to waive a requirement of 170 instructional days in favor of 1,062 instructional hours. That will let schools adjust starting and ending times to make up for lost days.

It will not add additional non-traditional instruction days, but instead create 20 so-called temporary remote instruction days through the end of the year for a specific class, grade, building or entire school stricken by COVID-19. This will prevent an entire district from shutting down when a COVID-19 outbreak happens among a particular group within the district.

The measure will also require local health departments to develop a so-called test-to-stay model for school districts. That’s where a student who may have been exposed to COVID-19 at school gets tested for the virus each morning before class instead of quarantining.

To address staffing shortages, SB 1 will make it easier for retired teachers to return to the classroom, in some cases as soon as 30 days after retiring. The retirees could make up to 10% of a district’s teaching staff under the provision.

A final provision will stabilize school funding. Many districts were looking at budget shortfalls because state funding is based, in part, on average daily attendance. And that measurement has plunged because of students out sick or quarantined.

SB 1 passed by a 28-8 vote in the Senate and 70-25 vote in the House.

Health care: Senate Bill 2 will declare the statewide facemask mandate void but encourage vaccinations, COVID-19 testing and greater access to monoclonal antibody treatments, such as Regeneron.

A second provision will require Kentucky’s public universities to develop and initiate public awareness campaigns encouraging people to get vaccinated. One focus will be on developing partnerships with athletes, coaches and health care providers to promote the vaccine’s benefits.

A third will assist health care providers, jails, prisons, homeless shelters and local health departments in acquiring COVID-19 tests. A fourth will make it easier to administer the vaccine at the offices of primary care physicians. A fifth will allow paramedics to work in hospitals to relieve a nursing shortage. 

The bill will also establish safety protocols for so-called essential compassionate care visitors in long-term care facilities during pandemic-induced lockdowns. They could be a family member, legal guardian or close friend.

SB 2 passed by a 26-10 vote in the Senate and 69-24 vote in the House.

Expenses: Senate Bill 3 will redirect more than $69 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health & Family Services. The money was leftover from the repayment of a federal loan to Kentucky’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. The loan was taken out to cover a surge of pandemic-related unemployment claims.

The money will be used to help health care providers, schools and others to implement provisions of SB 1 and SB 2. These include the purchase of COVID-19 tests, the establishment of regional monoclonal antibody treatment centers and test-to-stay programs in schools.

SB 3 passed by a 36-0 vote in the Senate and 84-8 vote in the House.

Extending emergency executive actions: House Joint Resolution 1 modified some of the governor’s executive orders and extends many of them through Jan. 15. The resolution also extended a state of emergency order for Nicholas County, which is recovering from flash flooding, for another 30 days.

The orders addressed in the resolution included protections from price gouging, expansion of nutrition assistance, allowing flexibility for retired first responders to return to work, allowing state and local governments to conduct business and meetings virtually and more.

HJR 1 also extended COVID-19 liability protection for businesses and allowed certain flexibilities regarding unemployment insurance.

HJR 1 was adopted on the first day of the special session by a 92-3 vote in the House and 32-4 vote in the Senate.

Economic development bill: Senate Bill 5 was the only legislation that passed during the special session that contained no pandemic-related provisions. It will appropriate $410 million of the $1.7 billion surplus in Kentucky’s trust fund to offer economic development incentives for projects valued at $2 billion or more.

Some incentives will be in the form of forgivable loans. Economic development officials testified that the incentives will be paid out over time to ensure any project meets the required job and wage targets. Those officials said there will also be a claw-back provision if the project doesn’t meet the targets.

Sponsors of the legislation said a non-disclosure agreement prevented them from releasing too many details, but that Kentucky is in the running for at least one mega project eyeing Hardin County. Supporters repeatedly compared SB 5 to state economic development incentives the General Assembly passed in the late ‘80s that brought Toyota’s first American assembly plant to Georgetown. It is now the world’s largest Toyota manufacturing facility where the Lexus ES350, Avalon, Camry and some hybrid counterparts are assembled.

SB 5 passed by a 30-3 vote in the Senate and 91-2 vote in the House.

With the governor’s signing of HJR 1, SB 3 and SB 5 and the General Assembly’s overriding of vetoes on SB 1 and SB 2, the measures went into effect immediately.

END

Sept. 7, 2021

 

Lawmakers approve joint resolution extending COVID-19 emergency orders

 

 

House Speaker David W. Osborne, R-Prospect, discusses the details of House Joint Resolution 1 during today's House Standing Committee on State Government meeting. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT— The Kentucky General Assembly kicked off the 2021 extraordinary session today by extending many of the COVID-19 related executive orders issued by Gov. Andy Beshear.
 
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to adopt House Joint Resolution 1, which modifies some of the governor’s executive orders and extends many of them through Jan. 15. The resolution also extends a state of emergency order for Nicholas County, which is recovering from flash flooding, for another 30 days.
 
While introducing HJR 1, House Speaker David W. Osborne, R-Prospect, said it is similar to House Joint Resolution 77 from the 2020 Regular Session.
 
“These are all executive orders that are in the public space already,” Osborne said. “These are things that the governor has asked to be extended. No, we didn’t extend every single one he asked us to extend, but every order in here is already an existing order.”
 
Osborne described the orders in the resolution as “very beneficial.” They include protections from price gouging, expanding nutrition assistance, allowing flexibility for retired first responders to return to work, allowing state and local governments to conduct business and meetings virtually and more.
 
Osborne said HJR 1 also addresses extending the provisions of two bills— one from the 2021 Regular Session and another from the 2020 Regular Session. One provided COVID-19 liability protection for businesses. The other allowed certain flexibilities in regards to unemployment insurance.
 
HJR 1 was adopted by the House by a 92-3 vote after lawmakers voted to waive rules that require a bill or resolution to undergo three readings on three separate days before receiving final passage.
 
Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, was one of the legislators to explain her “yes” vote. Cantrell said while she voted against HJR 77 from the 2021 Regular Session because she found it arbitrary, she decided to vote yes on HJR 1 since the legislature will be back in session by the Jan. 15 expiration date.
 
HRJ 1 was also introduced and adopted by the Senate today by a 32-4 vote.
 
“The need is real,” Senate President Pro Tempore David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, said while explaining what necessitated the resolution. “Across our commonwealth we have families, citizens and communities struggling with the reality of COVID, something we had never heard of 18 months ago, something we didn’t know existed, something that remains a challenge.”
 
Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, voted for the resolution but expressed concern over a section he said would allow nurse practitioners to write more prescriptions for narcotics.
 
“There are a lot of other good things in this resolution, but prescribing more controlled substances does nothing to help us treat COVID more rapidly or effectively,” he said.
 
Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, voted for the resolution but said he feared it still restricted the executive branch from using all its resources to combat the virus.
 
“What this virus has shown us is that it does not know the bounds of legislation or political party,” McGarvey said. “Because of that, I want to make sure we do everything while we are here to make sure we do not have to come back.”
 
HJR 1 now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto. Beshear may also allow HJR 1 to become law without his signature.
 
Beshear issued a proclamation on Saturday calling the Kentucky General Assembly into an extraordinary session to tackle issues related to the pandemic, a state of emergency for Nicholas County and funding for certain economic development projects.
 
Earlier this year, lawmakers approved legislation to limit how long certain executive orders can remain in effect before they require legislative approval. That included orders that place restrictions on the function of schools, businesses or nonprofits.
 
If the governor wishes to extend those types of executive orders beyond 30 days, he or she must call the legislature into an extraordinary session.
 
Other issues lawmakers hope to address this week include staffing shortages at hospitals and schools, access to COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment, access to vaccines, mask mandates at public schools and childcare centers, visitation at long term care facilities and funding for economic development projects.
 
The Senate will reconvene at 9 a.m. tomorrow with the House to follow at 10 a.m.

 

END

 

 

Sept. 2, 2021

 

Lawmakers prepare for possible special session to address COVID-19 obstacles

 

 

Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester (left) conferring with Senate President Pro Tem David P. Givens, R-Greensburg,   during Wednesday's meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT— Schools, hospitals, childcare centers and long-term care facilities testified before lawmakers this week asking for help as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause staffing, funding and operational challenges.
 
The hearings – organized by four legislative committees – were all part of an effort to consider solutions to COVID-related issues ahead of a potential special session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
 
Lawmakers can only be called into special session by the governor, and that had not occurred by Thursday afternoon. Still, legislators were eager to assess the conditions on the ground.
 
Representatives from the Kentucky Justice & Public Safety Cabinet and Kentucky Jailers Association testified Wednesday that COVID-19 has exasperated staffing shortages at correctional facilities across Kentucky and increased operating costs. That was during a joint meeting of the Interim Joint Committees on State and Local Government.
 
“It is very difficult to hire people to come into a jail anyway, but you add COVID to that and it is beyond impossible,” said Campbell County Jailer Jim Daley, who is also the jailers association president. “I have a suggested capacity for deputies of about 85. I am 50 down. It’s dangerous and difficult.”
 
Also on Wednesday, Jim Flynn, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, spoke to the Interim Joint Committee on Education about the way COVID-19 is impacting public schools.
 
Flynn said many of the school systems that have recently announced closures are due to staffing shortages. If there are teachers who are sick or need to be quarantined due to exposure, school systems are struggling to find substitute teachers. Bus drivers are also in short supply.
 
Committee Co-chair Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, said he believes the goal of any policy regarding COVID-19 and schools moving forward should be to continue as much in-person learning as possible with safety in mind.
 
“We can manage the threat that we’re under,” Wise said. “And we can do that with common sense, but in a safe manner.”
 
Some suggested solutions included expediting the background check process, clarifying COVID-19 quarantine policies, investing in teacher recruitment and retention, increased COVID-19 testing and more.
 
Overall, Wise said he is not in favor of mandates or offering schools more Nontraditional Instruction Days (NTI).
 
Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, said any legislation that may come up during a possible special session should provide school districts flexibility. Flynn agreed that there is not a “one size fits all” solution to the issues COVID-19 has created for public schools.
 
On Thursday, lawmakers on the Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services heard from child care representatives on how staffing shortages and a mask mandate for children is creating hardship.
 
Jennifer Washburn, owner of iKids Childhood Enrichment Center, told lawmakers a mask mandate for children 2 years of age and older is not working well for most 2- and 3-year-olds.
 
“I compare my daily experience of masking 2-year-olds to trying to keep a mask on a cat,” Washburn said.
 
While many of the children under the age of 4 are struggling to keep their masks on properly, Washburn said her facility has done well at preventing a COVID-19 outbreak. Frequent temperature checks, staff masking, constant sanitizing of hands and surfaces and strict quarantine guidelines have worked well at iKids.
 
However, like public schools, Washburn is having trouble hiring staff.
 
Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, shared that he is working on a bill to address issues facing childcare centers. His bill will focus on World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations and local control. WHO currently does not recommend children under the age of 12 wear a mask.
 
Committee co-chair and physician Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, shared some of his COVID-19 mitigation plans with his peers Thursday. Alvarado said he is in the process of setting up monoclonal antibody treatment centers across the state. However, there are some barriers to access to treatment that the General Assembly may need to address.
 
Alvarado also hopes lawmakers can work on resolving hospital staffing issues and increasing COVID-19 vaccine education and access during the possible special session.

END

 

 

Aug. 26, 2021

 

Legislative panel hears testimony on issues facing Kentucky hospitals

LOUISVILLE— Lawmakers heard testimony today on how staffing shortages are impacting Kentucky’s hospitals and how they can help.
 
The Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services met at the Kentucky State Fair where Nancy Galvagni, president of the Kentucky Hospital Association, highlighted a growing issue with transporting patients.
 
Citing experts in the field, Galvagni said that fewer ambulances are available to transport patients from one hospital to another due to staffing shortages and the high demand for ambulance services.
                                                              
“Across the state, hospitals are discovering that many times when we call, the ambulance simply doesn’t come,” said Galvagni. “Patients who have suffered from strokes, severe burns or even suicide attempts are languishing for hours and sometimes days at a hospital emergency room waiting for transport to the appropriate level of care.”
 
Galvagni said hospitals understand being short staffed because they are facing the same issue. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made the nationwide nursing shortage worse, and nurses, along with other hospital staff, are burnt out.
 
“They have mental distress through having to work longer shifts, taking on more patients and that has led to retirements and resignations,” Galvagni said.
 
Since nearly every hospital in the country is having this issue, Kentucky’s hospitals are running low on funds to hire travel nurses, she said, adding that “few hospitals can pay $150 to $200 an hour for traveling nurses to fill the gaps.”
 
Galvagni said one option is a state regulation that allows hospital employees to work outside their scope practice, under supervision. Funding to help hospitals recruit and retain staff would also be helpful, she added.
 
Committee co-chair Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, said he’d like to see those suggestions in writing now because lawmakers are in the process of formulating plans to address these issues.
 
Alvarado also asked the hospital association to help with the logistics of setting up locations for monoclonal antibody treatment. He said the therapy is free, in large supply and highly effective in reducing the length of COVID-19 illness and likelihood of hospitalization. Galvagni said yes.
 
“We’re gonna have to have regional locations; somewhere where people can get that administered and hopefully keep them from being admitted to the hospital,” Alvarado said.
 
Alvarado, who is a physician, urged those watching the meeting to get a COVID-19 vaccine and to seek monoclonal antibody treatment as soon as possible once diagnosed with COVID-19 to reduce the risk of hospitalization.
 
Both the COVID-19 vaccine and monoclonal antibody treatments are free to everyone regardless if you have health insurance.
 
The next Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services meeting will be back in Frankfort on Sept. 22 at 1 p.m.


 

END

 

 

Aug. 12, 2021

 

Proposed bill aims to match ex-felons with careers

FRANKFORT — A legislative panel heard testimony today on ways to encourage Kentuckians with criminal histories to pursue careers requiring occupational licenses.

“At the heart of what we are trying to do is make sure people have the opportunity to be gainfully employed,” Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, said while testifying before the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations.

He explained that increasing access to good-paying jobs for Kentuckians with criminal records saves taxpayer money through reduced recidivism and incarceration.

Martin Harris, a legal fellow at The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, testified that 19.4 percent of jobs in Kentucky require an occupational license. He said the No. 1 step lawmakers could take to get ex-felons in careers requiring occupational licenses would be to mandate so-called pre-application determinations. That’s when prospective applicants know whether their criminal record is disqualifying before investing in the training and education required for the license.

That’s important, Harris said, because a cosmetology license in Kentucky requires 1,500 hours of training within five years of enrolling in school. He said the tuition for that training averages $12,500.

“It really lessens the burden on the applicants,” Harris said. “It lets them know well in advance, so they don’t have to incur that cost.”

He said 19 states already mandate pre-application determinations. That includes Tennessee, North Carolina and Arkansas, three states with decentralized licensing agencies similar to Kentucky.

Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, asked who would pay for the additional costs of administering pre-application determinations.

Joshua Gaines, a senior policy analyst with the CSG Justice Center, testified that many states charge a nominal fee to review the application ahead of time. He said such fees discourage people not interested in following through with the required training from seeking pre-application determinations.

Other recommendations Harris and Gaines gave included considering pardons, expungements, rehabilitation, non-violent crimes and recent conduct when issuing licenses.

Any possible legislation would expand Senate Bill 120 from the 2017 Regular Session. That was an omnibus bill sponsored by Westerfield that included, among other things, provisions that made it possible for ex-felons to obtain occupational licenses.

Harris said those types of provisions have been dubbed “second chance licensing laws” and copied around the country. He said it is now time for Kentucky to improve on what it had already pioneered.
 

END

 

Aug. 5, 2021

 

Proposed bill aims to slap down SLAPP lawsuits

 

 

Rep. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville, speakS in support of a proposed bill to discourage so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation, known as SLAPP suits, during today's meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT — A legislative panel heard testimony today on a proposed measure to discourage lawsuits aimed at chilling First Amendment rights.

The proposed bill would seek to protect people from so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation, known as SLAPP suits.

“It is also important to note that plaintiffs that bring SLAPP lawsuits do not intend to prevail in court,” said Rep. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville. "Often these lawsuits are intended simply to delay matters or discourage individuals from continuing in that speech.”

She testified in support of the proposed bill before the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary along with Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville. Nemes said a classic SLAPP scenario would be a publically-elected board suing a vocal critic in an attempt to saddle that person with prohibitively expensive, nerve-racking and time-consuming legal processes.

“These are civil lawsuits masquerading as normal tort lawsuits that are actually not intended to prevail on the merits and are instead intended to delay, chill, suppress or discourage free speech,” Kulkarni said. “SLAPP lawsuits essentially intend to take a matter of public concern or significance out of the public arena and into the courtroom which shifts the attention from the speech or activity that is being engaged in and towards a legal defense."

Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, said he was opposed to an element of the proposed bill that would allow defendants to collect attorney’s fees from the filer of SLAPP suits.

“I can see some merit to what you are trying to achieve, but I also think it is a slippery slope,” he said. “There are a lot of different types of lawsuits out there that are very difficult to prove in court. That doesn’t mean they were meritless at the time they were filed.”

Wheeler added that there were already legal mechanisms to discourage frivolous lawsuits.

Kulkarni said the proposed bill took the best of the about 33 anti-SLAPP laws already enacted around the country.

The proposed bill was not prefiled at the time of the meeting, but under model anti-SLAPP statutes, the person sued can make a motion to strike the case because it involves speech on a matter of public concern. The plaintiff then has the burden of showing a probability that they will prevail in the suit – meaning they must show that they have evidence that could result in a favorable verdict.

END

 

Aug. 5, 2021

 

Legislative committee hears update on employment, inflation and labor force

 

 

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, asks a question about the labor force during Wednesday's Interim Joint Committee on Appropriatons and Revenue meeting.   A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— The Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue is keeping a close eye on Kentucky’s economy as the state heals from the economic issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
During Wednesday’s meeting, the legislative panel heard from Michael Clark, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, on the current economy and inflation rate, for both Kentucky and the U.S. overall.
 
“Both the national and Kentucky economy has made marked improvements over the past year,” Clark said. “Economic output has continued to improve. Employment has rebounded substantially, but still remains stubbornly below pre-pandemic levels.”
 
Employers are hiring and wages are rising, Clark added, but labor force participation is low and inflation is rising.
 
According to Clark, low labor force participation can be attributed to health concerns, decreased access to childcare, increased retirements, enhanced unemployment benefits and more. However, Clark noted, it is not clear how much each of those factors contributes to low participation.
 
As for inflation, Clark’s presentation noted that a greater demand for certain goods, such as lumber, is driving supply chain issues and resulting in higher costs. Clark also referenced a Wall Street Journal prediction that prices for most goods will drop within the next year or two.
 
The hope is, Clark said, that as more people re-enter the labor force, supplies of high-demand goods will rise and prices will fall.
 
Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, asked Clark who makes up the labor force since Kentucky’s employment rate is at roughly 53 percent.
 
Clark said the labor force includes people ages 16 and older who are not in the military or institutionalized. Even people who are in school full time and not working, or who are retired, are considered to be part of the labor force even if they are not employed.
 
During discussion, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, raised concerns over how federal COVID-19 stimulus dollars could be impacting the economy and creating a “false economy.”
 
Clark explained that it is a difficult balance since the goal is to make sure consumer demand fuels the economy. Too much fiscal stimulus can hurt the economy, but not enough stimulus can also have a negative impact. That’s because high unemployment rates mean consumers are spending less money. The goal of stimulus dollars was to help keep businesses open, he added.
 
“The issue is how do we transition as consumer demand comes back? How do we transition then to consumer demand driving those jobs opposed to the stimulus? And that’s a tricky thing,” Clark said.
 
The next Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue meeting is scheduled for Sept. 8 at 1 p.m.

END

 

 

Aug. 5, 2021

 

LRC tech workers receive national awards

FRANKFORT Technology experts from the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) have won national recognition for a series of innovative tech upgrades that helped support Kentucky’s legislative branch, especially through the challenges of COVID-19.

The National Association of Legislative Information Technology announced that LRC’s Office of Computing and Information Technology (OCIT) has won the 2021 Legislative Staff Achievement Award.The honor recognizes professionals who excel in supporting a state legislature or strengthening the legislative institution overall.

LRC Director Jay D. Hartz said he is proud that a team – which typically serves behind the scenes – is receiving praise on a national scale.

“We headed into last year with big plans for technical upgrades,” Hartz said. “But we never anticipated the urgent and simultaneous challenges of COVID-19. On both matters, OCIT succeeded spectacularly. The team’s agility and ingenuity allowed the legislature to continue functioning during one of the worst crises in Kentucky history.”

Much of OCIT’s work last year focused on technology improvements that help Kentuckians stay connected with the legislature.

The team installed high-definition screens in committee rooms, providing unobstructed views for every seat in the room. Experts also installed cameras and equipment to improve videoconferencing and livestreaming. That allowed livestreams of all committee meetings during the 2021 regular session of the General Assembly – either on Kentucky Educational Television or LRC’s YouTube channel.

OCIT also overhauled the voting system in the House of Representatives, which allowed lawmakers to participate in House proceedings and cast votes from their offices – all part of the effort to maintain social distancing. Other upgrades let lawmakers view information about each bill remotely, and in real time.

With an eye on long-term tech advances, OCIT also oversaw the installation of new fiber cables in legislative areas. That has increased LRC’s backbone network speed to 10 gigabits per second. It has also allowed the agency to transition to an improved Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system.

Joel Redding, LRC’s Deputy Director for Computing and Information Technology, thanked the national association for the recognition.

“The pandemic created many challenges for our IT staff,” Redding said. “We were asked to achieve goals that I would never have imagined the year before. I am proud to say that OCIT met every challenge. The team not only found solutions but improved the process at the same time. I truly believe that LRC has one of the most talented and capable IT staffs in the country.”

The National Association of Legislative Information Technology – known as NALIT – is a staff association of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that works to advance the effectiveness, independence and integrity of legislatures and to foster interstate cooperation and facilitate the exchange of information among legislatures.

 

END

 

 

 

Aug. 3, 2021

 

Lawmakers briefed on banking in the pandemic era

 

 

Rep. Tom Smith, R-Corbin, asks about the digital currency Bitcoin during today's meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Banking and Insurance.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT — Nearly $8 million in federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans originated in Kentucky to help businesses across the state survive the pandemic, according to information provided to a legislative panel today.

“As you can see, the financial services industry was really integral in administering this program and getting this relief to companies,” said Charles Vice, commissioner of the state Department of Financial Institutions. He was testifying before the first meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Banking and Insurance this year.

Vice said 50,655 PPP loans were issued during the first round of the program, ending in August of last year. The average loan that round was for $104,278. Vice said another 31,647 loans were issued during the second round, ending on May 31. The average loan for the final round was for $78,359.

Rep. Rachel Roberts, D-Newport, asked why the average amount of a loan in the second round was lower. Vice said the second round focused on small businesses.

“More loans were going out in smaller dollar amounts to smaller businesses,” he said. “That’s one of the big differences between the average loan size between the first draw and second draw. There was a purposeful, concerted effort to try to engage smaller businesses with PPP loans.”

Christy Carpenter, president-elect of the Bluegrass Community Bankers Association, attributed the smaller amounts to the fact that the self-employed and farmers more easily qualified for the second round of PPP loans. “That’s what we saw at my community bank,” she told the committee.

In other pandemic-related questions, Rep. Shawn McPherson, R-Scottsville, asked if there had been an increase in Kentucky landlords defaulting on mortgages because of eviction moratoriums.

“One of the things I have been very … surprised with is that the past-due rates and the loss rates of our institutions have been relatively low to this point,” Vice said. “As of right now, we have not seen a significant increase in either past dues, foreclosures or defaults." He added that could change as loan deferment programs implemented during the pandemic expire.

Vice said COVID-19 created other market concerns.

“Uncertainty in markets caused some to move to non-traditional investments with increased risk of fraud,” Vice said. He explained that social media posts were being used to promote agenda-based trading, possibly to manipulate markets and encourage pump-and-dump schemes.

Rep. Tom Smith, R-Corbin, asked about the possibility of regulating cryptocurrencies that have also seen an increase in popularity due to uncertainty in traditional markets.

“One of the challenges there is taking the right approach to this,” Vice said. “We are looking at it. We are engaging some companies with this. We are talking to other states about this. And we are taking a look at the best way for Kentucky to move forward.”

END

 

August 2, 2021

 

LRC offers latest guidance to citizens attending legislative meetings

FRANKFORT — Kentuckians may continue to attend legislative committee meetings in person and vaccinated guests are not required to wear a mask in committee rooms, according to the latest guidance from the Legislative Research Commission (LRC).
 
Visitors attending legislative committee meetings should enter the Capitol Annex through the visitor’s entrance, located at the center doors on the front of the building.
 
Fully vaccinated guests are not required to wear a mask in committee rooms or other areas controlled by the LRC. However, they may still wear a mask at their discretion. Unvaccinated guests should wear a mask at all times. All guests should be prepared to wear a mask in areas controlled by the state executive branch.
  
The LRC will continue to spread out audience seats in committee rooms for social distancing purposes. If a meeting is expected to attract significant interest, an overflow room will be available so that anyone who cannot find a seat in the primary meeting room may still view the meeting in real time.
 
To view the weekly calendar of committee meetings, go online to 
https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/legislativecalendar.

All committee meetings are livestreamed so that people who cannot attend meetings may view them online. For more information, go to 
https://legislature.ky.gov/Public%20Services/PIO/Pages/Live-Streams.aspx.
 
The first floor and basement of the Capitol Annex are open to visitors, but citizens must have a scheduled appointment to access the second, third and fourth floors of the Annex where lawmakers’ offices are located. Individual legislators may require guests to wear a mask in their personal office, so please ask about that policy as part of the scheduling process. 

 

END

 

 

 

July 21, 2021

 

Legislative panel takes pulse of first responders

 

 

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, asks about the health of Kentucky’s emergency medical services during today's meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT — Kentucky lawmakers heard testimony today on how first responders across the state have held up during COVID-19. 

“Our EMS agencies have struggled with a multitude of challenges,” said Michael Poynter, executive director of the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services. He was testifying before the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection.

Poynter rattled off the challenges. They include employees unable to work due to quarantine, shortages of personal protective equipment and the additional costs of it all. Many of the challenges were echoed by representatives for firefighters, the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police and Kentucky State Police – all of whom testified at the meeting.

Poynter said 1,714 EMS workers in Kentucky had to quarantine or isolate at some point during the pandemic. Financial challenges also plague EMS – particularly in rural areas, he said.

“The federal government should review the cost of the emergent, urgent and preventive care provided by EMS and include reimbursement for treatment in place, transport to alternate designations, telemedicine facilitation and community paramedicine,” he said.

John Beatsch, president of the Kentucky Firefighters Association, testified that COVID-19 caused more than financial difficulties for first responders. He said it caused an emotional hardship.

“Volunteers stop wanting to make runs,” he said. “They felt like it was too dangerous. Many volunteers left their fire departments because of the situation. They just didn’t want to have to deal with it. They didn’t want to take the possibility of being quarantined and having to lose work from their actual job.”

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, asked what lawmakers could do to assist in the recruitment and retention of firefighters. Beatsch said more money for recruitment would help.

Rep. Ashley Tackett Laferty, D-Martin, said she had previously filed bills that would have given a $1,000 tax credit to volunteer firefighters who are state certified. Beatsch said that would be a big help in recruitment and retention.

“Currently, I don’t think there is very much of any reward for being a volunteer firefighter other than the personal reward of helping your community,” Beatsch said. He added the only recognition volunteers get now is a firefighter’s license plate that costs more money than a regular plate.

Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, said he supports the tax credit.

Rep. Mark Hart, R-Falmouth, said he would like to see state funding for personal protective equipment. “Without that, firefighters can’t even do the job they are willing to volunteer to do,” said Hart, a former professional firefighter.

