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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        

 

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.

Youth camps. Senate Bill 66 will establish employment and background check standards for staff members working or volunteering at youth camps.

 

 

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 SB 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 facilities pay up to $600 per year.
 
The suggested revisions to the original proposal show some food manufactures, depending on income and risk level, could pay hundreds more in fees in 2021 if the changes are approved.
 
“I think it goes against the spirit and the intent of (House Bill) 129 to protect our farmers,” Graviss said. “Some of the fees they’re going to experience, the increase is more than their income for the year.”
 
HB 129, dubbed a “public health transformation” by lawmakers, was an effort to improve Kentucky’s public health system through new funding models and operational changes. The bill passed early on in the 2020 legislative session. The bill had bipartisan support.
 
Brooks said the bill allows for these fee increases. Some lawmakers, such as committee co-chair Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, and Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Brandenburg, questioned whether the Department for Public Health of was taking advantage of the fee increase perimeters set by HB 129.
 
Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, called the proposed fee increase “poorly conceived.” Other lawmakers pointed out the proposal comes at a time when many small businesses are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Rep. Brandon Reed, R-Hodgenville, called the income tiers “unfair.”
 
“That tier two seems like a wide swath there between $100,000 plus up to $1 million,” Reed said, adding it is not fair for someone making $100,000 to be held to the same standard as someone making $990,000.
 
Brooks said she also had concerns about the structure of tier two and that she would follow up with staff.
 
While the majority of the concerns from lawmakers involved food manufacturers, the proposed regulation changes would make food establishments pay 25 percent more.
 
In closing. Tate shared additional legislation may be required.
 
“It’s very disappointing that this flexibility in my opinion is being taken advantage of,” Tate said. “So what I suggest and I am very willing to do is to make an amendment to this bill… and I hope I have sponsors and co-sponsors in order to eliminate this type of activity in the future.”

 

END

 

 

 

Sept. 16, 2020

 

Legislative panel briefed on general election costs

  

Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, asks how the estimated cost to run November’s general election compared with prior presidential elections. A high-res copy of the photo can be found here.

Frankfort – Kentucky’s top election official is estimating $5.42 million in cost overruns associated with running November’s general election.

“I know that is a lot of money, especially right now, but I believe that is a bargain for a successful presidential election held during a pandemic,” Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams said while testifying before today’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations & Revenue.

Adams said the overruns would have been greater without $4.5 million in federal relief aid leftover from May’s primary.

Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, asked how the estimated overruns compare to prior presidential elections. Adams said it historically costs Kentucky $10 million to run an election. He said the extra expenses associated with the upcoming election range from $4 million to cover postage for more absentee ballots to $500,000 in miscellaneous costs, including the purchase of 1.2 million ink pens for one-time voter use.

Rep. Wilson Stone, D-Scottsville, asked when results of the general election in Kentucky would be released. Adams forecasted Kentucky would have 75 percent to 80 percent of the votes counted on election night. He added that results would come in quicker than during the primaries because of more in-person voting and additional processes to speed up the counting of absentee votes.

“We are not going to have final results election night,” Adams said. “They are going to be unofficial ... but it will be enough for us to project some outcomes and give some finality to the candidates and voters.”

Rep. Myron Dossett, R-Pembroke, highlighted a mobile voting precinct in Hopkins County as a creative way clerks are engaging voters. Adams added other clerks plan to offer drive-through voting.

Sen. Michael J. Nemes, R-Shepherdsville, asked when voters will be notified where they can vote. Adams said he is still waiting for some of the larger counties to submit plans, but his goal is to have all voter locations finalized by Oct. 1.

McDaniel praised Adams’ efforts in recruiting younger poll workers. He said the average age of poll workers in Kenton County, where he lives, has traditionally been over 75.

“Thank you for acknowledging our success at getting younger poll workers,” Adams said. “I testified to the Interim Joint Committee on State Government last November ... that we had a poll worker crisis in our state. This is not a Kentucky-unique problem or a pandemic-unique problem.”

 

END

 

 

 

 

Sept. 16, 2020

Lawmakers discuss COVID-19 transportation guidelines for schools

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, participates in a socially distanced meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education at the Capitol Annex.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT– Last month, the Interim Joint Committee on Education heard testimony from educators advocating for clearer guidelines and more flexibility and autonomy when it comes to reopening schools.
 
Yesterday, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) shared their COVID-19 transportation guidelines with committee members for schools that grant individual school districts flexibility.
 
“We are encouraging districts to use a good faith effort to use that social distancing where it is feasible and practical to do so,” said Robin Kinney, associate commissioner for KDE.
 
KDE worked with the Kentucky Department for Public Health and utilized Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when drafting its guidelines for Kentucky schools, according to Kinney’s presentation.
 
Taking many factors into consideration, such as school district size and finances, social distancing with one child per seat every other seat is ideal, Kinney said. However, for districts where this is a challenge, other mitigating strategies can be used if bus capacity cannot be kept low.
 
Those mitigation strategies include requiring students to wear masks, check their temperatures prior to boarding the bus and using hand sanitizer, according to Kinney’s presentation.
 
Loading buses from back to front if possible as well as cleaning the buses between uses is also recommended. Assigned seating is also recommended in the event a child on a bus tests positive for COVID-19 and contact tracing is needed, Kinney said.
 
“It will really be a district decision,” Kinney said.
 
Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said he appreciated the flexibility the districts have in implementing the transportation guidelines.
 
“I just appreciate the flexibility in this and recognizing every school system is different and we have unique challenges,” Meredith said.
 
Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, expressed concerns about how struggling school districts will be able to afford to implement the guidelines.
 
Kinney said Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds the school districts received can be used to offset the cost.

 

 

END

 

 

Sept. 10, 2020

 

Calendar set for General Assembly's 2021 session

 

FRANKFORT – The 2021 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly is scheduled to begin on Jan. 5 and will last 30 legislative days.
 
As usual during an odd-numbered year, the session will have two parts. The first four days of the session – Jan. 5 to Jan. 8 – will focus on organizational work, such as electing legislative leaders, adopting rules of procedure and organizing committees. The introduction and consideration of legislation can also begin during this time.
 
The second part of the session begins on Feb. 2, with final adjournment scheduled for March 30.
 
The veto recess – the period of time when lawmakers commonly return to their home districts while the governor considers the possibility of issuing vetoes – begins on March 17. Lawmakers will return to the Capitol on March 30 for the final day of the session.
 
The 2021 session calendar is online at: https://legislature.ky.gov/Documents/21RS_Calendar.pdf.

 

END

 


 

Aug. 27, 2020

Testimony outlines pandemic concerns in long term care facilities

Committee co-chair Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, asks a question about how long term care facilities in other states are addressing the COVID-19 pandemic during yesterday's Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— Emotions ran high during testimony on the COVID-19 death rate in long term care (LTC) facilities during yesterday’s Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services meeting.
 
Betsy Johnson, president and executive director of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities (KAHCF) and Kentucky Center for Assisted Living (KCAL), shared data showing that more than half of Kentucky’s COVID-19 related deaths have occurred in LTC facility residents.
 
“COVID deaths in long term care settings have nothing to do with the quality of the facility,” Johnson said. “Some of the hardest hit facilities here in Kentucky are our best facilities. Facilities I have recommended to my parents. Finally, we still need help. We need a lot of help, mainly funding to retain our workforce, which has been decimated.”
 
More funding is also needed for personal protective equipment and additional COVID-19 testing, Johnson added. According to her presentation, the top three reasons why staff have quit are: fear of contracting COVID-19, childcare needs and fear of exposing high-risk individuals at home.
 
At the beginning of the pandemic, KAHCF and KCAL sent a request to Gov. Andy Beshear for a Medicaid rate add-on of $55 per Medicaid resident per day, according to Johnson. In April, the organizations learned their request was denied but facilities would receive an additional $270 for COVID-19 positive beds only.
 
Johnson said the additional funding decisions made by the state have not been adequate enough to address the issues LTC facilities are facing.
 