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, said he would like to change a state regulation that prohibits convicted felons from becoming members of volunteer fire departments. “I understand the reason behind that,” said Blanton, a retired state trooper. “But I’m also a believer of second chances. Every felony is different. Some people actually do reform.”

He said local volunteer fire departments should be allowed to make those decisions on an individual basis.

Kentucky State Police Commissioner Col. Phillip Burnett Jr. testified that recruiting and retention is also a problem for his agency. He said there were 1,009 troopers in 2006. Today, the number stands at about 740.

“The key to that is significant pay raises to be competitive with other agencies throughout Kentucky,” Burnett said in reference to increasing retention rates. “The thing that is really discouraging is that we are averaging about 5.8 resignations a month since Jan. 1 of this year.”

Ryan Straw, government affairs director of the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police, testified that as of yesterday, 901 law enforcement personnel in Kentucky have been exposed to COVID-19. Six have died.

“Clearly, COVID has not spared law enforcement,” Straw said. “Given the new Delta variant, we know there is a good chance law enforcement officers will join the public in increased cases amongst our ranks.”

END

 

 

July 21, 2021

 

State Commission on Race and Access begins work in Frankfort

 

 

The two co-chairs of the newly formed Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity, Senate President Pro-tem David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, and Rep. Samara Heavrin, R-Leitchfield, confer before the commission's inaugural meeting Tuesday. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT— Kentucky’s new Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity kicked off its work in Frankfort this week with members seeking to have tough —but respectful—conversations on disparities across the state.
 
Lawmakers created the commission during the 2021 General Assembly with Senate Bill 10. The 13-member panel will conduct studies and research on issues such as educational equity, child welfare, health, economic opportunity, juvenile justice and criminal justice, among others. It will also issue an annual report on its findings.
 
The bi-partisan group includes two chairs – Senate President Pro-tem David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, and Rep. Samara Heavrin, R-Leitchfield – along with members from each legislative chamber and citizen members.
 
Lawmakers on the commission include Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton; Rep. George Brown Jr., D-Lexington; Rep. Nima Kulkarni, D-Louisville; and Rep. Killian Timoney, R-Lexington. Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville is also set to join the commission.
 
Citizen members include Dr. OJ Oleka, president of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities and a co-founder of AntiRacismKY; Erwin Roberts, first assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Jefferson County; and Dr. Ricky Jones, a professor and chair of the University of Louisville’s Pan-African Studies department.
 
Givens was a primary sponsor of SB 10. During the group’s first meeting Tuesday, he shared two “lightbulb” moments for him. One dealt with policy; the other came last summer following the deaths of George Floyd and Louisville’s Breonna Taylor.   
 
“The lightbulb moment for me was policy impacts outcomes, which can impact our fellow Kentuckians,” Givens said. “The second lightbulb moment for me was the summer of last year…We had fellow Kentuckians suffering and it frightened us to talk about it. And our legislative body is charged to do hard things, and so here we are.”
 
Each member of the committee shared the unique perspectives they bring to the table. Berg shared she is a Jewish woman. Westerfield shared he is the father of two biracial children. Timoney is a former teacher and principal.
 
Brown Jr., who is a Black man, reminded the commission during his introduction that the U.S. has a 400-year history of disparity.
 
“It is very important for people who call themselves the majority to address their issues and their concerns and understand that where we are is a part of what has happened in our society and everybody has to look in the mirror and be serious about making substantial change…” Brown Jr. said.
 
As for Heavrin, who is the youngest woman elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, she shared why she wanted to be part of the commission.
 
“I do this for the children of Kentucky…” Heavrin said. “I do it for everyone because it’s important that we all understand, that we’re all able to empathize and to stick our feet in someone else’s shoes.”
 
Givens and Heavrin hope the commission can have tough conversations surrounding race and inequity in a respectful way that inspires policy to improve the lives of all Kentuckians.
 
The next meeting on the Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity is scheduled for Aug. 18 at 3 p.m.

 

 

 

END

 

 

 

July 8, 2021

 

Legislative panel hears testimony on how to reduce the cost of local jails

 

 

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, urges his fellow lawmakers to proceed with caution as they work to find ways to reduce jail spending  during today's Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary meeting.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT— As jail populations increase in the Commonwealth, so do jail expenses.
 
Members of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary heard testimony from the Vera Institute of Justice today on how the average Kentucky county spent more than $3.3 million, or 15% of its budget, on jail expenses. In the 2019 fiscal year alone, Kentucky counties spent more than $402.3 million on jails.
 
Vera Research Associate Beatrice Halbach-Singh said that Kentucky’s overall jail population shrank 28% last year due to efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
 
According to the presentation, this showed how money is saved when people who are charged with low-level, non-violent offenses and who pose no threat to public safety are allowed to wait for trial at home.
 
“This rapid reduction shows that reducing the jail population safely is possible, and in fact, if every county maintained the reduction it saw in 2020, the estimated cost savings statewide would be over $30 million annually,” Halbach-Singh said.
 
Kentucky’s rural counties have the highest jail populations and spend the most on jails. They also spend a greater share of their total budgets on jail costs compared to other types of communities and have seen these numbers increase in recent years, Halbach-Singh said.
 
Halbach-Singh also noted that while some counties spend more than half of their budgets on jails, one county spent as low as 3%. The type of jail and revenue sources are major factors in this data. Some counties only house local inmates while others also house state and federal inmates. Juvenile facilities and juvenile offenders were not factored into this study, Halbach-Singh added.
 
Vera Project Director Jasmine Heiss covered recommendations on how to reduce the financial burden of jails on counties. Reducing jail bookings was one of the main recommendations.
 
“I think there is a real policy question of whether there are some offenses for which jail bookings in the future can continue to be avoided altogether, particularly with an emphasis on diversion or referral to services for people who struggle with mental health issues, with substance use and generally with poverty,” said Heiss.
 
Heiss also mentioned a bill filed in the 2021 legislative session, Senate Bill 223, which contained a provision to strengthen a defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial. Reducing the time an inmate spends in a local jail while waiting for trial also can reduce jail costs, Heiss added. The General Assembly did not vote on SB 223 in the last legislative session.
 
Following the presentation, committee co-chair Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, commented that he would like to see some reform on the ways jails choose communication service contracts for inmates.
 
“There ought to be competitive bidding for those things to drive those prices down for the taxpayer and the people who are footing the bill for the facilities we have around the state,” Westerfield said.
 
Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, said he supports the call to find a way to reduce costs for the state and local communities, but he wanted to know if the pandemic led to more crime going unreported and if that was also a factor in reduced jail populations.
 
“And as much as we all want to reduce costs, we have to remember our jails are the way they are because people’s committing crimes,” Blanton said. “We either got to stop people committing crimes or we got to do away with what is a crime…
 
“I just caution us to not get in too quickly here and that we take all the things into account as to why these numbers are lower during this pandemic.”
 
The next Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Aug. 5.

 

 

END

 

 

 

July 7, 2021

 

Capitol campus reopening allows citizens to attend legislative meetings

 

FRANKFORT – Kentuckians can once again view legislative committee meetings in person now that a recent change in COVID-19 visitor restrictions no longer prevents citizens from entering the Capitol and Capitol Annex.
 
Visitors who attend legislative committee meetings should enter the Capitol Annex through the visitor’s entrance, the center doors on the front of the building.
 
To view the weekly calendar of committee meetings, go online to:
https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/legislativecalendar.
 
Audience seats in legislative committee rooms have been spread out to prevent people from sitting elbow-to-elbow. If a meeting is expected to attract significant interest, an overflow room will be prepared so that anyone who doesn’t find a seat in the meeting room can view the action on a screen.
 
For more than a year, committee meetings have been livestreamed so that people who couldn’t attend meetings due to COVID-19 restrictions could view them online. The livestreams will continue. (For more information, go to
https://legislature.ky.gov/Public%20Services/PIO/Pages/Live-Streams.aspx)
 
While the first floor and basement of the Capitol Annex are open to visitors, citizens must have a scheduled appointment to enter the second, third and fourth floors of the Annex where lawmakers’ offices are located.
 
The Legislative Research Commission’s guidance on mask-wearing reflects recommendations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fully vaccinated people are not required to wear a mask inside legislative offices located in the Capitol and Capitol Annex.

--END--

 

 

 

July 6, 2021

 

Lawmakers present pre-filed bill to ensure critical race theory isn't taught in schools

 

 

Rep. Matt Lockett, R-Nicholasville, testifies on Bill Request 69 during today's Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT—Rep. Matt Lockett, R-Nicholasville, said he believes his bill, Bill Request 69 “will be one of the most vital pieces of legislation” that will be considered when the General Assembly convenes for its 2022 session.
 
According to Lockett, who is the bill’s primary sponsor, the goal of BR 69 is to ban the teaching and promoting of critical race theory in Kentucky’s public schools. The pre-filed bill was the main topic of discussion during today’s Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting.
 
Lockett said critical race theory (CRT) teaches that the political and social system in the US is based on race and labels those who are white as the oppressors and those who are Black as the oppressed.
 
Lockett along with one of the bill’s co-sponsors Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, said they have both heard from parents and educators across the Commonwealth who say CRT is being taught in schools and that they are against it being part of the school curriculum.
 
Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Jason Glass testified that curricular decisions are left to school based decision making councils.
 
“The Kentucky Department of Education is not aware of any districts or teachers specifically teaching critical race theory and neither CRT nor terms associated with it appear in our state standards,” Glass said.
 
Although he is not an expert on critical race theory, Glass did offer a definition of CRT and suggested the committee invite an expert to testify.
 
“Critical race theory is a decades old legal and academic theory which seeks to explain why racism continues to exist,” Glass said, adding that CRT is typically taught and discussed in graduate-level courses and is not a developmentally appropriate concept for elementary and middle school-aged students.
 
In regards to BR 69, Glass said the bill hurts freedom of speech and that these types of laws hurts education and hinders the state’s ability to recruit and retain teachers.
 
Fayette County social studies teacher Delvin Azofeifa joined Lockett and Decker in testifying in favor of BR 69.
 
“Any CRT adjacent doctrine doesn’t belong in public schools,” Azofeifa said.
 
During discussion, Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, criticized the importance of the bill compared to other issues such as the suicide ideation rate among children and the high child abuse rates in Kentucky. She, along with Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, also criticized the bill’s language.
 
“When I read Bill Request 69, I found it vague,” Willner said. “…The goal seems to be to want to ban discomfort, but you know, unfortunately, that’s not really something we can legislate.”
 
Lockett responded by explaining the goal of the bill isn’t to just eliminate the term critical race theory, but to make sure students are not taught they are less than somebody else due to the color of their skin.
 
As the nearly 2 and a half hour meeting came to a close, lawmakers hinted this will not be the last time BR 69 or any other critical race theory related legislation will be discussed during the interim.
 
Any official action lawmakers choose to take on BR 69 cannot begin until the legislative session begins in January 2022.

 

END

 

 

 

 

June 17, 2021

 

Doctors testify on causes of infant, maternal mortality to legislative panel

 

 

Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, asks Dr. Connie White, who is testifying virtually, a question about testing mothers for Hepatitis C during yesterday's Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services meeting. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT— What can be done to lower the rate of infant and maternal deaths in the Commonwealth?
 
Three Kentucky doctors testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services yesterday on the causes of infant and maternal mortality.
 
Aside from congenital malformations, or birth defects, the reason infants are dying within the first month of life is often obstetrically related, or related to the health of the mother, according to the doctors’ testimonies.
 
For Kentucky, substance use disorders and mental illnesses are major factors in maternal death, where a mother dies during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth, said Dr. John Weeks with Norton Healthcare.
 
“In the last four to five years, there’s been at least a 25% increase in maternal mortality attributable to addiction,” Weeks said.
 
Mothers with substance use disorders who die during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth are mostly dying of overdoses, Weeks said. And these mothers are usually people who have struggled with substance use disorders for a long time with multiple relapses and they often also struggle with depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses.
 
Dr. Connie White, deputy commissioner for clinical affairs for the Cabinet of Health and Family Services, said 50% of maternal deaths had some type of substance abuse as a factor, whether that be an overdose, a car accident or a cardiac event.
 
While lawmakers have passed several laws in the last few years to study infant and maternal mortality as well as a law to require Hepatitis C testing in pregnancy, there is more work to do to improve this issue, the doctors said.
 
In Kentucky, Weeks said a major issue is there are not enough mental health professionals to reach all the areas of the state that “desperately need this kind of help.”
 
Committee co-chair Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, who also sits on the Severe Mental Illness Task Force, shared he and the committee are aware of the low number of mental healthcare providers in Kentucky.
 
“I’ll throw this statistic out there: 350 psychiatrists for the entire state of Kentucky, about a little bit under 60 child psychiatrists in the state of Kentucky. We are woefully deficient in that regard,” Alvarado said.
 
Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, asked the doctors what other developed countries are doing to keep infant and maternal death rates low.
 
Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg responded by commenting on how the US healthcare system spends its money.
 
“We have a value problem, basically,” Goldberg said. “We are not spending our money wisely. It is not really a deficit of technology.”
 
Goldberg is a Louisville obstetrician and gynecologist who serves as the legislative advocacy chair for the Kentucky section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
 
“If we want to improve infant mortality, neonatal mortality, again, it’s really a matter of improving obstetrical care,” he said. “…How are we doing related to other Western countries? And the answer is that the U.S. has the worst infant mortality rate in the entire Western world. And we feel that given our resources that’s simply unacceptable.”
 
At the conclusion of the doctors’ presentation, Alvarado said the committee looks forward to hearing more throughout the interim on what can be done to improve infant and maternal mortality rates in next legislative session.
 
The next Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services meeting will take place at 1 p.m. on July 21.

END

 

 

June 10, 2021

 

New state laws go into effect June 29

FRANKFORT – Most new laws approved during the Kentucky General Assembly's 2021 session will go into effect on Tuesday, June 29.

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 2021 Regular Session occurred on March 30, making June 29 the effective date for most bills.

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

Adoption. House Bill 210 will ensure that employers offer parents adopting a child under the age of ten the same amount of time off as birth parents.

Asthma. Senate Bill 127 encourages schools to keep bronchodilator rescue inhalers in at least two locations and will require schools with inhalers to have policies regarding their use.

Child and new mother fatalities. House Bill 212 will require data in an annual state report on fatalities among children and new mothers to include information on demographics, race, income and geography associated with the fatalities.

Child protection. House Bill 254 will raise the penalty for possession or viewing of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor under the age of 12 years to a Class C felony. It will also raise the penalty for the distribution of matter portraying a sexual performance of a minor under the age of 12 years to a Class C felony for the first offense and a Class B felony for each subsequent offense.

Child support. House Bill 402 will revise child support laws to increase the amount considered flagrant nonsupport from $1,000 to $2,500.

Education. House Bill 563 will give families more options when deciding where to send kids to school and will assist families with the cost of educational expenses. The bill will allow the use of education opportunity accounts, a type of scholarship, for students to attend out-of-district public schools or obtain educational materials and supplies. For students in some of the state’s largest counties, the scholarship funds could be used for private school tuition. Individuals or businesses who donate to organizations that issue education opportunity accounts will be eligible for a tax credit. The legislation will also require a board of education to adopt a nonresident pupil policy by July 1, 2022 to govern terms under which the district allows enrollment of nonresident pupils and includes those pupils in calculating the district’s state funding.

Elections. House Bill 574 will make permanent some of the election procedures implemented last year to accommodate voting during the pandemic. The measure will offer Kentuckians three days – including a Saturday – leading up to an election day for early, in-person voting. It will allow county clerks to continue to offer ballot drop boxes for those who do not wish to send their ballots back by mail. It will also counties to offer voting centers where any registered voter in the county could vote.

Ethics. Senate Bill 6 will create standards for ethical conduct for transition team members of all newly elected statewide officeholders. The standards include identifying any team member who is or has been a lobbyist. It will require disclosure of current employment, board member appointments and any non-state sources of money received for their services. It will also prohibit the receipt of nonpublic information that could benefit a transition team member financially.

Illegal dumping. Senate Bill 86 will designate 100 percent of a new open dumping fine to be paid to the county where the violation occurred.

Inmate care. Senate Bill 84 will ban jails, penitentiaries, local and state correctional facilities, residential centers and reentry centers from placing inmates who are pregnant or within the immediate postpartum period in restrictive housing, administrative segregation, or solitary confinement. It will grant an inmate who gives birth 72 hours with a newborn before returning to the correctional facility and will offer six weeks of postpartum care. It also mandates that incarcerated pregnant women have access to social workers and any community-based programs to facilitate the placement and possible reunification of their child.

Kentucky-grown products. Senate Bill 102 will include Asian Carp, paddlefish, or sturgeon in the definition of "Kentucky-grown agricultural product".

Late fees. House Bill 272 will allow water districts to impose a 10 percent late fee and cut off service for nonpayment of bills. Customers who receive financial assistance for their bills are exempt.

Livestock. House Bill 229 will make someone guilty of criminal mischief for intentionally or wantonly causing damage to livestock.

Living organ donors. House Bill 75 will prohibit certain insurance coverage determinations based upon the status of an individual as a living organ donor. It will also encourage the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to develop educational materials relating to living organ donation.

Medicaid. Senate Bill 55 will prohibit copays for Medicaid beneficiaries.

Newborn safety. House Bill 155 will allow the use of a "newborn safety device" when a newborn is being anonymously surrendered by a parent at a participating staffed police station, fire station, or hospital. The device allows a parent surrendering an infant to do so safely using a receptacle that triggers an alarm once a newborn is placed inside so that medical care providers can immediately respond and provide care to the child.

Police standards. Senate Bill 80 will strengthen the police decertification process by expanding the number of acts considered professional wrongdoing. Such acts include unjustified use of excessive or deadly force and engaging in a sexual relationship with a victim. The bill also will require an officer to intervene when another officer is engaging in the use of unlawful and unjustified excessive or deadly force. It will also set up a system for an officer’s automatic decertification under certain circumstances and will prevent an officer from avoiding decertification by resigning before an internal investigation is complete.

Public records. House Bill 312 will revise the states open records laws. It will limit the ability of people who do not live, work or conduct business in Kentucky to obtain records through open records laws. These restrictions do not apply to out-of-state journalists. The legislation specifies that open records requests can be made via email. It also calls for a standardized form to be developed for open records request but does not require its use. It will allow the legislative branch to make final and unappealable decisions regarding decisions on open records requests it receives. The bill will allow government agencies up to five days to respond to open records requests.

Sexual abuse. Senate Bill 52 will amend third-degree rape, third-degree sodomy and second-degree sexual abuse statutes so law enforcement officers could be charged with those crimes if they engage in sexual acts with a person under investigation, in custody or under arrest.

Theft. House Bill 126 will increase the threshold of felony theft from $500 to $1,000. It will also allow law enforcement to charge members of organized shoplifting rings with a felony if a member steals a total of $1,000 worth of merchandise over 90 days.

U.S. Senators. Senate Bill 228 will change the way vacancies are filled for a U.S. senator from Kentucky. The bill will require the governor to select a replacement from a list of three nominees selected by the same political party of the departing senator.

Worker safety regulations. House Bill 475 will prohibit, starting on July 1, the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board from adopting or enforcing occupational safety and health administrative regulations that are more stringent than the corresponding federal provisions.

--END--

 

 

June 3, 2021

 

Chief Justice previews courthouse tech upgrades

 

 

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, asks a question about House Bill 556 from the 2021 Regular Session during today’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary. A provision of that bill requires the judicial branch to provide legislators a report on its budgetary process.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT – Kentuckians will be able to pay court costs, fines and fees at ATM-like contraptions in select courthouses across Kentucky by next year. 

A pilot project to install the self-service kiosks by January 2022 in strategic locations throughout the state is costing $1 million, said Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. while testifying before today’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary. Minton said the money was part of the $14.7 million the General Assembly appropriated for judicial branch technology upgrades in House Bill 556 from the 2021 Regular Session.

If the pilot program is successful, additional kiosks could be placed in commercial locations, such as grocery stores or pharmacies, Minton said. Similar kiosks are already used in neighboring Virginia to offer essential court services outside of office hours.

The largest chunk of the appropriation, or about $10.6 million, is being spent on video arraignments and video conferencing equipment. Minton said not all of Kentucky’s courtrooms currently have the technology to conduct video arraignments.

Another $2 million is being used to create a computer portal for self-represented litigants, or people who do not retain a lawyer for a court proceeding. Minton said the goal of the portal is to allow self-represented litigants to interact with the court, receive assistance and potentially create and file court documents.

Minton said the remaining $1.1 million is going to be used to improve the electronic filing, or e-filing, system. He said the judicial branch cannot achieve the potential cost savings associated with e-filing until it’s mandatory across the state. One improvement will be the purchase of redaction software to protect personally identifiable information in the electronic court records.

Minton said the General Assembly appropriated $383 million for the judicial branch in fiscal year 2022. He said the majority of that figure covers the salary and benefits of all elected and non-elected personnel along with operating costs such as office supplies, travel and computer equipment. Minton stressed that court costs people pay do not fund the judicial branch.

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, said he would like to see part of those court costs go to the Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratory System. He said the labs suffer from chronic underfunding that makes it hard to retain qualified technicians.

“After all, the labs are being used by every law enforcement agency across this state at no costs … to our agencies,” Blanton said. “I don’t see it as a tax. I see it as an offender who has broken the law that is paying their court costs. That money is being used to pay another component of our judicial system that is utilized by 120 counties across this state.”

Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) Director Laurie Dudgeon said it is up to the General Assembly to revisit the law dictating how court costs are spent. The AOC is the operational arm of the judicial branch that supports court facilities and programs in Kentucky.

Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, asked what could be done to increase the collection rate of court costs.

“We have a constitutional prohibition from jailing people who are too poor to pay,” Dudgeon said. “That is a balance we are always trying to strike.”

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, asked about a provision in HB 556 that requires the judicial branch to provide legislators a report on its budgetary process. Dudgeon stressed that the judicial branch would comply with that provision of HB 556. She added that judicial districts and circuits do not necessarily follow county lines, making it harder to track expenses by county.

END

 

 

June 2, 2021

 

Legislative committee hears update on 'last mile' broadband expansion project

 

 

Rep. Ken Fleming, R-Louisville, shares his thoughts on the potential procurement process for the "last mile" broadband project at today's  Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue meeting.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— The beginning stages of a plan to bring high-speed, reliable internet access to every home and business in the Commonwealth is underway.
 
Legislators on the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue received an update today from State Budget Director John Hicks on the “last mile” broadband expansion project that focuses on underserved areas of the state.
 
Hicks informed the committee that a “request for information” (RFI) and a map of underserved areas will launch within the next two weeks.
 
“(The RFI’s) purpose is to ask the providers and municipalities and other government agencies their ideas, comments and their suggestions,” Hicks said. “We don’t know what we don’t know, and so we want to avail ourselves of their expertise before we finalize our process.”
 
During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers passed two bills to allocate a total $300 million to broadband expansion in Kentucky. House Bill 320 allocated $250 million to broadband expansion in rural, underserved areas, while House Bill 382 allocated $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to be used for economic development-related broadband.
 
This is the first time Kentucky has launched a project like this, Hicks said, adding that the state has been looking at federal guidance and how other states have expanded broadband. The information they receive from the RFI will be a major component in finalizing the state’s plan for the project.
 
Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, wanted to make it clear to constituents during the meeting that this “last mile” project is not Kentucky Wired.
 
Several other legislators, including Rep. Ken Fleming, R-Louisville, also expressed concerns about Kentucky Wired. “I want to make sure that Kentucky Wired and any of its subsidiaries are not going to be included in this process,” Fleming said.
 
Hicks reassured the committee that Kentucky Wired would not be involved with the implementation of the project, however, the program has enlisted the help of someone who is an employee of Kentucky Wired as a “subject matter expert.”
 
Fleming also expressed concerns the potential procurement process laid out in Hicks’ presentation, adding he wants quality of services to be strongly considered.
 
“I would really strongly encourage you to look at a quality based selection in order to procure this in a very prudent manner,” Fleming added.
 
Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, inquired about internet service providers input on the project. Hicks assured him that the RFI procurement process is being used to hear from internet service providers.
 
As of today, Hicks did not have a detailed timeline of how and when the project will be completed. Committee Co-Chair Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, asked for Hicks to produce one, even if it is an estimate, in the next few weeks so the committee can stay updated on the project.
 
The next Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue meeting is scheduled for July 7 at 1 p.m.

 

 

END

 

June 1, 2021

 

Lawmakers hear update on student participation in last academic year

 

 

Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, asks a question during today's Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers expressed concerns over virtual public school and its impact on student attendance, participation and performance due to COVID-19.
 
Today, members of the Interim Joint Committee on Education heard from the Kentucky Department of Education and a few school district leaders on participation in virtual learning throughout the last academic year.
 
Jessica Carlton, KDE assistant director in the Division of District Support, said 29 school districts were selected at random to submit participation data for one elementary school, middle school and high school within the district. Two out of the three reports, October 2020 and January 2021, have been published so far.
 
“Participation rates that we’ve seen were in line with attendance rates that we’ve seen in the past,” Carlton said.
 
According to KDE’s presentation, 11.35% of students in remote learning did not participate on the days selected for the study. Participation was measured by looking to see if a student logged on to meet with their class or teacher or logged on to work on assignments. 
 
Following KDE’s presentation, lawmakers heard from leaders from three school districts. Dr. Sally Sugg, superintendent at Shelby County Schools, Robert Harmon, director of pupil personnel for Adair County Schools and Steve Hill, director of pupil personnel at Fayette County Public Schools, all said while there were challenges, teachers worked hard to meet students’ needs.
 
Stories of some students having to care for younger siblings while parents worked during the day or students having to work to help support their families during the pandemic were common across school districts. These extra burdens made it difficult for some students to participate in school during regular school hours.
 
All three speakers shared how teachers and administrators made home visits, phone calls and video calls, sometimes early in the morning or late into the evening, to meet the diverse needs of the students and their families.
 
Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, praised administrators, teachers, parents and students for getting through a difficult year, but said he has some concerns about the impact the pandemic and virtual learning has had on learning.
 
“Despite their best efforts, I think we’re going to see significant academic deficiencies in schools,” Riley said.
 
Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, asked when achievement gap information results would be available for the 2020-21 school year.
 
Kelly Foster, from the KDE Office of Continuous Improvement and Support, told West that the state assessment results come in in September or early October, but not all students participated this year. Foster added that other assessments were completed throughout the school year so districts would know how students were doing in real-time.
 
The next Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting is scheduled for July 6 at 11 a.m.

 

END

May 27, 2021

 

Citizens have many ways to stay connected to legislative action

General Assembly’s interim committee meetings begin June 1

 

FRANKFORT -- No matter what part of Kentucky you’re in, you’ll have ways to stay engaged in action at the State Capitol when members of the General Assembly begin holding interim committee meetings next week.

June 1 marks the beginning of a six-month period in which interim joint committees made up of Senate and House members will study and discuss many of the issues confronting Kentucky in preparation for the next year’s legislative session.

The Kentucky General Assembly Website allows users to:

         See the General Assembly’s weekly schedule.

         Tune in to live coverage of legislative committee meetings.

         View contact info for senators and representatives.

         Learn about the legislative process.

         View informational materials on topics being considered by committees.

         Request to testify at committee meetings.

Following the General Assembly’s work often begins with a look at the Legislative Calendar to find out which committees are meeting each week.

Livestreams of committee meetings can be viewed through feeds provided by Kentucky Educational Television (KET) and the Legislative Research Commission (LRC). For links to the livestreams, click here.

Information about legislative committees is available here. To view materials such as info sheets, handouts, and PowerPoint presentations that are compiled for lawmakers to review at committee meetings, click on the “Meeting Materials” tab on the right side of each committee’s page.

An online application offers a convenient way for citizens to request to testify at committee meetings. It allows users to choose a committee, then fill in their contact info to have the request to testify automatically submitted to the committee. The online application can be viewed by clicking here.