After a question from committee co-chair Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, about how LTC facilities are addressing an outbreak, Johnson claimed there’s been issues with working with local health departments and the state department for public health.
 
“There’s a lot of ‘you shall do this,’ rather than, you know, understanding that our skilled nursing facilities have been managing infectious disease in their buildings way before COVID,” Johnson said. “They care for these individuals and it’s not a one size fits all kind of solution. So it would be nice to have more of a listen to what we need and you all provide support rather than dictating what should happen inside that building.”
 
Mackenzie Longoria, the director of public policy with the Greater Kentucky & Southern Indiana Alzheimer’s Association, and Johnson also put in a request for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to hire full-time coordinators on dementia and long term face facilities to advise the state in operations and to aid in securing grant funding.
 
“I think we’ve also noticed that there’s been a serious lack of understanding of how skilled nursing facilities operate during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Johnson said.
 
Committee co-chair Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, stated she was supportive of Longoria and Johnson.
 
“I think that’s a great idea,” Moser said. “And I think this all really highlights the need for that — the inadequacy of the funding or the application of the funding just being inappropriate or not taking the time to listen to those who are in the trenches is what bothers me.”
 
Although there have been some issues addressing the pandemic in LTC facilities, Johnson said expansion of telehealth has been extremely helpful as well as state and federal government waiving some regulatory requirements.

 

END

 

 

 

Aug. 26, 2020

Proposal to curtail conversion therapy studied

Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, testifies in support of the proposed Youth Mental Health Act during yesterday’s meeting of the the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – A legislative panel heard testimony on proposed legislation to regulate gender identity change efforts, often referred to as conversion therapy.

“We want to acknowledge that there are good and loving people who want this practice to work, who desperately want to believe in this practice,” Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, said while presenting the proposed measure before yesterday’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations. “But the facts remain that practices to change sexual orientation ... are dangerous, discredited and sometimes deadly.”

Willner said the proposed bill, titled the Youth Mental Health Act, would prohibit licensed or certified mental health professionals from engaging in sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts on anyone under the age of 18. It would also apply to people over 18 who are considered “vulnerable” under the law.

A second provision would prohibit tax dollars from being distributed to entities that engage in these efforts with a person of any age.

Willner, a psychologist by trade, acknowledged the bill wouldn’t stop all conversion therapy from happening in Kentucky. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything that we can as policymakers to take common-sense, practical steps to protect as many of our Kentucky youths as we possibly can,” she said.

The proposed bill would not prohibit non-licensed people from engaging in this therapy, partly because of enforcement difficulties, Willner said. The measure also would not prohibit mental health professionals from providing this therapy to adults.

House Majority Whip Chad McCoy, R-Bardstown, asked whether regulating conversion therapy should be left to professional licensing boards. “I really struggle with the concept that we, in the General Assembly, should be dictating best practices here,” he said.

Willner said the boards have told her it would be helpful to have clarification in statute when it comes to addressing conversion therapy. “They do not write regulations unless there is a statute to provide a framework for it,” she added.

Daniel Mingo was one of three people who testified against the proposed bill. He said he overcame his unwanted, same-gender attractions through the kind of therapy the proposed bill would curtail. Mingo said he went on to found a group in Louisville for people who have the same unwanted attractions.

“For the last 17 years I have ministered to, and lay counseled, same-sex attracted and gender dysphoric Christian individuals in Kentucky who have LGBT feelings that for them also are unwanted,” he said. “My concern for this proposed legislation is that it will hurt people I care about.”

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, asked what language in the proposed bill would prevent parents of religious leaders from having discussions with their children about sexual orientation or identification.

“It does not attempt to regulate conversations between parents and children,” Mingo said in response. “What it does do is prevent parents and children from getting professional therapeutic help.”

Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, addressed concerns that the proposed legislation would infringe on the rights of parents.

“It is interesting to me that we view that parental relationship as absolute – that I am the only one that can determine what is right for my children,” said Adams. “The truth is that if I’m a drug addict I lose that right to make those determinations for my kids. The truth is if I want to mutilate my daughter's genitals that right has been taken away from me. The truth is if I want to marry off my 13-year-old that right has been taken away from me. The truth is if I beat the crap out of my kids those rights are taken away from me.

“There are instances after instances after instances in which the legislature does modify that parental aspect.”

Sen. Michael J. Nemes, R-Shepherdsville, asked whether conversion therapy was effective or a misguided principle practiced by well-intentioned people.

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, who also testified in support of the legislation, said one fact, in particular, illustrated why conversion therapy was misguided. “People who are subjected to this kind of torture are seven times more likely to commit suicide,” she said.

Mingo disputed Kerr’s assertion. “I think it has been proven effective if you are listening to the people who it has been proven effective for,” he said. “You won’t hear that in the mainstream media. There are thousands upon thousands of people who have walked away successfully from a homosexual lifestyle.”

Nemes said Kerr defended her arguments with statistics while Mingo answered anecdotally.

“One of the things about these bills that has become very clear to me is there are good people on both sides of the issue,” Committee Co-chair Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said of the proposed bill and similar measures from prior sessions. “They are deeply, deeply, deeply personal. That is why I think so many people are conflicted about them.”

END

 

 

 

Aug. 20, 2020

Legislative panel briefed on fiscal year outlook

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, speaks to the impact of COVID-19 on Kentucky’s tourism industry during yesterday’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations & Revenue. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Less than two months into Kentucky’s fiscal year, the state budget director is already warning lawmakers it will be a struggle to meet revenue projections because of COVID-19.

“We have many signals that fiscal ’21 will be a significant budget challenge,” State Budget Director John Hicks said while testifying before yesterday’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations & Revenue. “It will have lower revenue than in fiscal ’20.”

He said that’s because much of the federal stimulus relief aid that has propped up Kentucky’s economy in recent months has ended. According to the state budget office, the federal government provided $15.4 billion directly to Kentucky businesses and residents through initiatives such as the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Impact Payments. Those were the onetime payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per dependent.

After the presentation, committee Co-chair Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, said he was concerned federal aid to all the states had put the country’s deficit on an unsustainable course. He said its size may jeopardize the financial health of future generations.

“We the people owe that money,” Rudy said. “I think we should be very cautious when continuing to ask for more federal bailout and more federal aid. What is this doing to the American dollar?”

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, said Kentucky received more than just the $15.4 billion in relief funds from the federal government. Hicks then explained the state also received $1.6 billion to help pay for services offered by cities, counties, local health departments and state government. Rudy added that neither of those figures included an $865 million federal, no-interest loan Kentucky took out to shore up its unemployment insurance trust fund.

Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, wanted to know if Kentucky was going to utilize the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Lost Wages Assistance Program to provide $400 in additional unemployment benefits for individuals. Under that plan, the federal government would pay $300 while states would pay the remaining $100, using Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. Hicks said an announcement was expected shortly, and after the meeting, the governor said the state would apply for the program as early as today.

Hicks testified that another challenge was the jobs lost during COVID-19. From March through April, Kentucky shed over 283,000 jobs, according to the budget office. That was 14 percent of the state’s employment.

Rep. James Tipton, R-Spencer, questioned the impact of small business closures on future employment numbers. Hicks said Kentucky had recovered about 125,000 jobs since the gradual reopening of the economy. He added that his office would soon release a quarterly revenue and economic outlook. Part of that report will contain a statewide employment forecast derived from national data.

Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, who is the committee’s other co-chair, asked whether the canceling of in-person schooling would hinder parents’ ability to work. Hicks said he has not seen any national data on the level of unemployment as it was associated with remote learning this past spring.

Hicks said the fourth quarter of last fiscal year already provided some insight into the future of Kentucky's fiscal health. During that quarter, state revenue declined by 4.5 percent, sales and use taxes declined by 5.9 percent, withholdings (excluding unemployment insurance benefits) declined by 5.5 percent and business taxes declined by 16.5 percent.

“Wages and salaries for the fourth quarter ... were down 16 percent,” Hicks said, “which is the largest loss we know of in terms of our economic staff looking backward.”