Making a request to testify doesn’t guarantee that it can be accommodated. Committee chairs make decisions on testimony based on time allotted to the committee, other previously approved presenters, and COVID-19 safety precautions.

To share feedback on an issue with lawmakers, call the General Assembly’s Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. Kentuckians with hearing loss can use Kentucky Relay by dialing 7-1-1.

To directly reach a lawmaker’s office, call 502-564-8100. An operator will transfer the call to the office of the lawmaker you want to reach.

If you have a question about the lawmaking process or legislative resources, the LRC Public Information can be reached by calling 502-564-8100.

END

May 13, 2021

 

LRC to follow new mask recommendations

 

FRANKFORT – The Legislative Research Commission (LRC) will be changing its guidance to reflect new recommendations issued earlier today by the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In accordance with those recommendations, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker David Osborne have announced that fully vaccinated people will not be required to wear a mask inside legislative offices located in the Capitol and Capitol Annex.

END

May 5, 2021

 

Registration open for continuing legal education seminars

FRANKFORT – Attorneys can now register for continuing legal education (CLE) seminars offered by the Legislative Research Commission.

Seminars will be offered on June 7 and 28. Both seminars begin at 8:15 a.m. and end at 4:15 p.m. Instead of in-person seminars, the sessions will be livestreamed to registered participants.

The CLEs provide attorneys opportunities, at no cost, to meet their annual Kentucky Bar Association requirement of 12 credit hours, including the required two hours of ethics credits.  Typical topics range from deep dives into recently enacted legislation to updates on Supreme Court decisions and more.  CLE presenters typically include legislators and policy experts.

To register, please click on the following link: https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/CLE/

END

 

March 30, 2021

 

Kentucky General Assembly’s 2021 session ends

FRANKFORT -- The Kentucky General Assembly’s 2021 regular session was gaveled to a close this evening, ending a session in which lawmakers approved a state budget for the coming fiscal year and approved numerous other bills that will affect people throughout the state.

Most new laws approved this year will go into effect 90 days from today’s adjournment, except for those that specify a different effective date or include an emergency clause that makes them take effect the instant they become law.

Legislation approved by the 2021 General Assembly includes measures on the following topics:

Abortion. House Bill 91 will allow Kentucky voters to decide next year whether to add the following words to the state constitution: “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

Adoption. House Bill 210 will ensure that employers offer parents adopting a child under the age of 10 the same leave policies that they provide to birth parents.

Asthma. Senate Bill 127 encourages schools to keep bronchodilator rescue inhalers in at least two locations and will require schools with inhalers to have policies and procedures in place regarding their use.

Attorney General. House Bill 2 will give the attorney general greater authority to enforce laws concerning abortion clinics in Kentucky.

Born-alive infants. Senate Bill 9 requires that medically appropriate and reasonable life-saving and life-sustaining medical care and treatment must not be denied to any born-alive infant, including cases in which an attempted abortion results in a live birth.

Billboards. House Bill 328 will re-establish the state’s regulatory authority for roadside billboards after a federal court ruling called the state’s prior regulations into question. It will put Kentucky’s statute back in place with changes intended to ensure its constitutionality.

Capitol security. Senate Bill 227 will require Kentucky State Police to brief the leadership of the General Assembly and the Legislative Research Commission on security matters relating to the State Capitol campus.

Child and new mother fatalities. House Bill 212 will require data in an annual state report on fatalities among children and new mothers to include information on demographics, race, income and geography associated with the fatalities.

Child protection. House Bill 254 will raise the penalty for possession or viewing of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor under the age of 12 years to a Class C felony. It will also raise the penalty for the distribution of matter portraying a sexual performance of a minor under the age of 12 years to a Class C felony for the first offense and a Class B felony for each subsequent offense.

Civil actions. House Bill 3 will allow civil actions regarding the constitutionality of a Kentucky statute, executive order, administrative regulation or order of any cabinet be filed outside of Franklin County.

Colon cancer. Senate Bill 16 will change the name of Kentucky’s Colon Cancer Screening Program to the Colon Cancer Screening and Prevention Program. A second provision will raise money for the screening program from the sale of special cancer prevention license plates. It will also require the Department for Medicaid Services to release statistics on cancer services related to colorectal cancer.

Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity. Senate Bill 10 will create the Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity. The group will conduct studies and research on issues where disparities may exist in areas including education, child welfare, health care, the economy and the criminal justice system.

Diabetes. House Bill 95 will help those with diabetes by capping cost-sharing requirements for prescription insulin at $30 per 30-day supply in state-regulated health plans.

Driver safety. House Bill 439 will require a vision test renew a driver’s license, starting in 2024.

Education. House Bill 563 will give families more options when making decisions about schools. The bill will allow the use of education opportunity accounts, a type of scholarship, for educational expenses and, for students in some of the state’s largest counties, for private school tuition. Individuals or businesses who donate to organizations that issue education opportunity accounts will be eligible for a tax credit. The measure will also require a board of education to adopt a nonresident pupil policy to govern terms under which the district allows enrollment of nonresident pupils.

Elections. House Bill 574 will make some of the election procedures implemented last year to accommodate voting during the pandemic permanent. The measure will offer Kentuckians three days – including a Saturday – leading up to an election day for early, in-person voting. It will allow county clerks to continue to offer ballot drop boxes for those who do not wish to send their ballots back by mail. It will also allow counties to offer voting centers where any registered voter in the county could vote.

Ethics. Senate Bill 6 will create standards for the ethical conduct of transition team members of all newly elected statewide officeholders. The standards include identifying any team member who is or has been a lobbyist. It will require disclosure of current employment, board member appointments and any non-state sources of money received for their services. It will also prohibit the receipt of nonpublic information that could benefit a transition team member financially.

Firefighters. House Bill 44 will allocate funding to help full-time and volunteer firefighters experiencing post-traumatic stress injuries or disorders receive proper care from licensed mental health professionals.

First responders. Senate Bill 169 will give first responders injured in the line of duty access to more disability benefits. Line of duty or duty-related disability benefits payable to a member of any of the systems administered by the Kentucky Retirement Systems will increase from 25% to 75% of the member's monthly average pay.

Fish and Wildlife Commission. House Bill 394 will ensure that the state’s Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission will have sole authority to appoint the commissioner of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Gaming. Senate Bill 120 will define pari-mutuel wagering in state law in a manner intended to ensure the legality of certain historical horse racing games that are often compared to slot machines.

General Assembly. House Bill 4 will let voters decide next year on a proposed amendment to the Kentucky Constitution that would allow the General Assembly to convene an additional 12 legislative days each year upon a joint proclamation from the Senate President and House Speaker.

Groceries. House Bill 190 will exempt legally permitted food service establishments from any state or local laws and administrative regulations that prohibit the sale of grocery items such as bread, milk, and other staples.

Illegal dumping. Senate Bill 86 will designate 100 percent of a new open dumping fine to be paid to the county where the violation occurred.

Immunizations. Senate Bill 8 would create exemptions from any mandatory immunizations for those who object based on religious beliefs. It also prohibits orders during an epidemic from requiring the immunization of people who object based on conscientiously held beliefs or the written opinion of the person's physician that immunization would be injurious to the person's health.

Inmate care. Senate Bill 84 will ban jails, penitentiaries, local and state correctional facilities, residential centers and reentry centers from placing inmates who are pregnant or within the immediate postpartum period in restrictive housing, administrative segregation, or solitary confinement. It will grant an inmate who gives birth 72 hours with a newborn before returning to the correctional facility and will offer six weeks of postpartum care. It also mandates that incarcerated pregnant women have access to social workers and any community-based programs to facilitate the placement and possible reunification of their child.

In-person instruction. House Bill 208 called on public schools to reopen to in-person instruction in some capacity by March 29. The legislation set the expectation that public schools would be open to in-person instruction at least four days a week for the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year. Schools have the option to operate under a hybrid model where students spend part of the week attending in-person classes and the rest from home. The bill requires schools to allow a student to attend in-person classes at least twice a week under the hybrid model. It also limits the remaining amount of nontraditional instruction days school districts are allowed to use.

Kentucky-grown products. Senate Bill 102 will include Asian Carp, paddlefish, or sturgeon in the definition of "Kentucky-grown agricultural product."

Kindergarten. House Bill 382 will make $140 million available for full-day kindergarten in Kentucky schools. The legislation also appropriates money allocated to the state from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to projects including: $575 million to pay back the interest and principal on the federal unemployment insurance trust fund loan Kentucky took out during the pandemic; $842,400 for Kentucky’s nature preserves; $50,000 for the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission; and $3.3 million to reopen the Northern Kentucky Regional Medical Examiner’s Office. The bill also allocated an additional $50 million for broadband expansion through ARPA funds.

Late fees. House Bill 272 will allow water districts to impose a 10 percent late fee and cut off service for nonpayment of bills. Customers who receive financial assistance for their bills will be exempt.

Livestock. House Bill 229 will make someone guilty of criminal mischief for intentionally or wantonly causing damage to livestock.

Living organ donors. House Bill 75 will prohibit certain insurance coverage determinations based upon the status of an individual as a living organ donor. It will also encourage the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to develop educational materials relating to living organ donation.

Medicaid. Senate Bill 55 will prohibit copays for Medicaid beneficiaries.

Microbreweries. Senate Bill 15 will allow microbreweries to sell and deliver up to 2,500 barrels to any retailer under certain restrictions. It will also require arbitration for some disputes with distributors.

Newborn safety. House Bill 155 will allow the use of a "newborn safety device" when a newborn is being anonymously surrendered by a parent at a participating staffed police station, fire station, or hospital. The device allows a parent surrendering an infant to do so safely using a receptacle that triggers an alarm once a newborn is placed inside so that medical care providers can immediately respond and provide care to the child.

No-knock warrants. Senate Bill 4 will limit and set guidelines for the use of no-knock warrants, which allow officers to enter a premises without notice. Under the legislation, such warrants will be allowed in limited instances if someone was in immediate danger or in other cases, such as those involving violent crimes or terrorism. The measure also specifies it would be perjury if an officer made a false statement in an application for a no-knock warrant.

Operational guidelines. House Bill 1 created a framework for businesses, local governments, schools and nonprofits to operate during COVID-19 restrictions. It suspends interest on unpaid unemployment insurance contributions until next year. It also provides guidelines for noncustodial parental visitation during the state of emergency and will allow each resident at long-term care facilities designate an “essential personal care visitor” that will be exempt from visitor restrictions. (This is one of several new laws being challenged in court by the governor.)

Organ and tissue donation. Senate Bill 12 prohibits a person from selling or purchasing human organs or tissues and prohibits for-profit entities from procuring any eye, cornea, eye tissue, or corneal tissue. The measure is intended to preserve the nonprofit nature of human eye tissue donations.

Oversight and investigations. House Bill 6 will change the name of the Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee to the Oversight and Investigations Committee. The goal is to make it the main investigative committee in the General Assembly. It will also, for the first time, define the committee’s subpoena powers.

Police standards. Senate Bill 80 will strengthen the police decertification process by expanding the number of acts considered professional wrongdoing. Such acts include unjustified use of excessive or deadly force and engaging in a sexual relationship with a victim. The bill also will require an officer to intervene when another officer is engaging in the use of unlawful and unjustified excessive or deadly force. It will also set up a system for an officer’s automatic decertification under certain circumstances and will prevent an officer from avoiding decertification by resigning before an internal investigation is complete.

Public records. House Bill 312 will limit the ability of people who do not live, work or conduct business in Kentucky to obtain records through the state’s open records law. These restrictions do not apply to out-of-state journalists. The legislation specifies that open records requests can be made via email. It also calls for a standardized form to be developed for open records requests, though it’s not required to be used. It will allow the legislative branch to make final and unappealable decisions regarding open records requests it receives. The bill will allow government agencies up to five days to respond to open records requests.

Recovery Ready Communities. House Bill 7 will establish the Advisory Council for Recovery Ready Communities. The council will be responsible for establishing a “Kentucky Recovery Ready Community Certification Program” to provide a measure of a city's or county's substance use disorder recovery programs and to assure citizens and businesses that a city or county is committed to ensuring the availability of high-quality recovery programs in its community.

Sexual abuse. Senate Bill 52 will amend third-degree rape, third-degree sodomy and second-degree sexual abuse statutes so law enforcement officers could be charged with those crimes if they engage in sexual acts with a person under investigation, in custody or under arrest.

Sexual assault. House Bill 472 will extend the statute of limitations for misdemeanor sexual assault offenses against minors from five years to 10. It also extends that window to 10 years on civil claims for the same course of conduct.

State budget. House Bill 192 contains the state spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The plan will mostly continue spending in the manner of the current fiscal year’s budget, with some modifications. It includes some structural changes to the budget, such as putting more money in the rainy day fund and ensuring that funds meant for the state Road Fund aren’t diverted to other matters.

Supplementary education. Senate Bill 128 will allow students to retake or supplement courses that were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic during the current school year.

Teacher retirement. House Bill 258 will create a new hybrid tier for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System that contains elements of both defined benefit and defined contribution plans. This change will affect new hires starting in 2022, not current teachers. The bill changes when those teachers could retire. Instead of retiring in 27 years, new hires under this tier will have to work 30 years and be at least 57 to be eligible for retirement.

Telehealth. House Bill 140 will permit telehealth services that were allowed to expand due to COVID-19 pandemic to remain in place even after the pandemic ends.

Theft. House Bill 126 will increase the threshold of felony theft from $500 to $1,000. It will also allow law enforcement to charge members of organized shoplifting rings with a felony if a member steals a total of $1,000 worth of merchandise over 90 days.

Tobacco settlement funds. Senate Bill 3 will move the organization that decides how to spend much of Kentucky’s share of the Tobacco Master Agreement settlement money from the governor’s office to the Department of Agriculture.

To-go alcohol.  Senate Bill 67 will allow certain restaurants to sell alcohol, including cocktails, with to-go and delivery orders when purchased with a meal. The Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is directed to promulgate regulations for the implementation of the bill.

Unemployment insurance overpayment. Senate Bill 7 will allow the state to waive unemployment insurance overpayment debts that occurred between Jan. 27 and Dec. 31 of last year if the overpayment is not the fault of the recipient and if requiring repayment would be “contrary to equity and good conscience,” according to the legislation.

U.S. Senators. Senate Bill 228 will change the way vacancies are filled for a U.S. senator from Kentucky. The bill will require the governor to choose a replacement from a list of three nominees selected by the state party of the departing senator.

Victim privacy. House Bill 273 will exclude from the open records act photographs or videos that depict a person's death, killing, rape, sexual assault or abuse. The act is named in honor of Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, who were killed in the 2018 Marshall County High School shooting at the age of 15.

Worker safety regulations. House Bill 475 will prohibit the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board or the secretary from adopting or enforcing any occupational safety and health administrative regulation that is more stringent than the corresponding federal provision.

 

 

END

 

March 30, 2021

 

Lawmakers approve bill to limit no-knock warrants

 

 

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, presents Senate Bill 4, a bill to limit the use of no-knock warrants, on the House floor.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— Sometimes tragedy can inspire change for the better.
 
That was the sentiment shared by Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, on the KY House floor today as he remembered Breonna Taylor, a Louisville EMT who was shot and killed in her apartment during the execution of a search warrant last year.
 
Senate Bill 4 seeks to create procedures and requirements for the issuance of both search warrants and arrest warrants that authorize law enforcement entry to a property without notice, commonly known as a no-knock search warrant.
 
Nemes presented SB 4 alongside Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, on behalf of the bill’s primary sponsor, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester. The bill received unanimous approval from the KY Senate last month and cleared the House by a 92-5 vote today.
 
Most of the time, law enforcement will notify the occupants of a property before executing a search warrant, but sometimes that does not happen, Nemes said. And while the goal of executing a no-knock warrant is to keep everyone involved safe, that is not always the outcome, he added.
 
Under SB 4, no-knock warrants would only be allowed to be executed under certain circumstances. One instance would be where someone is believed to be in immediate danger, such as in kidnapping cases. A no-knock warrant would also be allowed to be executed during investigations involving certain violent crimes, terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.
 
SB 4 also sets guidelines on how officers can obtain no-knock warrants. An officer seeking a no-knock warrant would have to get approval from supervisors and certify the warrant application hadn’t been “shopped,” or the practice of trying to find a receptive judge. The bill would also make clear that an officer’s false statement in a warrant application constitutes felony perjury. And the approving the judge’s signature would have to be legible.
Blanton said any evidence obtained during a no-knock search warrant that was not properly executed under SB 4, would be inadmissible.
 
“I would also note that this does not affect… a potential civil liability case against the officer and it doesn’t affect the ability of the agency to terminate the officer,” Nemes added.
 
The original version of the bill requires the officers who execute the warrant to be members of a special response team. Those officers would also be required to use body-worn cameras throughout the execution of the warrant.
 
House members amended the bill today to take rural counties into consideration.
 
Blanton said the amended version of SB 4 allows in counties with less than 90,000 people an exception where the judge can issue a no-knock warrant without the use of a special response team if there is not one available and the judge deems the need to go ahead and execute the warrant.
 
The amendment also allows these rural counties to use audio recording devices in lieu of body-worn cameras if body-worn cameras are not available.
 
“The point in that is… not every agency has the funding availability for body cams,” Blanton said. “… What we don’t want to do is have an emergency situation in a rural area where a special response team may not be able to get to in time to execute one of these.”
 
Another addition to the bill by the House is the requirement of a certified EMT on standby at a safe location close enough to the property where the warrant is being executed in the event of a medical emergency.
 
Breonna Taylor might still be alive today had EMTs had been on the premises after she was shot,” said Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, who worked on the amendment to the bill.
 
While some lawmakers said SB 4 is not perfect and does not include everything everyone wanted to see in the bill, many see the legislation as an important step forward.
 
“I don’t think anybody thinks that this bill is perfect, but I think it is a really good start,” said Minority Whip Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg.
 
Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, who filed a bill to end the use of no-knock warrants, said in a statement read on the House floor that she was reluctant to vote in favor of SB 4.
 
“’I voted yes because daughters like mine deserve a chance to live without wondering if they will be next,’” Scott said in her statement, which was read in the House by Minority Floor Leader Joni L. Jenkins, D-Shively.
 
Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, decided to vote no on SB 4 after expressing he wishes to see the practice of no-knock warrants banned entirely in Kentucky.  
 
“I would like to have voted for this, but I cannot,” he said. “I cannot go home and talk to my brothers and my sister and say that we’ve done something that is going to save lives.”
 
Rep. Daniel Elliott, R-Danville, said he supports the bill and thinks it is an important piece of legislation despite some concerns he has about the evidentiary standard set by the bill in order for a judge to consider approving a no-knock warrant.
 
“It is a step forward that balances personal liberty with the government of keeping people safe,” Elliott said.
 
The Senate unanimously concurred on the House’s changes, and SB 4 will now go to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.

END

 

March 30, 2021

 

Full-day kindergarten receives passing grade

 

 

Senate Appropriations & Revenue Chair Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, speaks on House Bill 382, a measure amended in the Senate to include full-day kindergarten funding, during today’s proceedings of the Kentucky Senate.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky General Assembly earmarked money for full-day kindergarten during the final hours of its regular session today.

House Bill 382 was amended to include $140 million for full-day kindergarten by the Senate Appropriations & Revenue Committee. The Senate then passed the bill 36-1. That was followed by the House voting 90-3 on the measure.

Senate Minority Caucus Chair Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said he has long been an advocate for early childhood education when he stood in support of HB 382.

“Finally, we fund full-day kindergarten,” he said.

State government currently provides funding for only half-day kindergarten although most districts use local taxpayer money to offer a full-day option. Supporters of expanding state support of kindergarten had previously testified that the move would free up those local tax dollars for other much-needed school programs.

The amendment to HB 382 also appropriated money allocated to the state from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to projects unrelated to schools. Those included: 

         $575 million to pay back the interest and principal on the federal unemployment insurance trust fund loan Kentucky took out during the pandemic;

         $842,400 for Kentucky’s nature preserves;

         $50,000 for the Kentucky African American Heritage Commission;

         and $3.3 million to reopen the Northern Kentucky Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.

 

In addition, the bill allocated $50 million more for broadband expansion through ARPA funds. The General Assembly overrode a veto on House Bill 320 Monday to allocate $250 million for the expansion of broadband to residential areas.

Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, said the broadband funds in HB 382 serve a different purpose.

“This money is designated specifically for economic development where it may be needed, so this is ‘in addition to,’” he said.

HB 382 will now head to the governor’s desk.

END

 

March 29, 2021

 

General Assembly overrides budget vetoes

 

FRANKFORT— The Kentucky General Assembly spent its second to final day of the 2021 legislative session overriding gubernatorial vetoes related to the state budget.
 
The roughly $12 billion executive branch budget outlined in House Bill 192 is described as a near continuation budget from the previous fiscal year with necessary modifications.
 
Today, lawmakers voted to override 18 out of the 20 vetoes the governor issued to portions of House Bill 192. The vote to override the vetoes was 71-24 in the House of Representatives and 31-7 in the Senate.
 
The portions of the budget that lawmakers allowed vetoes to stand included three line items. In his veto message, Gov. Andy Beshear wrote those line items would conflict with other bills signed into law this year, Senate Bill 101 and House Bill 194.
 
In explaining her vote, Rep. Felicia Rabourn, R-Turners Station, spoke out strongly against the governor’s vetoes and thanked her colleagues in voting to override them.
 
“It’s disgraceful,” Rabourn said. “And we are not intimidated.”
 
Those in favor of sustaining all of the governor’s vetoes expressed concerns about the provision in the bill that states the billions in COVID-19 federal relief money Kentucky is expecting to receive from the American Rescue Plan Act cannot be expended without the “express consent” of the General Assembly.
 
Rep. Buddy Wheatley, D-Covington, spoke against this part of the bill. In quoting Beshear’s veto message on the House Floor, he said: “’This provision also slows and hinders the provision of assistance to many Kentuckians that are unemployed and underemployed, to affect Kentucky businesses and nonprofit organizations.’”
 
Overall, the executive branch budget will raise the balance of the state’s reserve “rainy day” fund to about $958 million. It appropriates $4.1 million in federal funds for pandemic related-relief programs, $500,000 to address security concerns for the Attorney General and full funding of the actuarial required contributions for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System and Kentucky Employees Retirement System.
 
The General Assembly also voted to override three out of the four vetoes on the judiciary branch budget as detailed in House Bill 195. The motion was approved in the House by a 69-23 vote and in the Senate by a 27-11 vote.

 

 

END

 

 

March 17, 2021

 

Variety of bills receive final passage before veto recess begins

 

FRANKFORT— Lawmakers raced to approve bills in the figurative and literal 11th hour Tuesday evening.
 
Today marked the beginning of the veto recess, which means yesterday was the last day lawmakers could pass bills and still have the opportunity to override any gubernatorial vetoes before the final day of the legislative session.
 
The governor has 10 days to sign a bill, let it become law without his signature or veto it.
 
Here are some of the bills that received final passage before both chambers adjourned shortly before midnight last night: 
 
House Bill 44: After receiving unanimous approval on the Senate floor yesterday, House Bill 44 received final passage. It would allocate funding for full-time and volunteer firefighters experiencing PTSD or a post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) to receive proper care from a licensed mental health professional. The House unanimously approved the bill last month.
 
House Bill 95: After disagreeing on changes the Senate made to the bill, the House respectfully asked the Senate last week to recede on those changes to HB 95, which aims to cap insulin copays for Kentuckians with state-regulated insurance plans. The Senate, which wanted to limit copays on insulin to $35 for a 30 day supply, agreed to recede from its changes last night. Now HB 95 will limit a 30-day supply of insulin to $30 for Kentuckians with state-regulated health plans.
 
House Bill 126: The threshold of felony theft would rise to $1,000 under this bill. Supporters of the bill say the increase is needed due to inflation. Critics of the bill expressed worry about small businesses that lose profit due to shoplifting. Under current law, stealing anything worth $500 or more is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
 
HB 126 would also allow police to charge members of organized shoplifting rings with a felony if a member stole a total of $1,000 worth of merchandise over 90 days. This bill is estimated to save the state $4 million a year in prison costs.
 
House Bill 155: This bill would give new parents a safe place to surrender a newborn infant with the installation of “newborn safety devices” at participating police stations, fire stations and hospitals. This bill passed the Senate and the House unanimously.
 
House Bill 212: This bill aims to study the child and maternal fatality rate in the Commonwealth.
 
House Bill 258: This bill would create a new hybrid tier for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System. HB 258 would save the state $3.57 billion over the next 30 years. HB 258 would create a safety net, or stabilization fund, in the event the funds drop too low, therefore preventing the pension from being underfunded.
 
House Bill 273: Otherwise known as the Bailey Hope-Preston Cope Victims Privacy Act, this bill would exclude from the Open Records Act photographs or videos that depict a person's death, killing, rape, or sexual assault or abuse except to any victim involved in the incident, any state agency or political subdivision investigating official misconduct, a legal representative of any involved party, and others listed in the bill.
 
House Bill 320: This bill aims to allocate $250 million to expand broadband in the Commonwealth.
 
House Bill 472: Criminal statute of limitations would go from 5 to 10 years for misdemeanor sex offenses against minors under this bill. This bill would also hold adults who have knowledge of the abuse but do nothing to stop it accountable.
 
Senate Bill 8: Any child, emancipated minor, or adult would not be subject to mandatory vaccination if he or she or the parent or guardian submits a written sworn statement objecting to the immunization based on conscientiously held beliefs, religious beliefs or medical reasons with this bill. Supporters of the bill say it gives Kentuckians the right to make the best decision about their health.
 
Critics say the bill is not needed because the state has no plans to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory and as long as the vaccines are authorized for emergency use that makes them ineligible to be deemed mandatory. The bill received final passage yesterday after the Senate concurred on a slight change made to the bill by the House.
 
Senate Bill 169: First responders injured in the line of duty will soon have access to more disability benefits. With this bill, line of duty or duty-related disability benefits payable to a member of any of the systems administered by the Kentucky Retirement Systems will increase from 25% to 75% of the member's monthly average pay.
 
The Kentucky General Assembly will reconvene on March 29, with both chambers gaveling in at noon. The final day of the legislative session is March 30.

 

END

 

March 17, 2021

 

Lawmakers approve bill allowing students to retake a year of school

 

FRANKFORT— A second chance.
 
That’s what lawmakers say is the goal of Senate Bill 128. With this measure, public and nonpublic school students from kindergarten through 12th grade might have the opportunity to re-do the last school year.
 
“This the bill that would allow school systems—it is not a mandate— to give students and their families permission to retain their students for a year because of issues involved in the pandemic,” explained Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, on the House floor tonight on behalf of the bill’s sponsor Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville.
 
Riley said the bill would allow any student, regardless of academic status, to re-do the school year. The bill would also allow high school students to have a fifth-year of eligibility to play sports as long as they do not turn 19 before Aug. 1 of their senior year.
 
Lawmakers, including Riley, expressed how helpful this will be for Kentucky’s youngest students.
 
“I know of many kindergarteners who did their first year of school in NTI… and don’t even know their letters yet,” Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, said, adding this bill will be extremely helpful for students who have fallen behind and are struggling.
 
Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson, D-Lexington, also expressed support for the bill, but said she has concerns about what this might to do class size and space.
 
Riley responded there is some concern about that, but it is estimated that only 3% to 5% of students may take advantage of this opportunity at a cost of $6 million to $10 million more for the state.
 
House Majority Leader Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, said the bill contains a provision in the event there is a SEEK shortfall.
 
Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, expressed concerns about the state’s colleges and universities that may take a hit due to SB 128.
 
“We’re going to have universities and colleges that are going to lose another semester of tuition… and my superintendents are concerned about this bill, so I’m probably going to be a no,” DuPlessis said.
 