Rep. Myron Dossett, R-Pembroke, inquired about COVID-19’s impact on tourism in the state. Hicks said leisure and hospitality had a 15 percent drop in employment during a 12-month period ending in June of this year. He added that $1.16 million from the CARES Act was used to help plug a revenue shortfall at the state parks department.

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, then mentioned that pre-pandemic daily attendance at Mammoth Cave National Park was between 4,000 and 5,000 people. He said it is now just 800.

“The rippling effect of that is just phenomenal,” said Meredith, whose district includes the majority of the nearly 53,000-acre park.

END

 

August 19, 2020

Lawmakers hear testimony on reopening school

 

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, asks a question about the safety of reopening schools during yesterday's Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT– Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) during the pandemic did not look the same for every student in Kentucky, according to research presented by two upcoming Kentucky high school seniors.
 
This data, along with other testimony, led lawmakers on the Interim Joint Committee on Education to discuss whether individual school districts should decide when to return to school and when to close school due to COVID-19.
 
The high school students, Krupa Hegde and Gabriella Staykova, shared data compiled from a student-to-student survey on how students across the Commonwealth have been handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was led by the Student Voice Team of The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence.
 
The “Coping with COVID” survey includes 9,500 responses from students across 119 counties. The survey examined each student’s education environment, home environment, physical and mental wellness and future plans.
 
“One of the main themes we found in our home environment was a change in employment …,” Hegde said. “We truly felt that employment is changing for both students and their caretakers during this pandemic with 13.3 percent having to take on more hours at work and nearly 1 out of every 3 students had parents who had lost hours at their work. Sixty percent of students reported feeling more worried about money and 5.6 percent of students were reportedly more worried about food.”
 
Other findings of the study included that a reduction in interactions with teachers made students less motivated and engaged. There was also a 50 percent increase in the number of students who wanted but lacked mental health care access from 9.8 percent to 14.9 percent.
 
In the second half of the meeting, Eric Kennedy, director of governmental relations for the Kentucky School Boards Association, and Jim Flynn, executive director for the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, shared their respective organizations' belief that reopening schools should be left to the individual districts.
 
Last week, Gov. Andy Beshear issued a recommendation that Kentucky schools should not reopen to in-person instruction until Sept. 28.
 
“There is so much diversity across the communities of Kentucky that there really should not be a one size fits all approach to this issue for providing education and reopening school,” Kennedy said, using the example that closing for a flu outbreak or inclement weather is left to individual school districts.
 
Both Kennedy and Flynn believe that the individual school districts can take the guidelines for returning to school set by the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while factoring in the needs of the parents, students and teachers to make the decision that is best for them.
 
“At the same time, we recognize that the virus is not completely predictable and there may be times statewide action is needed for the safety and welfare of our students, staff and school families,” Flynn said on behalf of the association he represents.
 
Committee Co-chair Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, noted that although many believe students should return to school, that doesn’t mean no one cares about the health of students and teachers.
 
“I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments about local control and how it’s not a one size fits all as you compared your district, Jefferson County, and my district, Whitley County,” she added. “It’s just a totally different scenario and situation regarding this virus across the state.”
 
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, expressed concern about the virus spreading to vulnerable adults.
 
“But when they go home to grandma or grandpa or mom or dad who has diabetes or cancer or whatever … that’s where the rub is,” Marzian said.
 
After listening to some discussion, Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, remarked he had yet to hear an argument as to why the decision to reopen schools shouldn’t be made at the local level.
 
“The longer we keep kids out of school, the bigger threat we have to public education because some may never go back,” Meredith said. “They’re going to look for alternatives.”

END

 

 

August 13, 2020

Lawmakers receive update on food insecurity, food banks

 

Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg, shares statistics she read recently about Kentucky children experiencing food insecurity during today's Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— In recent months, lawmakers have heard testimony from various organizations on the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic is having on child welfare, veterans and more.
 
Lawmakers on the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee heard testimony today on COVID-19’s effect on food insecurity and hunger in Kentucky and how state funding has helped meet the needs of hungry Kentuckians across the state.
 