After a short debate, the House approved SB 128 by a 92-5 vote. The measure was approved unanimously by the Senate earlier this month.
 
It will now head to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.
 
SB 128 also includes an emergency clause, meaning it would become effective immediately upon becoming law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislature.

END

March 16, 2021

 

Lawmakers pass bill raising felony theft threshold

 

 

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, explains House Bill 126, a measure that would increase the threshold at which stealing something of value becomes a felony, during today’s proceedings of the Kentucky Senate.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

 

FRANKFORT – A criminal justice reform bill that would raise the bar for what counts as felony theft in Kentucky is headed to the governor after passing the Senate today by a 25-11 vote.

The measure, known as House Bill 126, would raise the threshold of felony theft to $1,000. Under current law, stealing anything worth $500 or more is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, said HB 126 needed to pass so the law would reflect increased prices caused by inflation. Along with Illinois, Kentucky has the lowest felony theft threshold in the region, according to prior testimony on HB 126.

“I was working the streets back when it was $100,” said Carroll, a retired police officer. “Then it went to $300, $500 and now to $1,000. I have not always been in support of raising that number ... but the reality of it is that it is time.”

Carroll praised language in the bill that addressed shoplifting rings. HB 126 would allow police to charge members of organized shoplifting rings with a felony if a member stole a total of $1,000 worth of merchandise over 90 days.

He said the bill would also not let repeat offenders off the hook. Those who had been convicted of theft less than $1,000 more than three times over five years could face felony charges under HB 126.

Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, said he supported HB 126 because it would allow law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes.

“In my hometown, crime has risen dramatically,” Yates said. “We don’t have enough police officers out on the streets patrolling, working. I think we need to make sure the crimes that are felonies really do rise to that level.”

The former felony prosecutor said, however, that HB 126 in no way would decriminalize thefts of $500 or less.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, reiterated that shoplifting items valued at $500 or less would still be a crime.

“The retail federation is not opposed to this bill,” said Westerfield, also a former prosecutor. “I’m not aware that the prosecutorial association is opposed to this bill. We are certainly not taking away the victim’s rights to be made whole.”

Sen. Tom Buford, D-Nicholasville, said he couldn’t support HB 126 because it would hurt small mom-and-pop shops. He said a $500 shoplifting theft could wipe out a small retailer’s profit for an entire month.

“If you are naive enough to think a misdemeanor means anything to a shoplifter or somebody stealing from your property then you need to vote for this bill,” Buford said sarcastically. “Let them have it. Put it in the front yard and put ‘free’ on it. Don’t worry about taking them to court.”

Sen. Michael J. Nemes, R-Shepherdsville, said he supported HB 126 because it would ease prison overcrowding and save the state money on corrections. A correctional impact statement attached to the bill estimated its passage would save the state $4 million per year in prison costs alone.

END

 

March 16, 2021

 

Billboard regulation bill heads to governor

 

 

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, explains House Bill 328, legislation concerning roadside billboard regulations, during today’s proceedings of the Kentucky Senate.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT – Unregulated billboards springing up along Kentucky roadways may no longer be a sign of the times.

The General Assembly passed legislation today that would re-establish the state’s regulatory authority for roadside billboards after a federal court ruling called the state’s prior regulations into question.

“Kentucky was the Wild West when it came to billboards,” Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, said of the measure, known as House Bill 328. “We had a lot of activity on our interstates. Billboards sprang up in a lot of different places.”

He said HB 328 simply puts Kentucky’s statute back in place, minus the unconstitutional language. Higdon explained that the bill would not grandfather anyone in or make them remove their billboards.

“It draws a line in the sand,” Higdon said. “It says, from this day forward, we are regulated and you can’t come to Kentucky and put up a sign that is not permitted.”

Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, successfully introduced a floor amendment that required the Transportation Cabinet to have the billboard regulations back in place by Aug. 1.

One concern had been Kentucky was at risk of losing as much as $70 million in federal transportation funding for not meeting a federal requirement concerning roadside billboards. The state had regulated outdoor advertising along certain routes, such as the state’s parkways, since the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. That bill was a priority of President Lyndon B. Johnson with his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, as the act’s No. 1 proponent.

HB 328 passed the Senate 30-6 and the House of Representatives 91-3. It now goes to the governor who may sign it, permit it to become law without his signature, or veto it.

END

 

 

March 15, 2021

 

Lawmakers approve second pandemic-era budget

 

 

House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, presents House Bill 192 on the House floor.   A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky General Assembly approved the second half of the state’s 24-month spending plan today after uncertainties from COVID-19 cut budget negotiation short nearly a year ago.
 
House Appropriations & Revenue Chair Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, described the $12 billion budget as a near continuation budget from the previous fiscal year with necessary modifications.
 
“Our economy has certain structural signs of strength, but we’ve also had a lot of federal money infused into our economy, which makes analysis of the economy data, difficult at best,” he said. “We remain hopeful that things will get better, but we’re still not certain.”
 
With the economy in mind, Petrie said HB 192 would open up more funds for roads and the state’s reserve trust fund. With $958 million in the reserve trust fund, that would give the state 29 days in emergency funds instead of 10 to 14, Petrie added.
 
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said HB 192 would not budget the billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief money from the American Rescue Plan. The bill does contain language stating the stimulus money cannot be expended without the “express consent” of the General Assembly.
 
Stivers said the federal government hasn’t released “guidance” on exactly how it can be spent. The stimulus package was signed into law on March 11, well into the eleventh hour of state budget negotiations. While Kentucky is expected to receive $2.4 billion from the latest stimulus package, Stivers explained the actual amount could be much more. He said other federal money would go directly to cities, counties and school districts.
 
“In the aggregate, close to $6 billion will be spent in this state in the next 14 months,” Stivers said. He added that HB 192 was a flat-line budget with lots of reserve cash because he would prefer to spend those federal dollars, when the guidance is released, rather than state tax money.
 
Stivers said the one-time infusion of cash could be used in revolutionary ways such as creating a research pool for universities to access. He said similar research funds were successful in Pittsburgh, Boston and Raleigh, NC.
 
“We need to pass this,” Stivers said of HB 192. “Then, we really need to sit down and start the real work of what we need to do and shoot for the moon. If we miss, we will still be in the stars.”
 
Critics of the state budget said they would have liked to see the budget increase access to clean water and the internet in addition to school funding and COVID-19 relief for small businesses.
 
Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson, D-Lexington, said she felt it was time for the General Assembly to take “bold action” and create a “forward-thinking” budget, but instead she found the budget was “simply disappointing.”
 
“Kentucky families need our help right now more than ever,” she said. “Small businesses need our help right now more than ever. Nonprofits need our help more than ever.”
                                             
Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, said he strongly supported HB 192 because it would return coal severance money, or the tax revenue from mining coal, back to coal-producing counties at record percentages.
 
Petrie said the budget also would include relief for long term care facilities, address unemployment and recruiting of state troopers.
 
Other appropriations in the 2021-22 fiscal year executive branch budget would include:
         $1.7 million for Bluegrass Station Airport and Air Park in Lexington;
         $4.1 million in federal funds for pandemic related-relief programs;
         $500,000 to address security concerns for the Attorney General;
         and full funding of the actuarial required contributions for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System and Kentucky Employees Retirement System.
 
Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, said he voted for HB 192 but wished lawmakers would adopt rules to force them to take up budgets earlier in sessions. The General Assembly has met 27 of the 30 days constitutionally allowed for regular sessions in odd-numbered years. Those sessions also cannot extend beyond March 30.
 
“There are a lot of things in this budget I can get behind and really support,” Westerfield said. “There are a lot of things I’m not particularly crazy about. Some of that is because we do not have enough resources and some of it comes down to whether I would prioritize the same way others would.”
 
HB 192 passed the Senate 30-0-6 before being passed in the House of Representatives by a 74-23 vote.
 
The General Assembly also passed the legislative branch budget, contained in House Bill 194, and the judicial branch budget, contained in House Bill 195.
 
All these bills now go to the governor who has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to sign the measure or veto any items in the budget or the entire spending plan. Any vetoes will be taken up in the final two days of the session. A majority vote of elected members in the House and Senate is required to override a veto.

 

 

END

 

March 12, 2021

 

Bill criminalizing sex crimes by police officers headed to governor's desk

 

 

Rep. Rachel Roberts, D-Newport, speaks on Senate Bill 52, a measure relating to sexual offenses by peace officers, during today's House proceedings.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— Almost everyone Rep. Rachel Roberts, D-Newport, spoke to about Senate Bill 52 asked: “How is this not already law in Kentucky?”
 
SB 52 will make it illegal for peace officers to engage in a sexual act with someone under investigation, under arrest or in-custody by amending second-degree sexual abuse, third-degree rape and third-degree sodomy statues.
 
The Kentucky House of Representatives voted to approve the measure by a 93-1 vote today. The KY Senate vote unanimously in favor of the bill last month. SB 52 will now head to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.
 
“Today, with your yes vote, we can assure this is our law and that there are protections for those in custody against sexual assault at the hands of those who are sworn to protect us,” Roberts said on the House floor.  
 
Roberts and Rep. Samara Heavrin, R-Leitchfield, presented the bill on the House floor on behalf of the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville.
 
Another Senate bill was considered on the House floor today regarding peace officer misconduct.
 
Senate Bill 80 would strengthen the police decertification process by expanding the number of acts considered professional wrongdoing. Such acts would include unjustified use of excessive or deadly force and engaging in a sexual relationship with a victim.
 
“We’re all staunch supporters of our law enforcement, but are also very mindful that sometimes there’s bad actors in every profession and we want to see ourselves rid of that,” said Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, who presented the bill on the House floor on behalf of primary sponsor Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton.
 
The bill also would require an officer to intervene when another officer is engaging in the use of unlawful and unjustified excessive or deadly force.
 
It would also set up a system for an officer’s automatic decertification under certain circumstances and would prevent an officer from avoiding decertification by resigning before an internal investigation is complete.
 
After clearing the Senate by a unanimous vote last month, SB 80 was also unanimously approved by the House today.
 
Due to a floor amendment on the bill, it will return to the Senate for concurrence. If the Senate approves the changes, it will be sent to the governor’s desk for his approval or veto.

END

 

March 12, 2021

 

Regular vision screening for drivers in sight

 

 

Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, speaks on House Bill 439, a measure requiring vision screenings for drivers renewing licenses, during today's Senate proceedings.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

 

FRANKFORT – Kentucky motorists would have to have a vision screening when renewing their licenses under a bill that passed the Senate 31-4 today.

House Bill 439 “is a commonsense piece of legislation that will save lives by ensuring drivers on Kentucky roadways have the necessary visual acuity to operate a vehicle," said Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville. “Kentucky only requires a screening when you get your license the first time even though studies show that visual acuity declines with age.”

She added that 42 other states require vision screenings during driver’s license renewals.

If HB 439 becomes law, it wouldn’t go into effect until July 2024. Adams said this would allow the vision tests to be incorporated with an ongoing overhaul of how the state issues driver’s licenses to comply with the federal REAL ID Act. That overhaul includes the option of driver’s licenses that expire after eight years instead of the traditional four.

Adams said drivers would have the choice of getting the screening at the renewal office or by a medical provider.

“It is time for us to join the 42 other states and protect Kentuckians and our roadways,” Adams said. “HB 439 does that and makes it convenient for the driver at renewal.”

Adams said that HB 439 was supported by ophthalmologists, optometrists, nurse practitioners, transportation officials, state police and the American Automobile Association. She added that AARP didn’t oppose the bill because it would not solely target older drivers.

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, said as a daughter of an optometrist, she was voting for HB 439 but shared concerns expressed by other lawmakers. Those concerns were generally about fees the transportation cabinet could charge for the screenings.

“This comes across as another layer of bureaucracy,” Webb said. “It’s going to be a hardship. There are open-ended fees and administrative allowances.”

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, said he supported HB 439. He said it had taken seven to eight years to get all of the stakeholders to agree upon the same language for the bill.

“If you are on the road having trouble reading signs, please get those eyes examined prior to 2024,” said Alvarado, a doctor by trade.

Since HB 439 was amended in the Senate, it goes back to the House of Representatives for consideration of those changes.

END

 

 

March 11, 2021

 

School choice bill advances to Senate

 

FRANKFORT— Grade school students in Kentucky may soon have access to funds to allow them more choices in where they go to school.
 
The Kentucky House of Representatives approved House Bill 563 by a 51-45 vote tonight following a three-hour debate on the House floor.
 
The bill’s sponsor, House Majority Whip Rep. Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown, said HB 563 would allow students to use education opportunity accounts (EOAs) to attend a public school outside of his or her district. EOAs are a type of scholarship, and individuals or businesses who donate to organizations who issue EOAs would eligible for a tax credit under this bill.
 
McCoy said organizations that issue EOAs will be able to accept applications from families or individuals whose income level is at 175% of the reduced lunch level.
 
“These are truly the middle class and lower folks in our state,” McCoy added.
 
The bill lays out 12 things the money can be spent on, which includes public school tuition, fees, tutoring services, textbooks, uniforms and more.
 
McCoy said he heard there was a concern that HB 563 would be used for students looking to play sports at a school with a better team.
 
“… 563 is 100% intended to be for a good education,” McCoy said. “And so we’ve put in there that you cannot play sports for one year.”
 
Twenty House Floor Amendments were filed in relation to HB 563, but only a few were adopted.
 
House Floor Amendment 1, filed by McCoy, changed the bill to allow the state to fund full-day Kindergarten for every public school district in the Commonwealth.
 
Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, spoke in favor of the state funding full-day Kindergarten and called it a “wise investment.”
 
House Floor Amendment 20, filed by Rep. Jerry T. Miller, R-Eastwood, changes HB 563 to allow only students in Kentucky’s most populous counties —Jefferson, Fayette and Kenton Counties—to use EOAs to fund private school tuition.
 
Miller said there are 175,000 children living in poverty in those counties and this bill and his floor amendment is about choice.
 
“I cannot ignore the plight of the children in poverty in our three most populous counties whose parent would like to make the choice to move them to a school who better meets their needs,” Miller said.
 
House Floor Amendments 1 and 20 were adopted.
 
Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, who filed many floor amendments related to HB 563, wanted to change the bill to prohibit discrimination in schools accepting EOA payments, require background checks for education service providers and more. Her floor amendments failed and she ultimately voted against the legislation.
 
Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, spoke against HB 563, calling for lawmakers to pass legislation to invest in public school education instead.
 
“Public education is the key to open the door to economic opportunity, especially when it is properly funded,” Graham said. “…. I urge you to defeat this bill. It is not the right bill for us to pass.”
 
In defending HB 563, McCoy said: “We are putting $125 million into public education. How can you not be for that?”
 
HB 563 will now move to the full Senate for consideration.
 
However, according to House Speaker Rep. David W. Osborne, R-Prospect, the bill in its current form will require at least 60 members of the House to vote in its favor before final passage due to the appropriation related to full-day Kindergarten.

END

March 11, 2021

Anti-riot bill heads to KY House

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, discusses Senate Bill 211.

FRANKFORT -- Legislation that would primarily increase the punishment for crimes committed during a riot passed the Kentucky Senate today by a 22-11 vote.

Senate Bill 211 “comes in response to the riots that occurred across our country during this past summer including in our own flagship city of Louisville ...,” said Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, who introduced the measure. “These are riots that led to billions of dollars of damage, injury and loss of life. The goal of Senate Bill 211 is to help protect our communities, protect our first-responders and protect public and private property.”

Named the Community and First Responder Protection Act, Carroll said SB 211 would discourage out-of-state agitators from inciting riots in Kentucky.

Carroll said another section of SB 211 would provide consequences for local governments who are grossly negligent for failing to protect the personal safety and property of their residence. He said a third section would discourage local governments from attempts to defund law enforcement agencies.

Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, said many of the events took place in his district, but SB 211 wasn’t the answer to the systemic problems the activities highlighted. He said there are already laws on the books to deal with riotous behavior.

“There is so much wrong with this bill, I could stand here for an hour or two to talk about it,” Neal said, “or I can put it into one word. It is an overreach.”

Other legislators expressed concern over a section of the bill regarding whether someone could be arrested for directing offensive or derisive words toward police officers. Carroll said he would be working with House members to amend that section to alleviate some of those concerns.

Carroll added that he would support peaceful protesters until he drew his last breath. He then listed several bills that are moving through the legislative process that address some protesters’ concerns.

Those bills include:

  • Senate Bill 4 to curtail the use of no-knock warrants;

  • Senate Bill 10 to establish a commission on race;

  • Senate Bill 80 to make it easier to remove bad police officers;

  • Senate Bill 270 to produce more African American teachers;

  • and House bills 587 and 588 to revitalize Louisville’s West End.

“I will not support, or condone, or tolerate anyone’s right to riot and terrorize, assault, destroy, abuse,” Carroll said. “I’ll never defend anyone’s right to do that. You can twist this bill around all you want. The language is very simple and very clear as to what it addresses.”

He said state leaders couldn’t let a repeat of the Louisville riots occur.

SB 211 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

END

 

March 10, 2021

 

Senate eyes vision tests for drivers renewing licenses

 

 

Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, explains why she introduced House Bill 439, a measure that would require vision screenings for drivers renewing licenses, during today’s Senate Transportation Committee meeting.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT – A bill that would require vision screenings for Kentucky drivers renewing their licenses advanced out of the Senate Transportation Committee today.

“This is a very common-sense piece of legislation that will save lives by ensuring Kentuckians have the necessary visual acuity to operate motor vehicles,” Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, said of the legislation, known as House Bill 439. “Forty-two states have requirements for vision screenings during driver’s license renewals ... including Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia.”

Currently, Kentucky only requires vision screenings for new drivers.

“Without a doubt, in the states who have this there are less fatalities, car accidents and hospitalization rates are lower,” Moser said. She has worked on the legislation for several years.

Senate Majority Whip Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, commended Moser on HB 439.

“I’ve had aging parents who are no longer with me,” he said. “One of the hardest things to do is take away their driver’s licenses. As you see them growing older and their eyesight getting worse, we realize they probably shouldn’t be driving, but we don’t have the heart to take away their license.”

Committee Chair Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, asked who could perform the required vision screening. Moser said motorists could have the vision screening done in advance by medical professionals instead of the place of renewal.

Sen. Johnnie Turner, R, Harlan, voted for HB 439 but wondered aloud whether it was fiscally prudent to require young motorists to have their eyes tested at the same frequency as older folks.

“I would request that ... we try to keep some statistical information with age,” he said. “I would like to see some information down the road on whether we do or do not need young people to get their eyes tested.”

Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, asked how much it would cost the state to implement HB 439. Moser predicted it would be nominal to the state. She said that vision tests could be incorporated with an ongoing overhaul of how the state issues driver’s licenses to comply with the federal REAL ID Act.

Moser added that HB 439 contained an effective date of July 1, 2024, to give the Transportation Cabinet time to implement the measure within the overall REAL ID overhaul. That overhaul includes the option of driver’s licenses that expire after eight years instead of the traditional four.

Sen. Brandon J. Storm, R-London, expressed concerns about the costs for low-income motorists. Moser pointed out that Medicaid covers preventative health screenings, including vision tests.

Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, said as a son of an ophthalmologist, that he enthusiastically supported HB 439.

“Not only is this making our roads safer, I think it has some public health benefits,” he said. “It essentially compels people to get fairly regular eye exams. The earlier you catch eye diseases, the more likely they are treatable. You will be saving people’s vision.”

HB 439 now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.

END

 

March 5, 2021

 

Budget meetings to be held next week

FRANKFORT – Members of a free conference committee on the state budget will meet next week to work on a state spending plan for the next fiscal year.

The committee will meet at 1 p.m. on Monday, March 8 in the Capitol Annex. It will also meet at 9 a.m. on Tuesday in the Capitol Annex.

The meetings can be viewed online through a livestream provided by Kentucky Educational Television at: https://www.ket.org/legislature/?stream=aHR0cHM6Ly9jLnN0cmVhbWhvc3Rlci5jb20vbGluay9obHMvV1pzQm5KL2lkdU5JN1NVc3JnL0d6ZklVTHNjSWVmXzUvcGxheWxpc3QubTN1OA%3D%3D.

 

 

END

 

 

 

March 5, 2021

 

Bill aims to reel in insulin drug prices

 

 

Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, explains House Bill 95, a measure relating to insulin costs for diabetics, on the Senate floor.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate voted 35-0 today to cap insulin copays for some Kentuckians with state-regulated insurance plans to $35 per 30-day supply.

“It makes insulin much more affordable for Kentuckians,” Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, said of the measure, known as House Bill 95.

Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, said HB 95 was good legislation but expressed concern it only covered a certain group of people in certain types of plans. Those would include Kentuckians who purchased their plans on the health insurance marketplace, work for an employer who is not self funded or is on a state employee plan, according to prior testimony on the bill.

“I think this conversation needs to continue, but this is an important first step," Wheeler said. "I proudly support this legislation."

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, said diabetics in need of prescription insulin drugs were being gouged.

“This is one of the best things we could have done this year for those who have this need for insulin,” Buford said of HB 95. “It is very important when these copays have gotten up to $100, $200. It is ridiculous.”

Carpenter said that’s why HB 95 was amended in the Senate to contain an emergency clause. Bills with these clauses become effective immediately if they are passed into law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the General Assembly.

“We don’t want Kentuckians to have to wait,” Carpenter said of the relief HB 95 is designed to provide.

The bill now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration of the emergency clause and other changes made in the Senate.

END

 

March 5, 2021

 

House approves rental property protection bill

 

 

Rep. C. Ed Massey, R-Hebron, speaks on Senate Bill 11, a measure dealing with intentional damaging of rental property on the House floor.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— Tenants plotting revenge on a landlord who evicts them might think twice before doing so if Senate Bill 11 becomes law.
 
The Kentucky House of Representatives approved SB 11 today. If the Senate concurs on a slight change the House made to a definition in the bill, it will be sent to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.
 
SB 11 would specify in statute that intentionally causing significant damage to a rental property is criminal mischief.
 
“It’s not for things like nail holes or common wear and tear,” said Rep. C. Ed Massey, R-Hebron, on the House floor. “This is for circumstances where premises have been left with food in refrigerators that were unplugged, holes punched into walls, feces on the floor and all kinds of bizarre scenarios that cost these rental property owners thousands upon thousands of dollars to repair.”
 
Massey said SB 11 would make intentional damage totaling to more than $1,000 a class D felony.
 
Although criminal mischief law already addresses this issue to a degree, Massey said this would give property owners the opportunity to seek restitution for the damage.
 
In explaining her vote, Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, expressed concern about how this bill might impact domestic violence victims since holes punched in the walls and food left in unplugged refrigerators can often indicate a domestic violence situation.
 
“They can easily be the situation of someone who’s fleeing their abuser, who has to flee very quickly, and then an abuse survivor who is on the lease with an abusive partner can be held liable for the damages that the abusive partner caused,” Cantrell said.
 
The House approved SB 11 by a 75-17 vote. It will now go back to the Senate for concurrence.

 

END

 

March 4, 2021

 

General Assembly passes bill to reopen schools to in-person learning

 

 

Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, presents House Bill 208, which would require schools to reopen to in-person learning in some capacity by March 29. A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— The Kentucky General Assembly hopes school will soon be back in session for students and teachers across the Commonwealth with today’s passage of House Bill 208.   
 
The bill is designed to ensure every public school in Kentucky reopens to in-person instruction in some capacity by March 29.
 
It’s been nearly a year since schools were shut down to in-person learning due to the pandemic. Since then, many districts have reopened to in-person instruction but not all. Supporters of the bill say it is time for all of Kentucky’s public school students to have the opportunity to return to school.
 
“This allows them to return. It allows those students to have face-to-face contact with teachers for the first time since March of last year and that is a priority and of importance to me,” the bill’s primary sponsor Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, said on the House floor.
 
Under HB 208, public schools would have to be open for in-person instruction at least four days a week for the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year. Schools would have the option to operate under a hybrid model where students spend part of the week attending in-person classes and the rest from home. HB 208 would require schools to allow a student to attend in-person classes at least twice a week under the hybrid model.
 
This bill also limits the remaining amount of nontraditional instruction (NTI) days school districts are allowed to use. Under HB 208, school districts will only be allotted five NTI days to use for the remainder of the school year. If a school district needs to close to in-person learning for more than five days, that district will be required to add “make-up” days to its academic calendar.
 
Schools that wish to use NTI days during the 2021-22 academic year will need to submit their plan to the state education department by May 1.
 
“I think this is a great compromise,” Huff said. “It allows (school) boards to make these decisions….”
 
Bill co-sponsor Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, took time on the House floor to clarify and defend her district’s delay in reopening and ask her colleagues to vote in favor of HB 208.
 
“With that, I urge my colleagues in both chambers to refrain from making attacks against this district without first finding out the facts,” Bojanowski said. “… Members I encourage you to vote yes for House Bill 208.”
 
While Rep. Jerry T. Miller, R-Eastwood, said he would vote to approve HB 208, he would have liked to have seen the bill be a little different.
 
“I’ll just say my elementary-aged granddaughter is extremely upset she is not going to get back to school five days a week,” Miller added. “… At this point I’m just happy to have her back in session.”
 
The House approved HB 208 by a 81-15 vote today after concurring on changes made to the bill by the Senate earlier in the week. The Senate approved the bill by a 28-8 vote on Wednesday.
 
HB 208 will now head to the governor’s desk. He has 10 days to sign it, let it become law without his signature or veto it.
 
HB 208 also includes an emergency clause, meaning it would become effective immediately upon becoming law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislature.

END

 

 

March 4, 2021

 

Mental health and addiction coverage bill passes

 

 

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, explains House Bill 50, a measure designed to increase compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, during today's Senate proceedings.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT – The General Assembly passed legislation today to make sure health insurance plans offered in Kentucky comply with a federal law designed to ensure the equal treatment of mental health conditions and substance use disorders.

The measure, known as House Bill 50, would do this by strengthening Kentucky’s implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. That federal law generally requires insurers to cover care for mental health and addiction just like physical illnesses. That means health plans’ co-payments, deductibles and limits on visits to health care providers are not more restrictive or less generous for mental health benefits than for medical and surgical benefits.

“This is not about new coverage but about ensuring compliance with existing law,” Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, said before the Senate passed HB 50 by a 36-0 vote. He explained that HB 50 would simply require health insurers to file annual reports with the state on how they are complying with federal law.

“Mental health and substance use disorders are often treated differently than other health conditions by insurers, but there is no health care without mental health care,” Alvarado said. “When there is a disparity in treatment, it causes harm. Many people go without treatment for years with disparities worsening by the day. There is an average delay of 11 years between the onset of mental illness symptoms and the time most people access treatment.”

He said an average of six people die of drug overdoses and suicides every day in Kentucky.

HB 50 now goes to the governor.

END

 

 

March 3, 2021

 

Bill to protect pregnant inmates clears House committee

 

 

Majority Caucus Chair Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, testified on Senate Bill 84 before the House Judiciary Commitee today. The bill seeks to guarantee pregnant and postpartum inmates proper care.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— A KY Senate bill that seeks to guarantee pregnant and postpartum inmates receive proper care could soon become law.
 
Senate Bill 84 cleared the Senate unanimously last month and was approved by the House Judiciary Committee unanimously today.
 
SB 84 would ban jails, penitentiaries, local and state correctional facilities, residential centers and reentry centers from placing inmates who are pregnant or within the immediate postpartum period in restrictive housing, administrative segregation, or solitary confinement.
 
Immediate postpartum period is defined in the bill as at least the first six weeks following childbirth. The postpartum period could be extended by a physician.
 
Under the bill, pregnant inmates would, however, be allowed to be placed in a cell or hospital room by themselves.
 
Bill sponsor and Majority Caucus Chair Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, testified that the fastest growing population in prisons are incarcerated women and that many of them are pregnant.
 
“As you know, pregnant women are increasingly harmed by solitary confinement because of the shift in their medical needs,” Raque Adams said. “Pregnant women are more susceptible to the common harms of solitary confinement because of the health situations specific to pregnancy.”
 
Under SB 84, any detention facility would also be required to provide pregnant inmates information on community-based programs serving pregnant, birthing or lactating inmates, and facilities would be required to refer pregnant inmates to a social worker.
Those social workers would be able to aid the inmates in making decisions regarding the wellbeing and placement of the infant and provide the inmate access to a phone to contact family regarding the placement of the infant.
 
The bill allows the infant to remain with the inmate for up to 72 hours after birth as long as there is not a medical or safety reason otherwise. SB 84 would also require facilities to give the inmate access to nutritional and hygiene-related products, such as diapers.
 
House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. C. Ed Massey, R-Hebron, spoke in favor of the legislation and mentioned he recently read an article about a pregnant inmate who was awarded a civil judgement of $200,000 after she was not given proper care during childbirth.  
 
“That’s just unacceptable anywhere, especially in an adopted, civilized country, so I appreciate your work on this, Senator,” Massey said.
 
SB 84 will now go before the full House for consideration.

 

END

 

March 3, 2021

Roadside billboard bill bound for full Senate

 

 

Rep. D.J. Johnson, R-Owensboro, speaks on House Bill 328, legislation he introduced concerning roadside billboard regulations, during today's meeting of the Senate Transportation Committee.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT – A bill that would rein in the rapid and unregulated erecting of roadside billboards across Kentucky advanced out of the Senate Transportation Committee today.

The measure, known as House Bill 328, would do this by re-establishing the state’s regulatory authority for roadside billboards. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. D.J. Johnson, R-Owensboro, said a federal court ruling recently called the state’s prior regulations into question. Johnson said HB 238 would also be the first step in meeting federal requirements for providing state regulations for billboards.

“Without state regulations of the billboards, we are at risk of losing as much as $70 million in (federal) transportation funding,” he said.

In response to a question from Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, Johnson said HB 328 would not prohibit local communities from having their own billboard restrictions.

Senate Majority Whip Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, expressed concern for landowners who have signed lucrative leases with companies to erect billboards on their property since the court ruling.

Johnson said HB 328 would not address that issue. “We really got to get the constitutional authority re-established,” he said. “We didn’t want to try to see the future as what would be done with that. We see this as a two-step process.”

Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, echoed Wilson’s concerns. Wheeler said he would support a floor amendment to grandfather in any billboard erected since the court ruling to protect landowners who might have already received lease payments.

“I’m not as concerned for the companies, but I am concerned for the landowners,” Wheeler said. “A lot of them are not lawyers and they may have entered into agreements in reliance on the belief they were acting in compliance with the law.”

Johnson said the concerns of property owners could be addressed at a future date. He said out-of-state billboard operators shouldn’t be given a pass for exploiting the vacuum the court ruling created.

“I personally don’t like the idea of giving them a free pass when the businesses in our state have – for years – followed the rules,” Johnson said. He added that the problem has been exacerbated because many of the new billboards being erected do not even comply with the old regulations.

Leigh Ann Thacker, a lobbyist for the Outdoor Advertising Association of Kentucky, testified in support of HB 328. One concern has been that the new billboards are decreasing the value of the older billboards, erected under the former regulations. Wilson added that the billboard leases are so valuable to Kentucky landowners they are often passed down from generation to generation.

Kentucky Resources Council Director Tom FitzGerald, who also testified in support of HB 328, quipped that it was the rare occasion he was in agreement with the outdoor advertising association. FitzGerald explained that Kentucky had regulated outdoor advertising along certain routes, such as the state’s parkways, since the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. That bill was a priority of President Lyndon B. Johnson with his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, as the act’s No. 1 proponent.

Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, asked how many billboards have been erected since the court ruling. Thacker estimated that 100 billboards had gone up. She added that when a court ruling also found Tennessee’s billboard regulations unconstitutional, over 250 billboards went up in that state before the regulations could be re-established.

In response to a question from committee chair Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, Thacker said HB 328 was modeled after the Tennessee legislation re-establishing that state's billboard regs.

END

 

 

March 2, 2021

 

House approves bill to exempt those with serious mental illnesses from death penalty

 

 

Majority Whip Rep. Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown, testifies on House Bill 148, a bill to exempt defendants with serious mental illness, on the House floor Monday night.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— Defendants diagnosed with a serious mental illness may soon be exempt from the death penalty.
 
The Kentucky House of Representatives approved House Bill 148 by a 75-16 vote Monday night.
 
Sponsored by Majority Whip Rep. Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown, HB 148 would make defendants charged with a capital offense, such as murder, exempt from eligibility for execution if they have a documented history of a serious mental illness at the time of the offense.
 
“The five enumerated diseases are very serious,” McCoy said.
 
According to the bill, the defendant would have to have a documented history of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or delusional disorder at the time of the offense to qualify for the exemption.
 
On the House floor, McCoy said the bill is not the same thing as an insanity defense, and defendants who have a serious mental illness could still be convicted of a capital offense and still go to prison for life without the possibility of parole.
 
Kentucky law already allows those who have a serious intellectual disability, such as those with an IQ below 70, to be exempt from the death penalty.
 
If it were to become law, HB 148 would only apply to trials that occur after the effective date of the bill.
 
HB 148 will now go to the Senate for consideration.

END

 

 

 

Feb. 26, 2021

 

UI benefit legislation heads to KY House

 

 

Senate President Pro Tempore David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, explains Senate Bill 7, a measure he introduced relating to unemployment insurance benefits, during today's Senate proceedings.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— A bill to promote both participation and security in elections cleared the House floor today.

House Bill 574 would make some of the election procedures implemented last year to accommodate voting during the pandemic permanent.

Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, who is one of the primary sponsors of the bill, praised Kentucky for a record-breaking turnout in the 2020 election.

“And that result caused many people in this room, many representatives, and many citizens to consider what, if any, of the emergency election procedures should be adopted into law,” Decker said on the House floor.

Decker said she and other lawmakers met with county clerks, members of the State Board of Elections, Secretary of State Michael Adams and many others when crafting HB 574.

“We have not followed a political agenda in drafting this bill and we hope that as you reviewed this bill you have come to understand that it will create free and fair elections for our state from this point forward,” Decker added.

The legislation would offer Kentuckians three days – including a Saturday – leading up to an election day for early, in-person voting.

With the fiscal and logistical impacts in mind, HB 574 would allow for the counting of absentee ballots to begin no earlier than 14 days before Election Day. It would also allow county clerks to continue to offer ballot drop boxes for those who do not wish to send their ballots back by mail.

Another part of voting during COVID-19 was that counties were allowed to create voting centers where any registered voter in the county could vote. That would continue under HB 574.

The bill also addresses some ballot integrity concerns. HB 574 would ban “ballot harvesting” in which third parties collect and submit ballots. The practice is already not allowed in Kentucky, but the legislation would expressly prohibit it in statute and set penalties.

Rep. Pamela Stevenson, D-Louisville, filed a friendly floor amendment to allow a person who is homeless and lacks an established residence to choose an address of a non-traditional place of residence, such as a shelter, for the purposes of voting.

“One of the things we strive to do is to have the homeless participate in our communities, so that they can get their lives back on track with just a little bit of help,” Stevenson said on the House floor before her amendment was adopted.

Another floor amendment, filed by Rep. Buddy Wheatley, D-Covington, called for eight early, in-person voting days within the two weeks prior to an election instead of the proposed three.

Decker responded that she and the other sponsors of the bill could not support Wheatley’s floor amendment due to the financial burden additional early voting days would put on counties.

A roll call vote was called and Wheatley’s floor amendment failed by a 28-68 vote. He did, however, still vote in favor of the legislation.

Receiving bipartisan support, HB 574 will now go before the full Senate for consideration after a 93-4 vote.

“This has been one of the most rewarding pieces of legislation that I’ve had the opportunity to work on,” said Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, one of the bill’s sponsors.

END

 

 

 

 

Feb. 26, 2021

 

Election reform bill heads to KY Senate

 

 

Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, presents House Bill 574, a bill to promote both participation and security in elections on the House Floor today. The bill will now go before the Senate for consideration.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— A bill to promote both participation and security in elections cleared the House floor today.

House Bill 574 would make some of the election procedures implemented last year to accommodate voting during the pandemic permanent.

Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, who is one of the primary sponsors of the bill, praised Kentucky for a record-breaking turnout in the 2020 election.

“And that result caused many people in this room, many representatives, and many citizens to consider what, if any, of the emergency election procedures should be adopted into law,” Decker said on the House floor.

Decker said she and other lawmakers met with county clerks, members of the State Board of Elections, Secretary of State Michael Adams and many others when crafting HB 574.

“We have not followed a political agenda in drafting this bill and we hope that as you reviewed this bill you have come to understand that it will create free and fair elections for our state from this point forward,” Decker added.

The legislation would offer Kentuckians three days – including a Saturday – leading up to an election day for early, in-person voting.

With the fiscal and logistical impacts in mind, HB 574 would allow for the counting of absentee ballots to begin no earlier than 14 days before Election Day. It would also allow county clerks to continue to offer ballot drop boxes for those who do not wish to send their ballots back by mail.

Another part of voting during COVID-19 was that counties were allowed to create voting centers where any registered voter in the county could vote. That would continue under HB 574.

The bill also addresses some ballot integrity concerns. HB 574 would ban “ballot harvesting” in which third parties collect and submit ballots. The practice is already not allowed in Kentucky, but the legislation would expressly prohibit it in statute and set penalties.

Rep. Pamela Stevenson, D-Louisville, filed a friendly floor amendment to allow a person who is homeless and lacks an established residence to choose an address of a non-traditional place of residence, such as a shelter, for the purposes of voting.

“One of the things we strive to do is to have the homeless participate in our communities, so that they can get their lives back on track with just a little bit of help,” Stevenson said on the House floor before her amendment was adopted.

Another floor amendment, filed by Rep. Buddy Wheatley, D-Covington, called for eight early, in-person voting days within the two weeks prior to an election instead of the proposed three.

Decker responded that she and the other sponsors of the bill could not support Wheatley’s floor amendment due to the financial burden additional early voting days would put on counties.

A roll call vote was called and Wheatley’s floor amendment failed by a 28-68 vote. He did, however, still vote in favor of the legislation.

Receiving bipartisan support, HB 574 will now go before the full Senate for consideration after a 93-4 vote.

“This has been one of the most rewarding pieces of legislation that I’ve had the opportunity to work on,” said Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, one of the bill’s sponsors.

END

 

 

 

Feb. 25, 2021

 

Door may be closing on some no-knock warrants

 

 

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, explains Senate Bill 4, legislation he introduced relating to warrants that authorize unannounced entry, commonly known as no-knocks, on the Senate floor.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation to limit the use of no-knock warrants passed the Kentucky Senate today by a 33-0 vote.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 4, would create procedures and requirements for the issuance of both search warrants and arrest warrants that authorize entry without notice, commonly known as no-knocks.

“We are not here to criticize police in general, but on a night this past year 2020, there was some bad policing that took place,” Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said about the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. “This brought to the forefront some things that needed to be changed because what happened that night could happen to anybody. The sanctity of our homes should be protected – and they are by both of our constitutions – but sometimes we have to do more to clarify the process.”

SB 4 would greatly limit when no-knock warrants could be sought. They would be allowed for instances where someone was believed to be in immediate danger, such as kidnapping cases. The no-knock warrants would also be allowed when sought in connection to cases involving certain violent crimes, terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.

SB 4 also prescribes how to obtain no-knock warrants. An officer seeking a no-knock warrant would have to get approval from supervisors and certify the warrant application hadn’t been “shopped,” the practice of trying to find a receptive judge. The bill would also make clear that an officer’s false statement in a warrant application constitutes felony perjury. And the approving judge’s signature would have to be legible.

“How would this have changed the circumstances of that night where Breonna Taylor lost her life?” Stivers said. “As I understand it, this was a no-knock search at 1 o’clock in the morning for ... evidence of drug trafficking. Think about that.”

Stivers then rhetorically asked if police officers should be going into someone’s home unannounced at 1 a.m. before answering himself with a “no.”

Stivers remarks were followed by a nearly two-hour floor debate on race, policing and the role poverty plays.

Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, recounted how he was once assaulted by a police officer.

“I support Senate Bill 4, but this is just the beginning,” he said. “Our problems are broader. They are deeper. They are going to require a long-term willingness to understand and do those things that serve us all.”

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said he supported SB 4. He then read a portion of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which speaks to unreasonable searches and seizures.

“This is the framework this discussion is based on,” Schickel said. He added that his prior experience as a police officer, jailer and U.S. Marshal made him realize warrant reform has been needed in Kentucky for a long time.

“There were times when I would leave these search warrants with not a real good feeling in my stomach, knowing we could have done a better job,” Schickel said while recalling working on narcotics investigations.

Another retired law enforcement official, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, also stood in support of SB 4. He and several other lawmakers, however, also stressed that law enforcement was not the enemy.

“I respect the police officers,” Carroll said of law enforcement across Kentucky. “I respect the community. I respect the troubles the minority community has in trust with police officers. My belief is we can make it better if we commit ourselves on both sides to making it happen. We can make a better commonwealth for all of our people.”

Senate Minority Caucus Chair Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said he liked how SB 4 would outline how to execute no-knock warrants. The bill would require the warrants only to be executed by a unit trained for resolving high-risk situations, such as Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. Thomas said an important provision that wasn’t a focus of discussion was a requirement that team members executing the warrants wear body cameras to record the events.

During a committee hearing on SB 4 earlier in the day, Sen. Johnnie Turner, R-Harlan, said he liked a provision in SB 4 requiring no-knock warrants to be served between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. unless exigent circumstances existed. He said during his 40 years of practicing law he has observed the problems created by serving warrants at all hours of the day.

“Now they have strict guidelines to follow,” he said. “If not, there is going to be repercussions brought.”

Those repercussions, under SB 4, would include making all evidence gathered by the warrant inadmissible in court.

SB 4 now goes to the House of Representatives for further discussion.

END

 

 

Feb. 25, 2021

 

KY House sends firefighter mental health bill to Senate

 

 

Rep. Kim Banta, R-Fort Mitchell, speaks on House Bill 44, a bill to cover the cost of mental health treatment for firefighters. The bill passed unanimously on the House floor today.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— Kentucky’s firefighters do more than extinguish fires.

Firefighters are often the first to respond to a variety of emergencies, including medical incidents, car accidents and others. Their willingness to put themselves in danger and possibly witness great tragedy can leave long-lasting, negative psychological impacts such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

House Bill 44 passed unanimously on the House floor today. It would allocate funding for full-time and volunteer firefighters experiencing PTSD or a post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) to receive proper care from a licensed mental health professional.  

Rep. Kim Banta, R-Fort Mitchell, said statistics concerning the mental health of firefighters are alarming.

“19% have suicidal thoughts,” she said. “27% have substance abuse issues. 59% have family relationships problems. 65% are haunted by the memories of bad calls.”

The bill would also allow firefighters to undergo crisis intervention training (CIT), said Banta, who is a primary sponsor of the bill. CIT teaches law enforcement and firefighters how to effectively respond to persons suffering from a mental health or substance abuse crisis. In return, first responders reduce the risk of injury to themselves, other first responders and citizens.

Rep. Buddy Wheatley, R-Covington, who is a co-sponsor of HB 44, praised the legislation, saying there are many firefighters across the state who suffer serious consequences related to PTSD.

“This bill gives the opportunity so they don’t have to pay for their own healthcare services related to this issue,” Wheatley said. “It’s not covered currently by workman’s comp.”

HB 44 would allocate $1,250,000 per year to reimburse firefighters for mental health treatment not covered by medical insurance.

Rep. Joni L. Jenkins, D-Shively, who is also a co-sponsor on the bill, says the HB 44 helps reduce the stigma around asking for help.

“I think this one step that we can do to make it OK for people to ask for treatment,” Jenkins said. “… I think this gives us a healthier workforce.”  

HB 44 will now go before the full Senate for consideration.

 

END

 

 

 

Feb. 25, 2021

 

Lawmakers adjust General Assembly’s 2021 Session Calendar

FRANKFORT – Legislative leaders have made another adjustment to the calendar for the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2021 Regular Session.

Under the change, the Senate and House of Representatives are now scheduled to convene on March 11 in addition to other previously scheduled days.

Lawmakers are still scheduled to conclude the session on March 30, the last day allowed by the state constitution.

The revised 2021 Regular Session Calendar can be viewed online at: https://legislature.ky.gov/Documents/21RS_Calendar.pdf

 

--END--

 

 

Feb. 24, 2021

 

KY Senate passes bill to study racial gaps

 

 

Senate President Pro Tempore David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, speaks on Senate Bill 10, legislation he introduced to establish the Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity within the legislative branch, during today's Senate actions.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation to address racial inequalities and focus on opportunities has advanced to the Kentucky House.

“Life has taught me a few things and most of those have been around understanding,” Senate President Pro Tempore David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, said while presenting the measure. “You can’t understand what you don’t know. I can’t understand what I close my mind to. I can’t understand when I won’t listen first."

He then challenged his colleagues to join him on a journey of understanding by voting for the legislation, known as Senate Bill 10. It would establish the Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity within the legislative branch. The group would analyze inequities across various sectors – including education, child welfare, health care, the economy and criminal justice system.

Givens said he introduced SB 10 following months of civil unrest that saw demonstrations in Kentucky and across the nation that denounced police brutality in the wake of several high-profile killings.

“What if we could put a process in motion to say, let's shape policy in the future to avoid some of the sorts of things that we have either inadvertently created or purposely created or unknowingly created,” Given said. He explained that the commission would be tasked with publishing an annual report with recommendations on any potential legislative or administrative actions.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, said SB 10 was a good first step that produces actionable legislation that addresses disparities.

“There have been bills filed by folks in both caucuses that address specific issues related to race ... that haven’t moved forward,” he said. “(SB 10) doesn’t come in and solve all that ... but it’s moving the ball forward. I’ll take a little bit of movement in lieu of no movement at all any day.”

Givens, Westerfield and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, were primary sponsors of SB 10.

Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, also stood in support of SB 10. He said he disagrees with friends who have expressed the opinion that SB 10 was just feel-good legislation taking the place of real reforms.

“I think something different is happening here,” Neal said. “I think there is sincerity behind this. I think ownership is being expressed here. This offers opportunity, and we should approach this opportunity optimistically.”

He said there were people in society negatively impacted by the legacy of slavery, and the lawmakers should examine what they can do to correct the injustice.

“It’s real,” Neal said. “There is a connection. It lives with us today in many forms.”

The bipartisan commission would consist of 13 members including the executive director of the Kentucky Human Rights Commission, eight legislators and four members from the private and nonprofit sectors with expertise in areas being studied.

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, dedicated her vote for SB 10 to Kentucky native Alice Allison Dunnigan, a civil rights activist, newspaper reporter in Washington D.C. and author. Dunnigan, who died in 1983, also served on the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity under two administrations.

SB 10 passed by a 35-1 vote. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

END

 

 

Feb. 24, 2021

 

Committee approves student rights bill

 

FRANKFORT— The U.S. Constitution guarantees due process for those accused of a crime or misconduct.

House Bill 145 would make sure students facing disciplinary action at a public postsecondary education institution have those rights.

The House Judiciary Committee approved HB 145 today, but not without discussion.

Rep. Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell, one of the primary sponsors of HB 145, testified that the bill came to be after hearing from students at colleges and universities across the state express concern about the disciplinary policies at multiple institutions. Some students reported inconsistent rulings, lack of proper notice of hearings, lack of ability to see evidence against them and more.

Banta said HB 145 would guarantee that the accused and the victims receive fair treatment.

“There’s no consistency in standards, punishments or sanctions,” Banta said about the current system. “Plainly put, our colleges have policies that automatically put the future of our students on the line in these hearings.”

According to Banta’s testimony, thousands of students at public colleges and universities across the Commonwealth are subjected to disciplinary hearings every year and that statistics and information about these hearings are not properly reported. HB 145 would require universities to publish a report annually on the number of student hearings and demographics to make sure discrimination is not taking place, she added.

“I want to make clear that HB 145 isn’t meant to shield students from accountability,” Banta said. “145 is here to ensure that our publicly funded universities provide rights and give fair hearings for thousands of students that are held accountable through their disciplinary processes.”

Under HB 145, students would have the right to be timely notified of a hearing, access to evidence against them, ability to cross examine through counsel and the ability to appeal a ruling.

Banta said she and other lawmakers worked with schools, students, the Kentucky Student Rights Coalition, American Civil Liberties Union and others on the bill.

Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, expressed concern for sexual harassment and sexual assault survivors.

“The single biggest problem we deal with on university campuses is that people don’t report (sexual assault) because they just can’t deal with being re-traumatized,” Minter said. “… We want to get this right. We don’t want to cause any harm.”

Banta said those concerns were taken into consideration while drafting the bill, but some compromises were not made due to the desire to make sure those accused are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

HB 145 will now go before the full House for consideration.

 

END

 

 

 

Feb. 23, 2021

 

Bill to cap cost of insulin heads to Senate

 

 

Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell,  holds his vial of insulin as an example on the House floor as he advocates for the passage of House Bill 95, a bill to cap the cost of insulin.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— The Kentucky House of Representatives decided Kentuckians should not have to choose between rent and insulin today.
 
House Bill 95 would cap cost-sharing requirements for prescription insulin at $30 per 30-day supply for state-regulated health plans.
 
Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, one of the primary sponsors of HB 95, said insulin is needed to treat diabetes and without it people can suffer serious health consequences, such as losing their vision or a limb and even death.
 
Bentley testified that people often have to choose between paying their rent or buying insulin due to how expensive insulin can be. He said that the amount people are charged for insulin tripled between 2002 and 2013, despite the cost to manufacture insulin being $3.69 to $6 per vial.
 
“If I was paying cash for my insulin, if I didn’t have the insurance I have, my insulin would cost me $12,000 a year,” Bentley added.
 
Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, who is also a primary sponsor of HB 95, asked the House to pass the legislation in a unanimous vote just as it did during the 2020 legislative session.
 
“No one should lose their sight because they don’t have access to something that costs $6 a bottle to manufacture,” Minter said.
 
Both Bentley and Minter have a personal connection to the bill. Bentley uses insulin and brought his vial to the House floor as an example, and Minter told House members her son also uses insulin.
 
HB 95 was approved by a 95-0 vote and will now head to the Senate for consideration.

 

END

 

 

 

Feb. 22, 2021

 

House passes updates to child support laws

 

 

Rep. C. Ed Massey presents House Bill 404, a bill to update Kentucky's child support guidelines, on the House floor.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— A bipartisan effort to update child support laws cleared the Kentucky House of Representatives today.
 
Rep. C. Ed Massey, R-Hebron, and Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, said they worked with county attorneys and judges across the Commonwealth and the Child Support Commission to craft House Bill 404.
 
HB 404 would update Kentucky’s child support guidelines to be in line with federal guidelines.
 
“It has been over 15 years since we have updated these guidelines,” Massey said.
 
The bill covers updates to shared custody guidelines and seeks to ensure that child support monies are benefitting the child or children in question.
 
Another section of the bill would change how child support is charged for people who have less than 50/50 custody but more than the standard every other weekend custody agreement. Hatton said this section of the bill would not go into effect until March 1, 2022.
 
“We want to give judges time to adjust to it and figure it out,” Hatton said. “And we’ll have time to fix that next session if we need to.”
 
The House unanimously approved HB 404 by a 93-0 vote.
 
House Bill 402, an act relating to flagrant nonsupport, also came before the full House today.
 
Currently if a parent is $1,000 behind on child support payments they could be charged with a felony. Under HB 402, that threshold would be increased to $5,000.
 
Massey, who is the primary sponsor of the bill, said the threshold of $1,000 is outdated and has been in place for as long as he can remember in his 30 years as an attorney.
 
This bill would help parents who may lose their job and fall a month or two behind on payments from receiving a felony charge, Massey said. There are some cases where the current law creates a domino effect where a parent cannot find a job due to the felony charge and therefore fall even further behind on payments.
 
“That does not mean, ladies and gentlemen, that somebody could not be held in contempt or prosecuted if you will, because they’re not living up to the obligation of caring for their minor children, but what it does do is prevent them from being put into a felony status for $1,000,” Massey said.
 
A House Committee Substitute to change the increase of the threshold to $2,500 instead of $5,000 failed on the House Floor after Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, spoke against the motion.
 
“I can give you an example of a constituent who is having trouble making their payments. The payments assigned to them are at approximately $900 a month and they only make $2,000 a month after taxes,” DuPlessis said.
 
This constituent struggles to make their payments, DuPlessis added, but they’re doing what they can to support their children.
 
HB 402 cleared the House floor by a 71-22 vote.
 
Both HB 404 and HB 402 will now go before the Kentucky Senate for consideration. 

END

 

 

 

Feb. 22, 2021

 

Bill targeting sex crimes by police goes to House

 

 

Sen. David Yates presents Senate Bill 52, a measure relating to sexual offenses by peace officers, on the Senate floor.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT — Legislation addressing sexual offenses committed by police officers while on duty passed the Kentucky Senate today by a 35-0 vote.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 52, would amend third-degree rape, third-degree sodomy and second-degree sexual abuse statutes so law enforcement officers could be charged with those crimes if they engage in sexual acts with a person under investigation, in custody or under arrest. A loophole in the current statutes excludes law enforcement officials, according to testimony from a committee hearing on the bill earlier this month.

“This bill protects ordinary people,” said Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, who carried the bill on the floor. “It protects ordinary people from those in a position of power who seek to abuse that power.”

Yates, a lawyer by trade, added that he has represented people in civil court who have been sexually exploited by police officers. He said SB 52 would help root out bad police officers in the future.

SB 52 was amended on the floor to clarify that it would relate to the conduct of an officer in their official capacity.

“That’s so they are not prohibited from having a social relationship with someone ... as long as they are not acting in their official capacity,” said Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton. “That’s what this bill is about. It goes to the very protections (Yates) was speaking about in a power differential when that relationship of authority is present. That is what this is about.”

Westerfield was a primary sponsor of SB 52 along with Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville.

SB 52 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

END

 

Feb. 17, 2021

 

Kentuckians have toll-free way to share feedback with lawmakers

General Assembly’s Message Line to remain open during winter storm

 

FRANKFORT -- For years, people throughout the state have used the Kentucky General Assembly's toll-free Message Line to share feedback with lawmakers on issues under consideration at the State Capitol. Operators take down callers' messages and contact information and promptly deliver the messages to the appropriate lawmakers' offices.

 Starting today, callers to the Message Line can continue offering messages to lawmakers even on the rare days when a winter storm shuts down the Capitol campus and operators aren't onsite to answer calls. On those days, callers will be asked to leave voice messages. Messages will be transcribed and sent to lawmakers' offices as soon as operators return. 

To call the Message Line, dial 1-800-372-7181. Since operators aren’t onsite today due to the winter storm, callers will be asked to leave voice messages. Weather permitting, operators will return to answering calls in person on Friday, Feb. 19.

END

 

 

 

Feb. 16, 2021

 

Kentucky General Assembly will not convene this week

Winter storm prompts changes to session calendar

 

FRANKFORT -- Due to concerns about travel safety during this week's winter storm, the Kentucky Senate and House will not convene this week.

To make up for this week's cancellation, the chambers are now scheduled to convene on Feb. 22, March 1, and March 12 in addition to previously scheduled legislative days.

The last day to file bills in the Senate and House has been moved back to Feb. 23.

The final day of the General Assembly's 2021 Regular Session is still scheduled to be March 30, the last day allowed by the state constitution.