“As people struggle still not earning as much, still not receiving the benefits they’re used to receiving, … we’re quite concerned about the impact of the pandemic,” said Tamara Sandberg, executive director of Feeding Kentucky.
 
As of July 21, over 270,000 Kentuckians did not have enough to eat, according to Sandberg’s presentation. Sandberg said that number is expected to increase by 40 percent in the next 12 months.
 
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data from the presentation shows nearly one in seven Kentuckians were food insecure before the pandemic. Sandberg said that included 190,600 children and 1 in 6 of older adults.
 
Sandberg said Feeding Kentucky works with seven regional food banks across the Commonwealth that serve all 120 counties that were feeding around 50,000 Kentuckians per week before the pandemic.
 
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” Sandberg said about the need for food bank assistance since the pandemic. “We experienced an enormous increase in the need for food assistance particularly in March and April. At the same time, we experienced a decrease in the amount of food available as some of our typical sources ran out as the entire food (supply) chain was stretched.”
 
With social distancing requirements and with many food bank volunteers being older adults who are more vulnerable to contract COVID-19 and experience complications, food banks have had to spend more money to meet the needs of their respective communities.
 
Sandberg said thanks to support from the General Assembly, Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Kentucky Farm Bureau, Kentucky’s food banks have been able to meet the increased demand for food bank assistance. 
 
With the Farms to Food Banks program, farmers donate produce and other agricultural products that would have otherwise gone to waste to Kentucky’s food banks. While the products are donated, Feeding Kentucky works to offset the cost it takes to harvest, pack and ship the products.
 
Sandberg said in 2019, nearly 3 million pounds of Kentucky grown produce were “rescued” to provide a half a plate of fruits and vegetables for nearly 5 million meals. Since 2011, the program has led to the “rescue” of 21 million pounds of food with $4.2 million paid to farmers.
 
“So the dollars that you all in the General Assembly contribute to this program is making a huge impact on hungry people, on the farmers and the communities where those farmers are located, so we’re very proud of that,” Sandberg said.
 
Kentucky has seen an $8.9 million return in its investment, she added.

END

 

 

 

August 12, 2020

Researchers advocate for permanent expansion of telehealth services

 

 

Committee co-chair Rep. Russell Webber, R-Shepherdsville, leads yesterday's Substance Use Recovery Task Force meeting.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— Despite COVID-19, researchers from the University of Kentucky have continued their work on studying opioid use disorder.
 
Those researchers shared an update on their projects and advocated for permanently expanding some telehealth services during a presentation to the Substance Use Recovery Task Force yesterday.
 
According to Sharon Walsh, director for the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research at the University of Kentucky, the expansion of telehealth services across the Commonwealth during the COVID-19 pandemic is having a positive impact on those recovering from opioid use disorder.
 
“What we’re hearing from partners across the state who are providing care is that their no-show rate for appointments has dropped, in some instances, 30 percent,” Walsh said.
 
Gov. Andy Beshear expanded telehealth services in March to allow physicians to examine patients over the phone or via video conference to cut down on in-person interactions to slow the spread of COVID-19.
 
Walsh said prior to this executive order, opioid use disorder treatment was not permitted via telehealth.
 
“One of the things we’re hoping with our state partners is that once COVID is resolved and the demand for telehealth is not so critical as it is right now, that we’re able to keep some of those regulations rolled back as they are right now,” Walsh added.
 
As for the University of Kentucky’s research projects, Walsh and Lisa Cassis, vice president for research for the Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences, reported that the university’s research projects are going well.
 
Kentucky was one of four states in the country last year to receive National Institutes of Health funding to prevent and treat opioid use disorder in highly affected communities, according to their presentation.
 
The Helping to End Addiction Long-term, or HEAL Initiative kicked off in January and focuses on overdose education, naloxone distribution, delivery of medication for opioid use disorder maintenance treatment, and safer opioid prescribing methods and dispensing.
 
Other University of Kentucky-funded research projects underway include harm reduction initiatives to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, according to the presentation.
 