The General Assembly’s 2021 Regular Session calendar can be viewed online at https://legislature.ky.gov/Documents/21RS_Calendar.pdf

 

END

 

 

 

 

Feb. 14, 2021

 

Ky. Senate and House won't convene Tuesday due to winter storm

LRC offices to remain open; staff will provide services remotely on Monday

 

FRANKFORT -- Due to forecasts of a winter storm, the Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives will not convene on Tuesday, Feb. 16. The next legislative day of the General Assembly's 2021 Regular Session will be Wednesday, Feb. 17.

Due to the schedule change, the final day to file bills in the Senate and House has been pushed back to Thursday, Feb. 18.

Legislative Research Commission (LRC) staff members will work remotely rather than on the State Capitol campus on Monday, Feb. 15. The agency will be open for business. Staff members will respond to phone calls and emails.

 

END

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb. 12, 2021

Historical horse racing machine bill heads to Governor's desk

 

 

Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, presents Senate Bill 120, which would define pari-mutuel wagering in relation to historical horse racing machines, on the House floor.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— The Kentucky House of Representatives took up a high-profile issue yesterday when members approved a bill on historical horse racing machines.
 
Both the House and Senate spent significant time this week debating Senate Bill 120, which would define pari-mutuel wagering in relation to historical horse racing machines.
 
The bill will next head to the governor’s desk for his signature after the Kentucky House voted 55-38 yesterday in favor of the legislation. The Senate approved the bill on Tuesday on a 22-15 vote.
 
The issue of historical horse racing machines came to the forefront following the Kentucky Supreme Court’s September ruling that certain historical horse racing games, which many say resemble casino slots, are unlawful.
 
Kentucky’s horse racing tracks have relied on these machines as a major source of revenue. The industry came to the Kentucky General Assembly for help following the KY Supreme Court ruling, saying the horse racing industry in the Commonwealth would be in jeopardy if lawmakers did not do something.
 
SB 120 is described by supporters as a continuation of a practice that has already been happening in Kentucky for a decade and that historical horse racing is needed in order for Kentucky’s horse racing industry to survive.
 
“Obviously, there’s a lot at stake,” said Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, on the House floor. “We’ve all heard the numbers. (Horse racing) is a $5 billion a year industry.”
 
Rep. Matthew Koch, R-Paris, also supported the bill. Koch described SB 120 as a bill about jobs. He cited the hundreds of jobs already lost and the thousands more that could be lost if the House did not pass SB 120.
 
“While Kentucky is the best place to raise a horse, it is not the only place to raise a horse, and we have to fight to keep that here,” Koch said.
 
Rep. Mary Lou Mazian, D-Louisville, stated that she does have issues with SB 120 and how she’s concerned that the prospect of increasing the tax rate on historical horse racing machines, as some lawmakers favor, might slip through the cracks. She ultimately voted in favor of the legislation.
 
On the opposing side, some lawmakers stated they believe SB 120 is unconstitutional and that gambling is predatory and harmful to Kentuckians.
 
“Senate Bill 120 is about saving slot machines,” Rep. Chris Fugate, R-Chavies, said. “… There’s a lot of families in America that’s been torn apart because of gambling.”
 
SB 120 contains an emergency clause, meaning it would become effective immediately upon the governor’s signature rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislature.
 
Legislation to address the tax issue raised by lawmakers during the House floor debate has already been filed and could be further considered this legislative session.

END

 

 

 

 

 

Feb. 12, 2021

Pandemic, social justice focus of annual Black History Celebration

President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators to give keynote address at virtual ceremony

FRANKFORT— The struggles and challenges that dominated news headlines over the past year now serve as the inspiration for this year’s Black History Celebration.
 
Hosted by the Kentucky Legislative Black Caucus, the 2021 Black History Celebration will be streamed online on Feb. 16. The celebration can be viewed online starting at 11:30 a.m. that day at
http://bit.ly/BHC-2021
 
The theme for this year’s event is The Struggle Continues: Pandemics, Social Justice, Equity and COVID-19.
 
The event is usually held in the Capitol Rotunda and open to the public, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebration will be held virtually. 
 
“The COVID-19 pandemic might change how we celebrate Black History this year, but it won’t stop us,” said Sen. Gerald Neal, a member of the Kentucky Legislative Black Caucus. “This event will hopefully bring us together and inspire us to keep moving forward on battling the coronavirus and injustice.”
 
Georgia State Rep. Billy Mitchell will give this year’s keynote address. Mitchell currently serves as the president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. Rep. Mitchell’s leads more than 700 members of the NBCSL who represent more than 60 million Black Americans.
NBCSL serves as a national network, advocate, and catalyst for public policy innovation, information exchange, and joint action on critical issues affecting African Americans and other marginalized communities.
 
Rep. Mitchell is also the current Minority Caucus Chair for the Georgia General Assembly and has served as a state representative for Georgia’s 88th District since 2003. He has sponsored legislation to celebrate Black History and to allow advanced voting in Georgia.
 
“We are thrilled to have Rep. Mitchell join us at our celebration this year as we reflect on our past and look forward to the future,” said Rep. Reginald Meeks, chair of the Kentucky Legislative Black Caucus.  
 
The event will also feature remarks from members of the Kentucky General Assembly, including legislative leaders; Gov. Andy Beshear, and Chief Justice John D. Minton of the Kentucky Supreme Court.
 
Music will be provided by the Kentucky State University Concert Choir and Mondre Moffett from Simmons College of Kentucky.

 

END

 

 

 

 

 

Feb. 11, 2021

Police accountability bill heads to KY House

 

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, explains why he introduced Senate Bill 80, a measure that would strengthen the police decertification process during today’s Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

 

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate approved legislation today focusing on police officers whose behavior reflects poorly on law enforcement.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 80, would do this by strengthening the police decertification process by expanding the number of acts considered professional wrongdoing. The new acts would include unjustified use of excessive or deadly force, interference of the fair administration of justice, and engagement in a sexual relationship with a victim, witness, defendant or informant in a criminal investigation. It would also require an officer to intervene when another officer is engaging in the use of unlawful and unjustified excessive or deadly force.

“Ninety-nine percent of all law enforcement officers are honorable and courageous men and women – men and women who bravely put their lives on the line every single day to protect our citizens,” said bill sponsor Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, a retired police officer. “There is no one ... who will condemn a bad cop quicker and with more severity than another cop.”

A second provision of SB 80 would set up a system for an officer’s automatic decertification under certain circumstances. Those would include being convicted of a felony in federal or state courts or the concealment of such conviction during the police officer certification process.

An officer could be considered for decertification after being convicted of certain misdemeanors. Those would include crimes involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, physical violence, sexual abuse, or crimes against a minor or household member. A final provision would prevent an officer from skirting decertification by resigning or retiring before an internal investigation is complete.

Through his work as a lawyer, Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, said he has known police officers who have avoided decertification by resigning or retiring. Those officers often find work in another department with no public record of alleged wrongdoing in their prior employment.

“A loophole in the law allowed bad officers to escape accountability, oversight,” Yates said.

Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, a former felony prosecutor, rose to speak in favor of SB 80.

“No profession is immune from bad actors, but I think this body has and continues to make a good effort to making sure we are able to help this profession weed those bad actors out,” he said.

Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, explained his “yea” vote.

“I think it is important to note the good work, hard work and dedicated work (Carroll) has put into this,” Mills said. “This is a big step forward for our state, and I would just like to compliment him on his work.”

After SB 80 passed by a 28-0 vote, Carroll stood to offer his opinion on improving policing in Kentucky.

“I think it is important for the leaders of this state ... to let law enforcement be a part of reform, to be a part of mending fences, to be a part in pulling communities together,” he said. “Citizen review boards, new leadership, all of that stuff is great. It is good stuff, but the change has to happen at the core, and the core is law enforcement. If there is change that's going to take place, it has got to start with them.”

SB 80 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

END

 

 

 

 

Feb. 9, 2021

Victim privacy bill moves to KY Senate

 

Rep. Chris Freeland, R-Benton, presented House Bill 273: The Bailey Holt-Preston Cope Victims Privacy Act, before the full House today. The bill would exclude photographs and video depicting a person's death, killing, rape or sexual assault from the Open Records Act. It will now move onto the Kentucky Senate for consideration. A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— The Kentucky House floor erupted in applause this afternoon after the passage of House Bill 273: The Bailey Holt-Preston Cope Victims Privacy Act.
 
The bill is named after 15-year-olds Bailey Holt and Preston Cope. They were shot and killed at Marshall County High School in Benton on Jan. 23, 2018.
 
HB 273 would amend the Open Records Act to exclude photographs and videos that depict a person’s death, killing, rape or sexual assault. Those involved in the incident may allow the release of the records.
 
Rep. Chris Freeland, R-Benton, the primary sponsor of HB 273, said the state’s Open Records Act was passed before everyone had cell phones and the ability to easily record and take photos.
 
“That technology exists and it’s good,” Freeland said. “It’s used to help put away people and it’s helped make sure that trials have good evidence, so I’m sure no one is objecting to that in anyway whatsoever.
 
“But there is video of the shooting that took place inside Marshall County High School where 14 children were severely injured. And two lost their lives that day.”
 
Freeland said the Commonwealth Attorneys in Marshall County as well as Bailey and Preston’s families expressed concerns about the possibility of the video and any associated photos being released.
 
Freeland added that this bill is not a measure against any newspaper or TV outlets and that many states have already have passed similar bills.
 
“This is just a way to protect families,” Freeland said. “… This would also protect anyone who’s survived rape or sexual assault.”
 
This legislation is not new to the Kentucky General Assembly. It was unanimously approved by the House last legislative session but, like many bills that stalled after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it did not become law.
 
Today, the House approved HB 273 92-1.
 
HB 273 contains an emergency clause, meaning it would become effective immediately if it is passed into law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislature. It will now move to the full Senate for consideration.

END

 

 

 

Feb. 4, 2021

Teachers' retirement bill clears the House

 

Rep. C. Ed Massey, R-Hebron, presented House Bill 258, a bill to create a new, fully funded tier for the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System to the House State Government Committee today. Massey later presented the bill on the House Floor, where it was approved.  A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— A bill to create a new, fully funded hybrid tier for the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System was approved by the Kentucky House of Representatives today.
 
If it were to become law, House Bill 258, sponsored by Rep. C. Ed Massey, R-Hebron, would go into effect for non-university members of KTRS who join the system on or after Jan. 1, 2022.
 
“We’re still gonna have to deal with this legacy deficit, but this will be a tourniquet that will stop the hemorrhaging that we’ve had with the increasing cost,” Massey said during the House State Government Committee Meeting today, two hours before legislators convened in the House Chambers to vote on the bill.
 
Kentucky teachers do not pay into Social Security, therefore they do not qualify for Social Security benefits. Retired teachers currently rely on a state pension plan.
 
According to Massey, HB 258 would save the state $3.57 billion over the next 30 years.
 
Massey said he began work on HB 258 during the 2020 legislative session, and he’s spent many months working with several legislators and various education groups to draft the legislation.
 
The Kentucky Schools Board Association, the Kentucky Association of Superintendents, the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Jefferson County Teachers’ Association, Kentucky Education Association were involved in the process as well as universities, Massey said on the House Floor.
 
“We drafted the legislation. We went around the room and asked questions. We commented, we broke, and we came back together,” Massey added. “And it was an ongoing, rewarding process.”
 
HB 258 would create a safety net, or stabilization fund, in the event the funds drop too low, therefore preventing the pension from being underfunded, Massey said, adding it provides new teachers with something they can count on.
 
The bill also would change when teachers can retire. Instead of retiring in 27 years, new hires under this tier would have to work 30 years to be eligible for benefits. New hires would be able to retire at age 55 with 30 years of experience, age 60 with 10 years of experience, or age 65 with five years of experience.
 
Massey said this gives people who have not made teaching a lifelong career an incentive to become a teacher later in life.
 
On the House Floor, several legislators said they liked some portions of the bill and how Massey worked with education groups to draft the legislation, but would not be voting in favor of it.
 
Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, said HB 258 would be putting a burden on new hires and Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, said pay raises for teachers should be the priority.
 
HB 258 passed the House 68-28 and will now move on to the Senate for consideration.

END

 

 

 

Feb. 4, 2021

Vaccine opt-out bill moves to KY House

 

Senate Majority Whip Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, explains Senate Bill 8, a bill he introduced relating to exceptions to mandatory immunization requirements, during today’s Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation that would expand Kentuckians’ ability to opt out of mandatory vaccinations pass the state Senate today by a 34-1-1 vote.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 8, would provide exemptions only to mandatory immunization requirements during an epidemic based on religious grounds or conscientiously held beliefs.

“I stand before you not as an anti-vaxxer or anything like that because I just had my second COVID shot today,” said Senate Majority Whip Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green. “I certainly had all of them when I was in the Marine Corp, and I was getting ready to deploy overseas. You felt like a pincushion. All my children have been vaccinated.”

He said he filed SB 8 because some constituents said they were afraid the government might force them to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Wilson stressed, however, that no such mandate currently exists.

Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, said she voted for SB 8 because she appreciated the changes made to ensure the measure did not impact routine childhood immunizations in the United States. The bill was changed in the Senate Health & Welfare Committee on Wednesday through what’s known as a committee substitute. It went from a 6-page bill to a more narrowly focused two-page document.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, R-Louisville, said he was against SB 8 because it would be unduly and overly broad.

“I support a religious exemption to getting medical treatment of any kind,” he said. “That is the law. This (SB 8) doesn’t change that as we heard in committee. It does expand it, however, to a conscientious objection, a term that hasn’t been defined in statute or on the floor. That is too vague.”

Senate Health & Welfare Committee Chair Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, stood in support of the legislation. He said people should be encouraged to do what is medically prudent in disease prevention but not forced against their will to be vaccinated.

“I would encourage our medical providers to continue to encourage those people ... to receive the vaccinations as quickly as possible,” Alvarado said. “I think we have a generation coming up that hasn’t seen a lot of the diseases that we were able to eradicate or minimize in this country.”

He then rattled off ailments such as smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, tetanus and polio – sometimes describing their horrific symptoms.

SB 8 contains an emergency clause, meaning it would become effective immediately if it is passed into law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislature. The bill now goes to the state House of Representatives for further consideration.

END

 

 

Feb. 4, 2021

Police accountability bill heads to full Senate

 

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, explains Senate Bill 80, a measure he introduced that would strengthen the current police decertification law in Kentucky, during today’s Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee meeting. A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT – A measure to strengthen the police decertification process in Kentucky advanced out of a Senate committee today.

“You all know over the past year it seems law enforcement in the United States has been under attack like never before in the history of our country,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Danny Carroll, while testifying before the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee. “These attacks have been based on the action of a few officers.”
Carroll, R-Benton, said he hopes this focus on policing leads to sensible and reasonable police reforms that are the embodiment of Senate Bill 80.

“Ninety-nine percent of all law enforcement officers are honorable and courageous men and women who bravely put their lives on the line daily to protect our citizens,” said Carroll, a retired police officer. “There is no one who will condemn a bad cop quicker or more severely than another cop.”

SB 80 would strengthen Kentucky’s current police decertification law by expanding the number of acts considered professional wrongdoing. The new acts would include unjustified use of excessive or deadly force, interference of the fair administration of justice, and engagement in a sexual relationship with a victim, witness, defendant or informant in a criminal investigation.

Another section of SB 80 would require an officer to intervene when another officer is engaging in the use of unlawful and unjustified excessive or deadly force.

“I think it is important to understand this because these things are at the crux of what we feel is important to this legislation,” Carroll said of the provisions.

A third section would set up a system for an officer’s automatic decertification under certain circumstances. Those would include being convicted of a felony in federal or state courts or the concealment of such conviction during the police officer certification process.

An officer could be brought up for decertification after being convicted of certain misdemeanors. Those would include crimes involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, physical violence, sexual abuse, or crimes against a minor or household member.

A fourth section would prevent an officer from skirting decertification by resigning or retiring before an internal investigation is complete.

“Throughout my career I have seen this happen,” Carroll said, adding it's a nationwide problem. “A few weeks later you find that officer turns up, if not in another agency in Kentucky, at an agency in another state. That’s what this law was primarily set up to stop."

Bryanna Carroll of the Kentucky League of Cities, who testified in support of the legislation, said the practice Sen. Carroll described drives up insurance premiums. She added that Kentucky cities employ nearly 5,000 full-time officers, spend $600 million annually on police services and handle three-quarters of the state’s reported violent crimes.

Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police President Art Ealum, who also serves as Owensboro's top cop, spoke in favor of SB 80.

“Everyone is on board to make this happen,” said Ealum, who also testified on behalf of the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council and Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association. “This has been a long time coming.”

Senate Majority Whip Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, predicted SB 80 would become the “gold standard” for law enforcement across the nation.


END





 

Feb. 3, 2021

 

 

Bill to protect livestock receives bipartisan support

FRANKFORT— Even short bills can have a large impact.

Rep. Matthew Koch, R-Paris, described House Bill 229, an act relating to the protection of livestock, as a “little bill with a big impact” during today’s House Judiciary Committee Meeting.

HB 229 would make someone guilty of criminal mischief for intentionally or wantonly causing damage to livestock— including cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, alpacas, llamas and buffaloes. Currently, the law only pertains to cattle.

Under the legislation, an offender would be:

  • Guilty of first-degree criminal mischief for causing $1,000 or more worth of damage. The offense is a class D felony and carries a penalty of one to five years in prison.
  • Guilty of second-degree criminal mischief for causing $500 to $1,000 worth of damage. The offense is a class A misdemeanor and carries a penalty of 90 days to one year in jail.
  • Guilty of third-degree criminal mischief for causing less than $500 worth of damage. The offense is a class B misdemeanor and carries a penalty of 90 days in jail.

Koch, who is a horse farmer, said HB 229 came to be after a horse shooting in Woodford County last year.

“We need to put some teeth to this to help protect those livestock,” Koch said.

The House Judiciary Committee approved HB 229 unanimously.

The bill now heads to the House Floor for consideration.

 

 

END

 

 

Feb. 2, 2021

Bill to curb trashing of rentals goes to House

 

Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, speaks in support of Senate Bill 11, a measure dealing with intentional damaging of rental property. A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT –  A measure to discourage tenants from damaging rental properties during an eviction passed the Kentucky Senate today by a 28-8 vote.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 11, would clarify current criminal mischief statutes by creating a category in Kentucky’s criminal code exclusively for damaging rental properties. It wouldn’t increase the penalty, said Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, who introduced the bill.

“I think this bill is even more important this year than last year because so many landlords in our commonwealth are struggling,” Schickel said, in reference to a similar bill passed out of the Senate last session. “Most landlords are very small business people.”

Senate Minority Caucus Chair Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, rose to speak against the bill. He said tenants today could be held criminally liable under the state’s current criminal mischief statute.

“We don’t need to single them out,” he said of tenants. “We don’t need to treat them as if they are somehow ... pariahs.”

Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, said he agreed that tenants could be charged under the current criminal mischief statute, but that he supported SB 11. He explained that the measure would help property managers more easily identify people with a history of trashing rental units when vetting prospective tenants through criminal background checks.

“This bill as it is today would give another tool to our landlords,” Schroder said.

END

 

Feb. 2, 2021


LRC to speed online posting of proposed bill changes

FRANKFORT -- People who follow the work of the Kentucky General Assembly depend on the Legislative Research Commission’s daily web updates to see the latest information on bills, amendments and resolutions.

Now, some updates will come even quicker and more frequently.

When a standing committee votes to report a bill, any amendment or committee substitute adopted for the bill will be posted online as soon as possible after the meeting adjourns. You can view the committee substitute or amendment by clicking “Meeting Materials” on the committee’s web page. Links to the web pages of legislative committees are available at https://legislature.ky.gov/Committees/Pages/default.aspx. 

“The Legislative Research Commission sees the value in taking steps to make information about committee meetings available as soon as we can,” said LRC Director Jay D. Hartz. “This, along with expanded livestreaming of legislative action makes more information than ever available online. These changes are part of the LRC’s commitment to giving Kentuckians the resources they need to maintain a close connection to their members of the General Assembly.”

Some people have already seen how useful this new approach is. When budget bills were considered by state lawmakers in January, committee substitutes adopted by committees in both the House and Senate were posted online as soon as possible so anyone could review them before the bills came up for votes in the full House and Senate.

Approved committee amendments and substitutes will remain available for viewing on the “Meeting Materials” pages until they are published as part of the day’s updates in the online Legislative Record.

 

END

 

Feb. 2, 2021

 

Lawmakers adjust General Assembly’s 2021 Session Calendar

FRANKFORT – Legislative leaders have adjusted the calendar for the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2021 Regular Session.

Under the changes, the Senate and House will not convene on Friday, Feb. 12, but will convene on Friday, March 5.

The changes do not affect the timing of the Veto Recess, which is scheduled to run from March 17 to March 27.

Lawmakers are still scheduled to conclude the session on March 30.

The revised 2021 Regular Session Calendar can be viewed online at: https://legislature.ky.gov/Documents/21RS_Calendar.pdf.

END

 

Feb. 2, 2021

 

 

Lawmakers vote to override vetoes

FRANKFORT— Part two of the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2021 Session kicked off with lawmakers overriding gubernatorial vetoes.

On lawmakers’ first day back at the Capitol after a recess, the Senate and House of Representatives voted today to override six vetoes recently cast by Gov. Andy Beshear.

The veto of Senate Bill 1 was overridden in the Senate 29-8 and in the House 69-20. SB 1 will dictate that executive orders that place restrictions on the function of schools, businesses or nonprofits expire after 30 days – unless extended by the General Assembly. The same would go for executive orders that regulate political, religious and social gatherings or impose mandatory quarantines or isolation requirements.

The veto of Senate Bill 2, was overridden in the Senate 31-6 and the House 69-20. SB 2 will require some administrative regulations to last no longer than 30 days if, for example, they impose restrictions on gatherings or mandatory quarantines.

Sen. Matt Castlen, R-Owensboro, said he was proud to be the primary sponsor of SB 1 when voting to override.

“To our small business owners, our restaurants, our families at home teaching their children right now ... the past 333 days have been tough on this state,” he said about executive actions imposing COVID-19 restrictions. “We gladly look forward to having a seat at the table representing all corners of Kentucky in the decisions going forward.”

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said he voted against SB 1 because it would handcuff executive branch officials during crises when the General Assembly is not in session.

“This is a part-time legislature,” he said. “This is a full-time executive. We should be shaping policies that help people now and into the future. I don’t think this bill does that.”

In voting to override SB 1, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the framers of the Kentucky Constitution envisioned legislators having input in policies concerning emergencies such as a pandemic. He said legislative input was critical in restoring the balance of power in the state – even if it required a special session.

The House voted 72-22 to override the governors’ veto on House Bill 1 while the Senate voted 29-8. HB 1 will create a framework for businesses, local governments, schools and nonprofits to operate during COVID-19 restrictions.

Rep. Richard White, R-Morehead, said on the House floor today he believes HB 1 gives the General Assembly a say in how the state responds to COVID-19.

“I think we should have a little voice in somethings that’s being said down here and I think it’s a responsibility of ours,” he said.

Several legislators spoke against the bill, including Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, who said the bill is unconstitutional.

Lawmakers also voted to override vetoes on House Bills 2, 3 and 5.

  • HB 2 will give the attorney general greater authority to enforce laws concerning abortion clinics in Kentucky. The House voted 73-20 and the Senate 32-5 to override the governor’s veto.

  • HB 3 will allow civil actions regarding the constitutionality of a Kentucky statute, executive order, administrative regulation or order of any cabinet be filed outside of Franklin County, which has played a longstanding role in deciding those types of cases. Non-residents of Kentucky will continue to file in Franklin County Circuit Court. The House voted 71-23 and the Senate voted 30-7 to override the governor’s veto.

  • HB 5 will require legislative approval of any changes the governor makes to the organizational structure of the executive branch. The House voted 71-23 and the Senate voted 30-7 to override the governor’s veto.

With the veto overrides, these bills become law.

 

 

END

 

 

Feb. 1, 2021

 

Requesting to testify to state lawmakers just got easier with online application

FRANKFORT --When the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2021 session resumes on Feb. 2, it will be more convenient than ever for Kentuckians to request to testify before a legislative committee.

The Legislative Research Commission (LRC) has unveiled a new online application to assist those who want to share feedback with lawmakers at committee meetings. Previously, those who wanted to request to testify had to contact committee staff or a committee chair to make a request. Now, anyone can click their way through a more convenient process.

The new online approach allows users to choose a bill from a list of those that have been assigned to the committees. After selecting a bill, users can fill in their contact info to have the request to testify automatically submitted to the correct committee.

The online application can be viewed here: https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/committees/TestimonyRequestForm/

“We’re continually looking for ways to strengthen people’s connection to their state lawmakers,” said LRC Director Jay D. Hartz. “Since the pandemic started, we’ve made it easier for people to follow all legislative action through live online video. Now we want to provide an even stronger connection to committee meetings by making it convenient for people to ask for a spot at the testimony table.”

Making a request to testify doesn’t guarantee that it can be accommodated. Committee chairs make decisions on testimony based on time allotted to the committee, other previously approved presenters, and safety precautions due to COVID-19.

In addition to testifying at committee meetings, Kentuckians have many ways to stay connected to the work of state lawmakers on the Kentucky General Assembly Home Page. Meeting schedules are available in the online Legislative Calendar. Bills can be viewed in the online Legislative Record. Contact information for Senate and House members is available on each legislator’s web page.

Kentuckians can also share feedback with lawmakers on the issues confronting Kentucky by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 800-372-7181.

 

END

 

 

Jan. 19, 2021

 

LRC staff working remotely Jan. 20

FRANKFORT -- Legislative Research Commission (LRC) staff members will work remotely rather than on the State Capitol campus on Wednesday, January 20.

Though LRC staff members won’t be on campus, the agency will be open for business. Staff members will respond to phone calls and emails.

The State Capitol grounds were closed to visitors on Sunday and security has been enhanced in recent days. Allowing LRC staff members to work remotely tomorrow will help further reduce the number of people on the campus on the U.S. Presidential Inauguration Day.

LRC staff are scheduled to return to their offices on Thursday.

END

 

 

 

Jan. 14, 2021

The verdict: Lawmakers OK change to judicial venues

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, discusses House Bill 3, a measure relating to judicial venues, during yesterday's Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – The General Assembly has passed a measure that would allow Kentuckians to file lawsuits against state government in the county of their residence, a move that would diminish the longstanding role Franklin Circuit Court has played in deciding those types of cases.

After amending it in committee, the Senate approved the measure, known as House Bill 3, by a 28-6 vote yesterday evening. The House later concurred with the change by a 72-20 vote. The governor now has 10 days to either sign the bill into law, let it become law without his signature or veto it.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, said HB 3 was designed “to eliminate the super circuit that Franklin County has right now.” He said that circuit has an oversized influence on policies that affect the entire state.

“(HB 3) allows the people, the plaintiffs, to file an action from where they are instead of traveling from the far corners of the commonwealth to Franklin Circuit Court,” said Westerfield, who carried HB 3 in the Senate.

HB 3 would establish legal challenges to the constitutionality of state statutes, executive orders, administrative regulations or cabinet orders be filed in the county of the plaintiff's residence, Westerfield said. A second provision of HB 3 would establish that non-residents of Kentucky making such claims would continue to file in Franklin Circuit Court. A third would allow a complaint to be filed in any county where a plaintiff resides if there were multiple plaintiffs.

The original House version of the bill would have achieved the same goal, Westerfield said, but with a three-judge panel to hear such cases.

Senate Minority Caucus Chair Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said he couldn’t support HB 3, in part, because it would enable forum shopping. That’s the practice of choosing the court in which to bring an action based on which judge is likely to provide the most favorable outcome.

“That is not the way our judicial system ought to be run,” Thomas said. “We should not now pervert the judicial system.”

Westerfield said HB 3 wasn’t a rebuke of the two sitting Franklin Circuit Court judges. Westerfield added that he is more concerned about what would happen when those judges retire and the races for those positions “become a super-political process” because everyone realizes the statewide impact of the rulings coming out of that court.

“We need to spread that love around a little bit,” Westerfield said.

Sen. Johnnie Turner, R-Harlan, said HB 3 would remove the unnecessary burden on plaintiffs in rural, mountainous regions having to travel to Franklin County.

“I’m glad that we have removed it from the swamp,” he said. “Send it home now.”

END

 

 

 

Jan. 13, 2021

Budget advancement sets stage for negotiations

Senate Appropriations & Revenue Chair Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, discusses the budget process during today’s Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – After a series of largely procedural votes on a one-year state budget and other spending plans, the General Assembly formed a series of committees today to hammer out the details of those plans.

“The primary purpose of our procedures today is to get these bills into conference committee with the House,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, before the Senate approved its version of the executive budget, known as House Bill 192, by a 32-0-1 vote. The House later refused to concur with the Senate’s changes, allowing for the formation of a conference and free conference committee.

Compromises agreed to by committee members are then subject once again to approval by a majority of members of each chamber, after they return from a constitutionally required recess on Feb. 2.

“As we have spoken many times, we are passing an unprecedented one-year budget due to the nature of the coronavirus,” said Senate Appropriations & Revenue Chair Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill. “This is actually a process that started at the end of last February. This is merely a continuation.”

McDaniel was talking about lawmakers passing a one-year budget in March of last year. Typically during such even-numbered years when the legislature meets for 60 days, lawmakers pass a 24-month budget for the state.

The state’s Consensus Forecasting Group predicted in December that Kentucky would see a small increase in revenue at roughly $53 million in the next year, with economists predicting the state’s budget will not be as hurt by the pandemic as originally thought in part due to federal COVID-19 relief.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, stressed that budgetary decisions were not being made during today’s votes. He expressed hope that committee members would consider the priorities in the governor’s budget proposal announced during a joint session of the General Assembly on Jan. 7. Those priorities included funding for Medicaid, local health departments, education, small business relief and internet broadband.

“What we are voting on today is a budget bill, but we are not voting on the budget,” McGarvey said. “This is the first step in the process of how the budget works. My support today for this bill is a support to continue that process because it is so important. It is a process that was started last year in good faith between Democrats and Republicans when as we were in this process of writing the budget we were faced with a global pandemic none of us had seen before.”

Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, agreed that the votes were bipartisan.

“This is a process vote --not a policy vote,” he said. “As critical as I have been of the governor, I compliment him on the way we proceeded last year and the dialog we’ve had this year.”

While there weren’t marathon discussions on the budget today, Senators from districts in the coalfields, including Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, said they hoped that coal severance tax revenue would be earmarked for counties hurting from the decline in coal production.

Other budget measures going to conference committees included the legislative budget (House Bill 194), judicial budget (House Bill 195) and transportation cabinet operating budget (House Bill 193).

“Every two years the General Assembly passes two closely related, but technically separate, pieces of legislation: the transportation cabinet’s operating budget and the six-year road plan,” said Senate Transportation Committee Chair Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon. “Back in March ... we only passed a one-year operating budget for the transportation cabinet. We did, however, complete the biennial road plan so we are not talking about the road plan here. There will be no votes or any legislation dealing with the road plan this year. They are already completed.”

END





 

Jan. 11, 2021

Lawmakers begin budget process

Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, answers questions from reporters about budget legislation following a meeting of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee. A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— A proposed one-year state budget and other spending plans were approved by the House today.
 
Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, said that today’s action was largely procedural to get the process moving so lawmakers can work on the roughly $12 billion budget in a conference committee sooner rather than later. 
 
“What we’re doing today… is not a completed statement of what our priorities are regarding the judicial budget or any other budget being considered,” said Petrie, chair of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee.
 
Lawmakers typically pass budgets during even-numbered years when the legislature meets for 60 days. Economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic led lawmakers to pass a one-year budget last spring, leaving the General Assembly to pass the next one-year spending plan during this year’s 30-day legislative session. 
 
Earlier today, the House Appropriations and Revenue approved House Bill 192, the executive branch budget; House Bill 193, the transportation budget; House Bill 194, the legislative branch budget; and House Bill 195, the judicial branch budget. Petrie said the bills are essentially continuations of last year’s budgets with appropriate adjustments.
 
House Bill 191, legislation regarding COVID-19 relief, did not move forward today so that lawmakers could collect more information on the matter.
 
While there weren’t marathon discussions on the budget today in the House—an acknowledgement that today’s movement was largely procedural—some lawmakers expressed hope that a future budget conference committee give will careful consideration to the priorities in Gov. Andy Beshear’s budget proposal.
 
Beshear addressed a joint session of the General Assembly on Jan. 7, saying he would like to see the legislature pass a budget to provide millions in economic relief to small businesses and nonprofits, expanded broadband, more money for education and more.
 
The state’s Consensus Forecasting Group predicts Kentucky will see a small increase in revenue at roughly $53 million in the next year, with economists predicting Kentucky’s budget will not be as hurt by the pandemic as originally thought in part due to federal COVID-19 relief.
 
House members must put budget priorities “in context,” with revenue forecasts, Petrie said.
 
“Revenue projections are slippery things,” he added. “You have to consider what it’s being compared to, whether it was anomaly or whether it is normal course.”
 
The budget bills approved by the House— HB 192,193,194 and 195—now go to the Senate for consideration.

 

END

 






 


Jan. 9, 2021

'Born-alive' bill heads to governor's desk

Rep. Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, explains Senate Bill 9, also known as the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, on the House floor. A hi-res photo can be found here. 

 

FRANKFORT— After being vetoed last year, the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act has once again been approved by the Kentucky General Assembly.
 
Also known as Senate Bill 9, the legislation states that medically appropriate and reasonable life-saving and life-sustaining medical care and treatment must not be denied to any born-alive infant, including cases in which an attempted abortion results in a live birth. If the bill were to become law, any violation by a medical provider could result in felony charges among other penalties.
 
Primary sponsor Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, told the Senate on Thursday that he introduced SB 9 because it would formalize that any born-alive infant shall be treated as a legal person in state statutes.
 
The bill cleared the Senate 32-4 on Thursday and the House 76-18 today.
 
“Without proper, legal protections, newly born infants who survive attempted abortions will be denied appropriate life-saving or life-sustaining medical care and treatment (and) will be left to die,” Rep. Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, said.
 
Critics of the bill say it is unnecessary, as physicians are already required by law to do what the bill states. Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, said the bill is an insult to healthcare professionals she represents.
 
Westerfield told the House Judiciary Committee on Friday that the bill only asks for medically appropriate and reasonable measures, not extraordinary ones.
 
The bill now heads to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk where he has 10 days to sign the bill into law, allow it to go into law without his signature, or issue a veto.
 
If Beshear does not veto SB 9, it would take effect immediately after becoming law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislative session due to an emergency clause in the bill.
 
If Beshear does veto SB 9, it will return to the General Assembly where lawmakers can consider overriding a veto they cast a constitutional majority of votes in each chamber to do so.

 

 

END

 







Jan. 9, 2021

Lawmakers act on bill relating to COVID-19 restrictions on schools, shops

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, explains House Bill 1, relating to COVID-19 restrictions on schools, businesses and long-term care facilities during today's proceedings on the Senate floor. A hi-res photo can be found here

 

FRANKFORT – The General Assembly gave final passage today to legislation that would create a framework for businesses, local governments, schools and nonprofits to operate during COVID-19 restrictions.

The measure, known as House Bill 1, passed the Senate by a 28-7 vote shortly after it was amended in committee. The House of Representatives went on to concur with the Senate changes.

“The governor gave orders and changes that were often arbitrary and lacking on the basis of studies,” said Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, who carried HB 1 on the Senate floor. The primary sponsors were House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, and Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville.

“Decisions were often made that were uneven in their application, decisions that produced confusion and anger, economic destruction, instability and division. COVID-19 has created economic hardship unlike anything we have ever seen,” Alvarado said. “While Kentucky has weathered recessions and economic downturns in the past, in 2020 businesses endured challenges brought about by policy intended to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

He said HB 1 would allow any business, local government or school to remain open as long as it obtained and followed an operational plan that met or exceeded applicable Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines or executive branch guidance, whichever was least restrictive.

A second provision would waive penalty and interest on late unemployment insurance taxes to give employers more time to pay.

“We don’t want this tax bill to be the final straw that forces a business or organization under,” Alvarado said while explaining how those taxes will go up because of the spike in unemployment. “Not only will that lead to more job losses and economic strain, but unemployment insurance costs incurred by employers that go under will ultimately be covered by remaining employers in the system.”

The third provision of HB 1 would prohibit Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services from suspending valid existing court orders providing for the in-person parental visitation of children in state custody or foster care. It would also require the cabinet to develop guidelines regarding the visitation policies for long-term care facilities and to terminally ill individuals.

Minority Caucus Chair Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said HB 1 would impede the chief executive of the state at a time of crisis. “This is totally unacceptable,” he said of HB 1. “We are, again, going in a direction that is not healthy, not wise and not prudent for the people of this state.”

Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, said he had the utmost respect for Thomas but had a different view.

“I’ve talked before about the nature of Frankfort and the nature of government towns because we come in and walk marble halls, pass well-manicured lawns, around people who are designed to facilitate the needs of the legislative process ... and we lose track of the people that don’t – the people that drive concrete trucks down muddy, sloppy gravel roads to build our houses," said McDaniel, who owns a concrete contracting company. "We lose track of day care workers who clean up when little kids throw up on the carpet. We lose track of 2,600 kids in a public school system because they haven’t been there since March. We lose track of foster and adopted services and what’s going on with kids inside of there.”

In reference to an opinion that HB 1 was moving through the legislative process too fast, McDaniel said there had been a “tremendous outcry” from Kentucky citizens for relief from the state of emergency. He said many didn’t understand Kentucky has a part-time legislature that couldn’t act when it wasn’t in session.

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said he has never forgotten the people he represents.

“That’s why I come – for the people who work every day to make things just a little better for themselves and their families,” he said. “Not just to speak up for them but to speak up for those who we don’t hear from. I truly believe in my heart ... our job is to protect those on the margins.”

McGarvey said he couldn’t vote for HB 1 because there was another way to get schools and businesses open across Kentucky.

“We do it by forcing social distancing and getting a vaccine out there, but I haven’t seen any legislation come through this body to help with the distribution of a vaccine,” he said. “We haven’t even talked about it.”

President Pro Tempore David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, stood in support of HB 1.

“Yes, the governor is responsible for trying to keep the citizens of this commonwealth physically safe,” he said, “but in addition, we need emotional safety. We need financial safety. We need that balance of all those pieces.

“This legislation is in response to frustration, anxiety, fear. Is it perfect? I doubt it. Are the goals laudable? They are.”

HB 1 now goes to the governor. He has 10 days to sign it, let it become law without his signature or veto it.

END

 





 

Jan. 8, 2021

House committee approves 'born alive' bill

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, defends Senate Bill 9, titled the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, during today's House Judiciary Committee meeting. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— Less than 24 hours after the Kentucky Senate voted “yes” on Senate Bill 9, the bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee.
 
Also known as the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, SB 9 is not unfamiliar to the General Assembly.
 
Both chambers approved the bill last legislative session, but the act was vetoed by Gov. Andy Beshear after the legislature had adjourned for the year.
 
SB 9 states that medically appropriate and reasonable life-saving and life-sustaining medical care and treatment must not be denied to any born-alive infant. If it were to become law, any violation by a medical provider could result in felony charges among other penalties.
 
Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, who is the primary sponsor of the bill, said he doesn’t believe it is an issue that occurs every day where a physician has declined to perform live-saving measures on an infant who is born-alive, but he says it has happened in Kentucky.
 
On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, Dr. Brittany Myers, an obstetrics and gynecology physician in Louisville, testified against the bill, saying it is a way “to shame patients and threaten providers and further limit access to abortion care.”
 
“All this does is requires or requests that reasonable attempts are made to see if that infant has a possible viable situation… we’re not asking for medical providers or practitioners to provide care that is impossible,” Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, said.
 
Westerfield agreed with Moser’s comments.
 
“We’re not asking for extraordinary measures,” he said. “We are asking for medically appropriate and reasonable measures.”
 
With the House Judiciary Committee’s approval, the bill will move to the House Floor for consideration.
 
If approved, SB 9 would take effect immediately after becoming law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislative session due to an emergency clause in the bill.

END

 

 

Jan. 8, 2021

KY Senate passes 'Born-Alive' act

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, explains why he filed Senate Bill 9, titled the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, during yesterday's Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation titled the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act is headed to the Kentucky House of Representatives after it passed the Senate by a 32-4 vote yesterday.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 9, would require that an infant born alive be given the appropriate medical care to preserve life. Any violation of SB 9 could result in the medical provider’s license being revoked and felony charges.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, said he introduced SB 9 because it would formalize that any born-alive infant shall be treated as a legal person in state statutes.

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, who didn't support SB 9, asked if there were any incidents in Kentucky in which a child didn't receive medically appropriate care after being born. Westerfield said he was aware of two incidents. Before Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, voted for the bill, he said he knew of an incident that resulted in litigation.

Sen. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown, said SB 9 was necessary because a federal law from 2002 only applies to federal facilities. He said SB 9 covers private and state facilities. Embry is a primary sponsor of SB 9 along with Westerfield.

Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, said it was with an extremely heavy heart that she opposed SB 9. She said it could tie the hands of medical providers during miscarriages.

“As a practicing physician who understands better than most in this room the limits of what medicine can and cannot do, I cannot vote for a bill that requires for a physician to do something that is not doable,” she said.

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, said it would be unbearable to think he didn’t support a bill that could save an infant’s life.

“I know this is a difficult bill for some individuals but not for myself,” he said. “I’ve always stood of the opinion, that while many of us worry about the end of life and how that will be handled, I think it is more important that we worry about the beginning of life and how that life should be brought into this earth.”

The General Assembly passed a similar bill in the final days of the 2020 session, but it was vetoed after the legislature had adjourned for the year.

Westerfield said the only difference between this year’s bill and the final version of last year’s bill was the removal of provisions giving the Kentucky Attorney General some enforcement power over abortion providers. That language has been placed in different legislation this year, House Bill 2.

SB 9 contains an emergency clause, meaning it would become effective immediately if it is passed into law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislature. The SB 9 now goes to the state House of Representatives for further consideration.

END

 

January 7, 2021

 

Lawmakers adjust General Assembly’s 2021 Regular Session Calendar

 

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky General Assembly is adjusting its calendar to continue work on pending issues before beginning a January recess several days later than originally planned.

Under the revised schedule, lawmakers have added January 9, 11, 12, and 13 to the days on which the Senate and House will convene. After that, lawmakers will be in recess until the second part of the 2021 legislative session begins on Feb. 2.

Any further adjustments to the 2021 Regular Session Calendar will be agreed upon and announced when the General Assembly reconvenes on February 2.

 

--END--

 





 

 

 

Jan. 7, 2021

Lawmakers seek say in executive orders and regs

Sen. Matt Castlen, R-Owensboro, explains Senate Bill 1, a measure that would limit the effective dates of some executive orders issued by the governor to 30 days unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly, during today's Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate moved swiftly on the third day of the 2021 Regular Session to pass a pair of bills that would curtail the governor’s use of executive orders and regulations.

The first measure, Senate Bill 1, would dictate that executive orders that place restrictions on the function of schools, businesses or nonprofits expire after 30 days – unless extended by the General Assembly. The same would go for executive orders that regulate political, religious and social gatherings or impose mandatory quarantines or isolation requirements. SB 1 passed by a 27-9-1 vote.

The second measure, Senate Bill 2, would have similar effects. That measure would require some administrative regulations to last no longer than 30 days if, for example, they imposed restrictions on gatherings or mandatory quarantines. SB 2 passed by a 31-6 vote.

“Senate Bill 1 represents freedom,” Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said in reference to the governor’s emergency executive orders issued in the wake of the worldwide pandemic. “Our people are screaming out. In my district, I take calls from small business owners who are weeping. They don’t know how to feed their families”

The fact the bills were given the designations of SB 1 and SB 2 denotes the measures are a priority of the chamber’s majority caucus leadership.

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said he was not in favor of SB 1. “The pain of this pandemic is not partisan,” he said. “My fear is that this bill is. In this instance, the elected official best suited to deal with a pandemic is the governor, particularly when we have a part-time legislature.”

Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said SB 1 wasn’t “trying to strip anyone’s powers.”

Sen. Matt Castlen, R-Owensboro, said he introduced the bill because the pandemic brought to light “fractures” in the current laws concerning executive orders. He said other provisions of SB 1 would allow chief executive officers or legislative bodies of local governments to seek emergency executive orders for their communities beyond 30 days in length.

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, a sponsor of SB 2, said the goal of that measure was to provide a more logical administrative process, transparency and legislative oversight to hamper the ability of executive agencies to legislate through regulation.

“Some of the reasons regulation reform is so important and is dealt with in Senate Bill 2 as a priority bill is that fact that regulations are law,” West said. “When agency regulations are promulgated and accepted, they become the law of the land. They are where the rubber meets the road.”

Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, spoke against SB 2. “Do not let the politics of this pandemic, do not let what has happened on a national level, affect the ability of this state and the people of this state to respond appropriately and be kept safe,” she said.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Montgomery, said SB 2 was needed to stop the executive branch from abusing the regulatory process. “I don’t see anywhere where this bill mentions COVID-19,” he said. “Somehow that is where this discussion has gone.”

SB 1 and SB 2 contain emergency clauses, meaning the measures would become effective immediately if it is passed into law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislature. The bills now go to the state House of Representatives for further consideration.

END

 

Jan. 7, 2021

House passes bill to allow businesses, schools to reopen

Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville, presentingggg House Bill 1, which he is the primary sponsor, on the House floor today. HB 1 became the first bill passed by the House this legislative session.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— After clearing the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week, House Bill 1 became the first bill passed by the House this legislative session.

Gov. Andy Beshear issued a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 6, 2020. Since then, he has issued several Stay at Home orders requiring businesses, especially restaurants, to close for a period of time to indoor dining. Public schools have also remained closed to in-person learning for much of the last year in most of the state.

A group of lawmakers is now trying to change that.

“House Bill 1 is the House Majority’s attempt to provide clarity and reassurance to our businesses and schools, especially those that have been so harshly impacted by the COVID-19 virus … as reassurance to them that if they can operate safely in a manner that protects both employees and patrons or students, if they’re a school, that they can remain open,” Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville, who is the primary sponsor of the bill, said.

HB 1 would allow any business or school district to remain open as long as they form and implement a comprehensive COVID-19 safety plan following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pandemic guidelines and post the plan on-site, such as on a front door, where customers or students and parents can read them.

In an effort to help businesses that are struggling due to pandemic-related closures and building capacity restrictions, the bill also suspends penalty and interest on unpaid unemployment insurance through the end of the calendar year.

The bill would also ensure that in-person noncustodial parental visitation would be allowed to resume that had once been suspended due to the pandemic.

In addition, residents of long-term care facilities would be allowed to have a designated essential personal care visitor. The visitor would be required to follow COVID-19 safety protocols among other requirements.

Visitation for residents in long-term care facilities has been restricted due to the pandemic.

Minority Whip Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, criticized the bill, saying while it is framed as a bill to help businesses and schools, some of the CDC guidelines are confusing and some are stricter than the guidelines in place by Beshear’s executive orders.

“The way to reopen our economy is to defeat COVID-19,” Hatton said, adding she fears this bill would increase the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Kentucky.

Rep. Buddy Wheatley, D-Covington, also spoke against the bill, stating it lessens power of the state in favor of the CDC, a federal organization.

 HB 1 co-sponsor and Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, said the CDC is the “gold standard” and that it says schools should reopen, which he supports.

HB 1, which passed 73 to 15, will now move to the Senate for consideration.

 

END

 

 

 

Jan. 7, 2021

Senate panel advances bill on executive orders

Sen. Matt Castlen, R-Owensboro, explains Senate Bill 1, a measure that would limit the effective dates of some executive orders issued by the governor to 30 days unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly, during yesterday’s meeting of the Senate State & Local Government Committee. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation curtailing the governor’s powers to issue executive orders is headed to the full Senate for consideration.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 1, would dictate that executive orders that place restrictions on the function of schools, businesses or nonprofits expire after 30 days – unless extended by the General Assembly. The same would go for executive orders that regulate political, religious and social gatherings or impose mandatory quarantines or isolation requirements.

Other emergency executive orders would also expire in 30 days unless requested by a chief executive officer or legislative body of a local government, according to language in SB 1. And those would only apply in the local government’s jurisdiction and only for the time requested by the local officials.

Sen. Matt Castlen, R-Owensboro, said he introduced SB 1 because the current worldwide pandemic brought to light “fractures” in the current laws concerning executive orders. He made the remarks while testifying before yesterday’s meeting of the Senate State & Local Government Committee. The fact the bill was given the designation of SB 1 reflects that it is a priority of the chamber’s majority caucus leadership.

“We are not hindering the governor to be able to do his job,” Castlen said before an amended version of SB 1 was voted out of the committee. “We all realize the importance of the executive branch to be able to act during a state of an emergency because when an emergency happens, they come fast. That is why they are an emergency.

“We give the governor the ability to do his job – and do it well in 30 days. At that point, if it isn’t an isolated event that local governments can step in to manage, the General Assembly should have some say.”

Another provision of SB 1 would allow the General Assembly to terminate a declaration of emergency at any time by a joint resolution, Castlen said. A second would remove the authority of the governor along with the secretary of state to change the manner of an election during an emergency by requiring the approval of the legislature.

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said it appeared SB 1 would “tie the hands” of the governor.

Committee Chair Sen. Michael J. Nemes, R-Shepherdsville, disagreed with that assessments He said SB 1 wasn’t a critique of the current governor. Nemes said that the bill would not take away any power of the governor that wasn’t given to the executive branch by legislation in the ‘90s.

“It is our obligation to adjust some of our actions,” Nemes said in explaining his support of SB 1. “This is what we are doing here."

The committee also advanced an amended version of Senate Bill 2, a related 59-page bill tackling emergency administrative regulations.

That bill’s sponsor, Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, said the goal of SB 2 was to provide a more logical administrative process, transparency and legislative oversight to hamper the ability of executive agencies to legislate through regulation.

“We were not prepared to address the worldwide pandemic with the current regulatory process, so there were some gaps,” West said. “Those became readily apparent in the interim session.”

SB 2 would require some administrative regulations to be in effect no longer than 30 days if they imposed restrictions on gatherings or imposed mandatory quarantine or isolation requirements, West said. The bill would also require the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to promulgate administrative regulations to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, but those regulations would also be limited to 30 days if they impacted educational institutions, businesses or nonprofits.

Majority Floor Leader Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said SB 2 would help curtail the executive branch from using administrative regulations to circumvent the legislative process.

SB 1 and SB 2 contain emergency clauses, meaning the measures would become effective immediately if is passed into law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislature.

END

 

 

 

Jan. 6, 2021

 

'Born-alive' bill clears Senate committee

  

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, speaks on Senate Bill 9, titled the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, during today's meeting of the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee. For a high-res photo, click here.

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation titled the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act passed the Kentucky Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee today.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 9, would require that an infant born alive to be given the appropriate medical care to preserve life. Any violation of SB 9 could result in the medical provider’s license being revoked and felony charges.

The measure’s sponsor, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, said SB 9 would also formalize that any born-alive infant shall be treated as a legal person in state statutes.

“It really provides exactly what it says,” said Westerfield. “It requires a child born alive from any circumstance, whether it’s an abortion that didn’t work or a premature birth or whatever the circumstance might be. It is not just limited to abortions. But if a child is born alive, it must be given medical care consistent with whatever its needs are.”

The General Assembly passed a similar bill in the final days of the 2020 session, but it was vetoed after the legislature had adjourned for the year.

In response to questions, Westerfield said SB 9 was necessary because a federal law addressing the issue did not contain an enforcement mechanism. Westerfield also said he wasn’t aware of any other Kentucky law that addressed the specific circumstances addressed by SB 9.

SB 9 contains an emergency clause, meaning it would become effective immediately if it is passed into law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislature. The bill now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.

 

END

 

Jan. 6, 2021

 

Bill regarding tobacco settlement funds advances

  

Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, introduced Senate Bill 3, a measure concerning the Agricultural Development Board and the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation, during today's meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services meeting. For a high-res photo, click here.

 

FRANKFORT – A measure to move the organizations that decide how to spend much of Kentucky’s share of the Tobacco Master Agreement settlement money from the governor's purview cleared the Senate Agriculture Committee today.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 3, would place the Agricultural Development Board and the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation under the Kentucky Agriculture Department. SB 3 would also abolish the Kentucky Council on Agriculture and the Kentucky Tobacco Settlement Trust Corporation.

Committee Chair Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, said he filed SB 3 out of concern the groups were being politicized. He cited examples including excluding representation of production agriculture from an ag-tech advisory group.

The groups came about after the 1998 Tobacco Master Agreement. That court settlement resulted in tobacco companies paying states billions of dollars in yearly installments as compensation for taxpayer money spent in connection with tobacco-related diseases. Hornback said those groups helped Kentucky tobacco farmers diversify. Kentucky went from 250,000 farms raising tobacco to less than 3,500, he said.

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, said she was hesitant to dismantle something that has worked so well since its implementation in the early 2000s. She said some of Hornback’s concerns could be addressed with small changes that could be accomplished with some “tweaking” of language.

Webb added that the groups should remain under the purview of the executive branch because it has far more cabinets and resources to dovetail with the agriculture groups’ projects or recommendations. “That’s why it was in the executive branch,” Webb said, adding she helped draft the legislation that created the groups.

Hornback said SB 3 contains safeguards to prevent agriculture commissioners from also trying to politicize the groups. Those include making sure there are revolving terms on the groups’ boards and the groups’ funds could not be commingled with other agriculture department money.

President Pro Tempore Sen. David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, said he supported SB 3 because he didn’t want politics to jeopardize the record of the groups' successes. He added that the tobacco settlement money had leapfrogged Kentucky’s agriculture industry into the future.

“It has been maddening, saddening and frightening to see this vital piece of our agriculture fabric to be politicized,” Givens said of the concerns Hornback outlined.

Majority Floor Leader Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he supported SB 3 because, among other things, it streamlines government.

“I always felt it was a duplication to have a Governor’s Office of Ag Policy created by statute when we have a Department of Agriculture that is in the constitution,” Thayer said, adding that he had introduced similar legislation during prior sessions.

SB 3 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

END

 

December 21, 2020

 

Many ways to stay connected to General Assembly action

Lawmakers’ 2021 session begins Jan. 5

 

FRANKFORT -- No matter what part of Kentucky you’re in, you can stay closely connected to the General Assembly's 2021 session, which starts at the State Capitol on Jan. 5.

Kentuckians can use online resources to:

         See the General Assembly’s daily schedule.

         Tune in to live coverage of legislative meetings.

         Find out who represents you.

         Contact lawmakers and offer feedback.

         Read bills and resolutions.

         Receive a notice when a bill advances.

         See how lawmakers voted on bills and resolutions.

         View informational materials on topics being considered by committees.

         Learn about the legislative process and much more on the General Assembly Home Page: https://legislature.ky.gov/Pages/index.aspx.

Following the General Assembly’s work often begins with a daily look at the Legislative Calendar: https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/LegislativeCalendar. The calendar shows which committees are meeting and when the Senate and House will convene.

Livestreams of legislative action can be viewed through feeds provided by Kentucky Educational Television (KET) and the Legislative Research Commission (LRC.) In recent months, LRC has made significant tech upgrades in committee rooms to improve videoconferencing capabilities, audio systems, and video livestreams for those viewing meetings remotely. KET livestreams all chamber proceedings, while committee meeting coverage is provided by both KET and LRC. For links to the livestreams, go to https://legislature.ky.gov/Public%20Services/PIO/Pages/Live-Streams.aspx.

You can find each lawmakers’ contact info, biographical info, committee assignments and sponsored legislation by clicking on the “Legislators” tab near the top of the General Assembly Home Page: https://legislature.ky.gov/Pages/index.aspx. You can also look up who represents your district.

The online Legislative Record (https://legislature.ky.gov/Legislation/Pages/default.aspx) has information on every piece of legislation introduced in the Senate and House. You can read summaries, the full text of bills, resolutions, amendments and see exactly how far each piece of legislation has advanced in the process. Bills can be looked up according to bill number, sponsor, or topic. If a bill has been voted on in a chamber, you can see how each lawmaker voted by clicking “Vote History” on a bill’s summary page.

Bill Watch, a bill tracking service, provided through a partnership of Kentucky.gov and LRC, sends users email notifications each time bills they are interested in takes a step forward. To sign up for Bill Watch, go to https://kentucky.gov/services/pages/billwatch.aspx.

Information about legislative committees is available at https://legislature.ky.gov/Committees/Pages/default.aspx. To view materials such as info sheets, handouts, and PowerPoint presentations that are compiled for lawmakers to review at committee meetings, click on the “Meeting Materials” tab on the left side of each committee’s page.

To share feedback on an issue with lawmakers, call the General Assembly’s Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. Kentuckians with hearing loss can use Kentucky Relay by dialing 7-1-1.

A Spanish language line for legislative information will be available throughout the General Assembly’s 2021 session by calling 1-866-840-2835.

To directly reach a lawmaker’s office, call 502-564-8100. An operator will transfer the call to the office of the lawmaker you want to reach.

If you have a question about the lawmaking process or legislative resources, the LRC Public Information can be reached by calling 502-564-8100 ext. 307.

 

--END--

 


 


Dec. 16, 2020

 

Lawmakers share details on health-related legislation

  

Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser shared details on two pieces of upcoming legislation she plans to introduce in 2021 during yesterday's Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services meeting. A high-res copy of the photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— As the 2021 session of the Kentucky General Assembly inches closer, lawmakers are already hard at work preparing their pieces of legislation to formally introduce in January.
 
Yesterday, members and a few guests of the Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services shared their upcoming health-related bills during the committee’s last meeting of 2020.
 
Committee co-chair Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Hill, discussed two bills she will sponsor during the upcoming legislative session. First, is a bill on giving local governments more control over tobacco sales and marketing in an effort to reduce tobacco use and tobacco-related illnesses.
 
“This bill is not a local mandate,” Moser said. “Rather it gives local elected officials a tool that they can use to improve health in their communities if they choose to use it.”
 
The legislation is supported by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow and the Kentucky League of Cities.
 
Moser also discussed Bill Request 966. This bill would change prior authorization requirements for medication for addiction treatment.
 
“Most of you know that prior auth(orization) is used to either approve or deny treatment, which has been prescribed by your healthcare provider,” Moser said. “Prior authorization forces your healthcare provider to contact your insurance company or your pharmacy benefit manager to get approval before you can start certain treatments.”
 
Moser added that prior authorization requirements can often delay time-sensitive treatment for those with substance abuse disorders for several days or weeks.
 
Committee co-chair Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, shared info on BR 35, which would regulate out-of-network billing.
 
“The key thing on the proposal that I’ve got is it holds patients harmless,” Alvarado said. “So if someone does have a surprise bill of some sort, it would require their insurance coverage to make a payment to the provider based off of the current median in-network rate or the median in-network rate for 2019, whichever is higher.”
 
Alvarado noted that a similar bill is making its way through Congress and could be passed by the end of this month, which would make his bill obsolete.
 
In the same spirit of providing more coverage to Kentuckians, Rep. Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell, has pre-filed a bill relating to Medicaid eligibility for individuals diagnosed with breast cancer.
 
BR 86 would allow people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer to be eligible for Medicaid services without a long delay.
 
Banta asked Vanessa Ashley, a 55-year-old Kentuckian battling metastatic breast cancer, to speak on behalf of the bill.
 
Ashley said many people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer cannot work or eventually have to quit their jobs and are at risk of losing their health insurance. This is especially true for unmarried patients who do not have a spouse’s insurance plan to fall back on.
 
Currently, there is a three to five month processing time period with an additional two year waiting period before accessing metastatic breast cancer Medicaid benefits, Ashley said. This gap in coverage could keep metastatic breast cancer patients from receiving the care they need due to the high cost of the treatments they require.

In addition, Rep. Deanna Frazier, R-Richmond, also shared information on BR 163, which would keep most of the state’s pandemic telehealth policies in place permanently.

--END--

 





 



Dec. 9, 2020

 

LRC launches card-writing initiative for holidays

  

From left, Senate Majority Leadership Administrative Assistant Christy Morris, Legislative Services Training and Education Coordinator Lisa Thomas and Director's Office Administative Assistant Mariah Derringer-Lackey. A high-res copy of the photo can be found here.

 

Dec. 9, 2020

 

LRC launches card-writing initiative for holidays

FRANKFORT – The Legislative Research Commission (LRC) wanted to make residents of long-term care facilities across Kentucky a little less lonely during a holiday season marked by social distancing.

That’s why LRC employees launched a card-writing initiative this month. The goal was to send at least one handwritten card to each of the state’s about 250 long-term care facilities, but some of those facilities have requested cards for each resident.

“If your family is anything like mine, curtailing holiday traditions because of social distancing has been hard on the soul,” said LRC Director Jay Hartz, who was the catalyst for the initiative. “That’s why my heart truly goes out to those families with loved ones in long-term care facilities who won’t be able to spend time with them this holiday season. My hope is this card-writing initiative fosters some of that human connection lost with the restrictions.”More than 50 LRC employees have volunteered their time to write personalized messages, said Legislative Services Training and Education Coordinator Lisa Thomas, who helped spearhead the project.

“LRC staffers are givers,” Thomas said, adding that she dropped off blank cards to LRC employees working remotely so they could participate. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive. One staffer asked if she could get her children involved. We’ve had folks requesting 50, 25, 20 cards and a couple that said give me as many as you want.”Director’s Office Administrative Assistant Mariah Derringer-Lackey printed mailing labels for each of the facilities. The goal is to have at least 350 cards written by Dec. 11 and ready for mailing. She added this was an agency-wide initiative that included the LRC Print Shop producing the cards to be mailed.

“It’s just been a wonderful, heartfelt project to participate in,” said Derringer-Lackey, who also spearheaded the project. “(Thomas) and I have enjoyed seeing the amount of staff involvement. We are both very excited to spread some joy this holiday season.”

--END--

 





 

 

Nov. 19, 2020

 

Veterans group unveils 2021 legislative priorities

  

Rep. Matthew Koch, R-Paris, (from left to right) Joint Executive Council of Veterans Organizations (JECVO) Chairman Edwin Vincent and JECVO Legislative Officer Larry Arnett testify at today’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection. A high-res copy of the photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Protecting the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs (KDVA) budget while providing property tax relief for veterans service organizations is at the top of a wish list for the state’s veterans advocates.

Joint Executive Council of Veterans Organizations (JECVO) No. 1 legislative priority for the 2021 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly is protecting KDVA’s budget, said Larry Arnett, the group’s legislative officer. He made the comments while testifying before today’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection.

KDVA Commissioner Keith Jackson testified that his department returned $263,000 to the state general fund in response to the governor’s budget reduction request in April. The General Assembly will convene on Jan. 5 to pass the state’s next fiscal budget.

Jackson also said his department had received $3.9 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. As of Oct. 31, the department had spent $1.9 million and obligated the remaining amount for similar COVID-19 expenses, including increases in medical costs for veterans.

JECVO’S second, and final priority, is legislation, known as Bill Request 153, that would create a property tax exemption for property owned by veterans service organizations. To qualify for the tax exemption, over 50 percent of an organization’s annual net income would have to be expended on behalf of veterans and other charitable causes, according to language in the bill.

The sponsor, Rep. Matthew Koch, R-Paris, testified similar legislation was filed during the last two regular sessions. He said 31 states already have laws governing property tax exemptions for veterans service organizations.

Arnett said if BR 153 was enacted it would mean a loss of about $300,000 annually in tax revenue. Only 8 percent of that figure currently goes to the state, he said. The majority goes to the cities or counties where the veterans service organizations have posts.

“They don’t mind losing that $275,000 because they get much more than that in charitable contributions and civic involvement by our veterans organization folks,” Arnett said about support for BR 153 from the Kentucky Association of Counties and Kentucky League of Cities.

Arnett said BR 153 was critical to the viability of Kentucky's veterans service organizations, many of which were in financial difficulty even before COVID-19.

Jackson said his department would also like to see legislation to align Kentucky’s education benefits with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, establish a veterans suicide prevention program within his department, and designate June 12 as Women Veterans Appreciation Day. 

Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, said he would like to see the state’s veterans advocates push for the passage of proposed legislation to provide tax incentives for service members to retire in Kentucky. His district includes a portion of Fort Knox, with a daytime population of about 25,200 soldiers, civilian employees and family members, according to the U.S. Army.

END

 

Nov. 17, 2020

 

Legislative panel hears testimony in favor of gas tax increase

 

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, shares his thoughts on the governor's role in the legislative process during an Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting on Nov. 17.  For a high-res photo, click here.

FRANKFORT— Two organizations representing Kentucky’s cities and counties want lawmakers to make increasing the gas tax to improve roadways and bridges a legislative priority during the upcoming legislative session.
 
The Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) and Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) advocated for a gas tax increase during their presentations to the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government meeting today.
 
“In our members poll, a majority of them told us that more than 40% of the county roads are in need of moderate to significant repair and a quarter of our members said that more than 60% of their roads needed repair,” said Madison County Judge-Executive and KACo President Reagan Taylor.
 
Taylor said KACo has roughly 1,500 members and about two-thirds of attendees representing 92 counties at KACo’s annual conference last month participated in the poll.
 
He also pointed out that the state’s gas tax revenues have been dropping in recent years and an increase in the gas tax is needed as the cost to maintain roadways and bridges increases and the funding to complete these projects drops.
 
KLC President and Mayor of London Troy Rudder also advocated for a gas tax increase on behalf of the organization and its members.
 
“The success of our state is tied to the success of our local communities,” Rudder said. “They depend on our infrastructure. We must have reliable and safe streets and bridges. The issue is funding. We simply do not have enough money to take care of all the transportation needs we have.”
 
KACo’s presentation also advocated for fees for electric vehicles, expanded broadband, criminal justice reform, expanded access to substance abuse treatment, jail relief and more.
 
Following KACo’s presentation, Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, said some of their legislative goals will require support from “leadership from the top.”
 
“I know its easy to say, ‘just get these things accomplished,’ but we need the governor to step up on some of these issues and he’s not been willing to do that thus far,” Alvarado said.
 
Other than advocating for an increase in the gas tax, KLC’s presentation also focused on changing the state constitution and state law to allow cities to diversify its revenue, limiting no-knock warrants and more.
 

END

 

 

 

November 13, 2020

  

Committee hears testimony on proposed education-related legislation

FRANKFORT— The 2021 session of the Kentucky General Assembly is less than two months away and lawmakers have ideas to improve education in the Commonwealth on their minds.

Two presentations during yesterday’s Interim Joint Committee on Education informed lawmakers on plans to improve accountability and literacy in K-12 schools.

Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, and Rep. Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell, presented Bill Request 176: A Joint Resolution Related to School Accountability, to the committee. 

“We would like to develop a committee that evaluates flexibility in the federal required assessments, so that we can have accountability measures that don’t just provide data to the state at the end of the year, but that they also provide information that can drive instruction,” Bojanowski said.

According to the presentation, Kentucky requires more testing for K-12 students than the federal government requires and spends roughly $21 million assessments each year. Individual districts also spend millions on testing each year.

Bojanowski and Banta have several concerns with the current accountability system. According to their presentation, the current system results in test-based instruction and does not give teachers information that improves instruction, among other concerns.

If passed, BR 176 would require that, “the commissioner of education to convene a strategic Assessment and Accountability Committee to examine opportunities to improve the approach to assessment and accountability.”

The committee would be required to report their findings to the Interim Joint Committee on Education by Dec. 1, 2021 and again on Dec. 1, 2022.

According to the presentation, the committee’s findings could lead the state to implement testing that more accurately measures what a student knows and gives teachers a better idea of who is falling behind throughout the school year. Currently, students as young as third-grade are only given end-of-the-year assessments instead of assessments throughout the school year.

While the resolution’s goal would be to find a way to reduce the amount of state required testing, Banta clarified that: “In no way would we ever interfere with a district’s decision to have more tests… We’re simply addressing the mandatory testing.”

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, and Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, also gave a presentation on efforts to improve early literacy. Both lawmakers proposed “Read to Succeed” measures in the General Assembly’s 2020 session.

“I’m convinced that this initiative, with appropriate funding, is the best way to improve Kentucky’s standing and reduce achievement gaps in the state,” West said.

According to the presentation, the expanded early literacy measures envisioned by the legislators would amend parts of KRS 158 and KRS 164 while also introducing a new chapter to KRS 164. It would also create a literacy coaching program, repurpose the reading diagnostic and intervention fund to train and support teachers and library media specialists and more.

END

 

 

Oct. 29, 2020

 

COVID-19 vaccine plan shared with lawmakers

  

Rep. Russell Webber, R-Shepherdsville, asks Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack a question about COVID-19 vaccine distribution during yesterday's Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services meeting. For a high-res photo, click here.

FRANKFORT— There are many unknowns when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.
 
Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner for the Kentucky Department for Public Health, reiterated that point during a presentation on the state’s plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution during yesterday’s Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services meeting.
 
“There are many details that are still forthcoming, but this is the best we understand it at this time,” Stack said.
 
While an exact date of when the vaccine will become available has not been set, Stack testified he is optimistic there will be a COVID-19 vaccine available in the U.S. sometime in early to mid-December. When the time comes, Kentucky has a distribution plan in place.
 
Rep. Russell Webber, R-Shepherdsville, asked if the vaccine will be required for the general public or any specific group.
 
Stack responded that the choice will be voluntary and the goal is “that they are making a fully informed decision about the risks and benefits.”
 
According to Stack’s presentation, high-risk health care workers and first responders will receive the vaccine in Phase 1a followed by Phase 1b with people with underlying health conditions that put them at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 along with older adults living in nursing homes, assisted living or rehab facilities.
 
The phases continue, with teachers and childcare workers and people living in homeless shelters, prisons and jails, and more people with underlying health conditions along with critical workers in high risk settings receiving the vaccine in Phase 2.
 
Healthy young adults and children would receive the vaccine in Phase 3. By Phase 4, the vaccine will be available to everyone who wants one.
 
If a vaccine becomes available for those in Phase 1 in December, Stack said it take all of 2021 before everyone who wants a vaccine will have access to one.
 
While the promise of a vaccine by December is looking optimistic, there are some challenging logistics concerning storage and shelf life of a vaccine once a vial is in use, Stack said. It is also likely everyone will need to receive the vaccine twice for it to be effective, he added. Pharmacies and hospitals are more than likely going to be the ones administering the vaccine.
 
Overall, Stack said the task of administering the vaccine is going to be “very difficult.”
 
Several lawmakers, including Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, also had concerns about the logistics of distribution because of social distancing requirements and the vaccine’s shelf life.
 
“I just wonder if we’re being realistic about what you’re saying, about how this is going to be done?” Burch said.
 
Stack said Burch’s concerns are valid and he’s trying to be realistic about how the process will unfold.

END

 

 

Oct. 27, 2020

 

Paid parental leave for state workers studied

  

Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, (left) and Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, testify in support of Bill Request 344, legislation that would allow state employees a paid leave of absence of 12 weeks for the birth or adoption of a child during today's meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government. A high-res copy of the photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – A legislative panel took testimony today on measures that would grant state employees paid parental leave and annual cost of living raises.

Bill Request 344 would allow state employees a paid leave of absence of 12 weeks for the birth or adoption of a child. Employees would have to work for the state for at least 52 weeks to be eligible for the proposed benefit.

“This is not unique to Kentucky,” Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, said while presenting the prefiled bill to the Interim Joint Committee on State Government. “This is Kentucky getting on board with what Republicans and Democrats are doing across the country and in Washington.”

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, asked whether the 12 weeks would have to be taken consecutively. Nemes said the paid time off would not have to be taken consecutive but would have to be used within the first 24 weeks.

Sen. Michael J. Nemes, R-Shepherdsville, who is Rep. Nemes’ father, asked why fathers would also be eligible for the paid leave under the proposal.

The younger Nemes responded that science has shown maternal and paternal leave benefits infants the most. Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, who also testified in support of BR 344, added that mothers who have complications during childbirth often need someone to care for them. Fathers, she said, are often uniquely positioned to provide that care.

“Paid leave gives families peace of mind to focus on the baby in this really important, but short period, of their lives,” Raymond said after recalling returning to session in January, two weeks after she gave birth. “Without paid parental leave, we see mothers, in particular, going back to work before they have recovered.”

In response to a question from Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, Nemes said if both parents worked for state government, each would be eligible for the 12 paid weeks of leave.

Bill Request 70 would provide an annual cost of living raise for state employees. The cost of living adjustment would be the average of the consumer price index for two calendar years.

Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, testified that all state employees are supposed to get a 5 percent salary increment increase every year, under current state law, but that hasn’t happened since July 2001.

“The idea behind this legislation (BR 70) is to have a more obtainable goal as far as compensation,” said Tipton, who sponsored the prefiled bill along with Rep. Derek Lewis, R-London.

Lewis said a coalition of lawmakers has been working to address state employee compensation over the last several sessions. “It’s a bipartisan issue,” he said. “Let’s get this thing passed.”

Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, said something is needed to keep the state competitive in the job market. “I think it is desperately needed,” he said. Graviss has also filed similar legislation, known as Bill Request 180.

The prefiled bills could be taken up during the 2021 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly, set to convene on Jan. 5.

END

 

Oct. 15, 2020

 

 

Lawmakers express concerns about COVID-19's impact on child abuse cases 

Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, asks a question about the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on child abuse court cases during yesterday's Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee meeting. A high-res version of the photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— Over the summer, lawmakers on the Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee expressed concern over reported incidences of child abuse and child abuse court cases.
 
Yesterday, the committee received an update on both.
 
According to Kentucky Court of Justice data, in March 2019, 2,191 dependency, neglect and abuse cases were filed in Kentucky courts and 2,002 were filed in April 2019. In March 2020 and April 2020, 1,476 and 903 cases were filed, respectively.
 
Marcus Vanover, a family court judge in Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle Counties, shared with lawmakers that although COVID-19 safety protocols have changed how court operates, courts did not close.
 
“The judicial centers continued to allow physical access for those that were seeking emergency orders for domestic violence, dating violence and child welfare,” Vanover said. “… Our courts scrambled to learn how to do hearings remotely, however, child welfare cases have been held even on the first day of COVID limitations.”
 
Vanover also told lawmakers that child welfare cases have remained a priority for courts across the state.
 
After the presentation, Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, asked if the pandemic is the reason why the amount of court cases filed in March and April dropped this year.  
 
“Frankly, with children having to stay at home, there just were fewer eyes on them that would be reporting potential abuse or neglect,” Vanover said, adding he believes the COVID-19 pandemic is a contributing factor to the lower amount of cases filed in March and April 2020.
 
Bechler responded by saying he believes this data is an argument to open schools back up since so many reported incidences of suspected abuse comes from teachers and daycare workers.
 
In response to Bechler’s comment, Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said he does not believe it is wise for children to return to schools due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the state.
 
Committee co-chair Rep. David Meade, R-Stanford, also weighed in on the issue.
 
“That is an issue that there are several varying opinions on,” he said. “I appreciate each and every person’s opinion… I do think, however, as we just saw with these slides with the dependency, neglect and abuse cases that are filed going down… there are sometimes things worse than this virus for children.”
 
Although COVID-19 has had an impact on child welfare, the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) testified that staff is still working to assess for the safety, risks, and the needs of the families they serve. Video conferencing has been utilized and in-person visitation has been permitted if needed, according to the presentation.
 
DCBS Division of Protection and Permanency Director Christa Bell said that at the beginning of the pandemic, there were concerns on how that would impact foster family availability.
 
“We were very pleasantly surprised that nearly all foster families surveyed were willing to accept more children and even more than half of the families surveyed were willing to accept children that had potentially been COVID exposed or COVID positive,” Bell said.
 
Bell also testified that the amount of intakes of children during the summer months was close to how it usually is during a normal, COVID-19-free year.

 

END

 

 

 

Oct. 14, 2020

 

 

Lawmakers hear testimony on substance abuse treatment programs, needs

Rep. Russell Webber, R-Shepherdsville, responds to a comment by Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control and Policy during yesterday's Substance Use Recovery Task Force Meeting. A high-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— The opioid epidemic facing the nation sadly has not left Kentucky untouched.
 
Over the last eight years, the Kentucky General Assembly has allocated funding and passed several bills to combat the crisis and hold those who make the issue worse accountable.
 
During yesterday’s Substance Use Recovery Task Force meeting, Van Ingram, executive director for the Kentucky Office of Drug Control and Policy, kicked off the conversation with lawmakers on what Kentucky has done and is doing to combat the substance abuse epidemic.
 
Ingram also told lawmakers these programs need reliable funding sources and more funding, if possible.
 
“These core dollars that we’re receiving are crucial,” Ingram said. “… It’s difficult for states and organizations to plan when we have these one-year grants.”
 
Ingram told committee co-chair Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, that there is a bipartisan bill working its way through the U.S. Congress that could guarantee up to six years of funding.
 
“Co-chair Alvarado and I may be working together on some solutions to help you with your request to Congress,” committee co-chair Rep. Russell Webber, R-Shepherdsville responded.
 
Representatives from treatment centers across the Commonwealth also shared the challenges and needs facing their facilities and patients with lawmakers.
 
Mike Cox, president of Isaiah House, shared research with lawmakers that shows money invested in addiction treatment reduces drug related-crime, judicial costs and medical costs.
 
“The article continues by stating good outcomes are contingent on adequate treatment length,” Cox said.
 
Cox said that many health insurance companies will only pay for short-term treatment rather than long-term treatment and many people cannot afford to pay for long-term treatment on their own.
 
“The deeply rooted issues of addiction as we know are not solved quickly,” Cox said. “Trying to treat addiction in 21 days is like treating cancer with Tylenol: It doesn’t work.”
 
Cox added that the biggest issue facing Kentuckians isn’t that there aren’t enough beds for patients, but that access to the beds available is hindered by patients not being able to afford quality care.
 
Dr. Tuyen Tran and Dr. Marvin Bishop with 2nd Chance Center for Addiction Treatment shared with lawmakers that in rural areas it’s more difficult for patients to seek care due to lack of transportation.
 
Although telehealth access and services expanded recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tran said there are still some barriers when it comes to substance abuse treatment.
 
“The DEA has a clause, the Ryan Haight Act, which requires that the initial visit be an in-person, face-to-face visit if you wish to prescribe a controlled substance,” Tran said.
 
According to Tran and Bishop’s presentation, many people seeking substance abuse treatment require the use of controlled substances to treat their addiction.
 
Tran also agreed with Isaiah House’s claim that insurance providers, including Medicaid, hinder access to quality treatment.
 
According to Tran, there are restrictions in place on mental health counseling services and how many drug screenings a patient can have and what type of screenings.
 
“I know it’s very difficult to articulate language and verbiage to draft in a piece of legislation, but instead of having hard, arbitrary (language), allow the clinicians to do what we normally do and what we were trained to do, which is use our judgement,” Tran said.  
 
Alvarado responded that he believes there’s some legislation in the works to make the expanded access to telehealth due to COVID-19 permanent, however, there may be some federal restrictions.
 

END

 

 

Sept. 23, 2020

 

 

Testimony highlights potential for local government power over fluoride, tobacco marketing

Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, left, and Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, testify before the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government on potential legislation to give local governments control over tobacco marketing and sales. A high-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— Passionate advocates for and against adding fluoride to tap water testified before lawmakers on the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government yesterday.
 
For decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that safe amounts of fluoride be added to tap water to prevent tooth decay. State regulations require water to be fluoridated in most water districts across the state.
 
Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, opened the discussion on giving local governments control over water fluoridation.
 
Although he has concerns about fluoridation, West said he isn’t “anti-dental care” and that the state could work on ways to enhance dental care in Kentucky, especially in the eastern part of the state where dental issues are more prevalent.
 
Cindi Baston, a mother and registered nurse, then shared how she believes fluoride in drinking water has negatively impacted her family.
 
“My sister was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which is a concern for ingesting fluoride,” Baston said. “And her physician asked her to filter it out of her water.”
 
Baston also said her daughter has experienced dental fluorosis, which is a condition that causes changes in the tooth enamel due consumption of fluoride during a child’s teeth-forming years.
 
Dr. John Kall, a Louisville dentist and a fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry, also spoke in favor of giving local governments the power to remove fluoride from drinking water.
 
“In my opinion, and from my perspective even as a dentist, the core issue here is about freedom of choice, informed consent and whether our state government has the right to put the brains of my current and future grandchildren at an increased risk of harm,” Kall said.
 
Kall said peer-reviewed research from medical journals shows fluoride in tap water results in loss of IQ, increased levels of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and increased thyroid issues.
 
Dr. Darren Greenwell, a Radcliff dentist and president of the Kentucky Dental Association, disagreed.
 
“Fluoridation has been the second, single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay,” Greenwell said. “… I have seen on a daily basis the devastation of tooth decay in my patients, children, adults.”
 
Greenwell argued that there is also “good” science showing fluoridation is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay. He also said when fluoride was removed from tap water in Juneau, Alaska, the city saw an increase the amount of Medicaid dollars spent on repairing children’s teeth in the aftermath.
 
On the topic of local government control and public health, Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville and Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, testified in favor of giving local governments more control over tobacco sales and marketing.
 
“I believe that allowing local control of the marketing and the sales of tobacco products in Kentucky is the next logical, cost free step for Kentucky to reduce tobacco-related illnesses and the associate healthcare expenses as well as the business productivity and losses in the Commonwealth,” Moser said.
 
During her presentation, Moser cited statistics that show Kentucky ranks high in smoking-related illnesses.
 
“These smoking-related health issues are very expensive in our state,” Moser said. “The annual cost of healthcare related to smoking-related illnesses is $1.92 billion annually.”
 
The piece of legislation in mind would allow counties and cities to require health warnings on retail tobacco displays, limit tobacco product advertising in stores near schools and playgrounds and create buffer zones between schools and tobacco retailers.
 
“I believe that local communities ought to have the right to adopt measures that their constituents want and that those communities are ready to enforce,” Adams said.
 
 

END

 

 

 

 

Sept. 17, 2020

 

Lawmakers express concerns over proposed increase in food manufacturing fees

  

Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, expresses concern over proposed permit fee increases for food manufacturers that he believes could hurt small businesses and farmers. A high-res copy of the photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— Lawmakers spoke out against proposed changes to the permit and fee structure for food establishments and food manufacturing businesses during today’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture.
 
“I’m extremely concerned about our small farmers,” Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, said.
 
In June, the Kentucky Department for Public Health filed the proposed Kentucky Administrative Regulation changes. The public comment period for the proposal ended Aug. 31.
 
According to Julie Brooks, regulation coordinator for the Department for Public Health, the department received more than 400 comments on the proposed regulation changes with most of the submissions expressing concern over the increase in fee amounts.
 
Originally, the new fee structure was based on risk of the food being produced or stored instead of square footage of the facility. Brooks said after reviewing the submitted comments, a fee structure based on risk and income is in the works.
 
A suggested revision to the original proposal would require food manufacturers whose income is under $100,000 and are at the highest risk level to pay $400 per year. Currently facilities 1,000 square feet and under pay $120 while the larger f