There are 73 syringe services programs across the Commonwealth providing clean syringes to those with opioid use disorder. Reusing or sharing syringes can cause a variety of health problems, including HIV and Hepatitis C. According to Walsh, these programs also help connect people to treatment services. Research into prevention as treatment for Hepatitis C is also underway as well as programs to aid mothers with opioid use disorder.

 

END

 

 

 

July 30, 2020

COVID-19’s impact on mental health and physical wellbeing a concern for lawmakers

 

 

 

Committee co-chair and Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, holds a newspaper article from his district about the impacts of COVID-19 at yesterday's Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT — The COVID-19 pandemic may be taking a toll on more than just the physical health of thousands of Kentuckians. 

During a meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services yesterday, lawmakers expressed concerns about an increase in domestic violence incidents as well as overdose and suicide deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Since Kentucky saw its first case of COVID-19 on March 6, more than 28,700 people have tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory virus and 724 people have died statewide as of yesterday, according to state data.  

Yesterday, a few lawmakers expressed concerns about how decisions made by Gov. Andy Beshear to slow the spread of the disease, such as closing down restaurants, bars and other non-essential businesses for the month of April and most of May, might be impacting other aspects of physical and mental wellbeing for Kentuckians. 

“I talked to my sheriff in Montgomery County and he tells me that suicide attempts are up over 600 percent,” said committee co-chair Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester. “Domestic violence calls are increased there as well.” 

Alvarado said in one of the counties he represents, fatal overdoses have increased 42 percent. 

 “I think it is important for us to look at some of the tolls, some of the policies that we’re enacting right now,” Alvarado said, adding it is important to look at COVID-19’s impact on the Commonwealth as well as other diseases.

 Capt. Doug Thoroughman, acting state epidemiologist for the Department for Public Health, testified that between April 2019 and March 2020, the amount of fatal overdoses per month has fluctuated. 

“It does look like there is definitely a climb in fatal overdoses happening in the most recent (graph),” Thoroughman said about data not included in his presentation. “That data for 2020 is really provisional because it takes time to get all of that data together.” 

 According to the graph in Thoroughman’s presentation, the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center estimates more than 150 fatal overdoses occurred in Kentucky in March 2020. 

Thoroughman said suicide deaths per month from April 2019 through March 2020 also varies per month. 

“The data is provisional because it takes time to do all of that and read and put it together in the database the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center uses, so those (numbers) may climb or will likely climb as more data is put in there,” he added. 

In March 2020, a little more than 50 suicides were reported, according to Thoroughman’s presentation. 

 Sen. David P. Givens, R- Greensburg, asked Thoroughman if COVID-19 will be a major part of our lives a year from now. 

“How do we start to get to a place of balance around things like caution, anxiety, fear and functioning communities?” Givens asked. 

Thoroughman said yes, he does believe COVID-19 will still be a major topic of conversation a year from now, but if a vaccine becomes available, that would drastically change things and ease many concerns.  

Without a vaccine currently available for COVID-19, Thoroughman said people can practice other preventative measures to manage the risk and ease some of their anxieties while keeping day-to-day life as normal as possible.

“If people take the precautions recommended, wear masks out in public places, don’t gather in groups, things like that for a period of time, that’s going to keep that risk lower and that will help us keep businesses open and function fairly normally,” he said. 

END

 

 

 

July 30, 2020

Legislative panel gets update on ‘direct ship’ law

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, speaks about regulations required to implement House Bill 415, which allows brewers, distillers and vintners – in and out of Kentucky – to ship alcohol directly to consumers during today’s Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Don’t “cheers” just yet to a new law that would allow brewers, distillers and vintners to ship alcohol directly to consumers.

It’s going to take time to implement, Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Commissioner Allyson Taylor said while testifying before today’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations.

Committee Co-chair Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, said the proposed regulations required under HB 415 were submitted on July 14 to the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee. He added that he hoped the regulations are implemented in time for the Christmas shopping season.

“As far as how long it takes to implement after that I believe it will depend on the public comments and how many changes we implement,” Taylor said in response. She added that the computer system required for producers to apply for shipping licenses is ready to go.

Dubbed the direct ship bill, House Bill 415 from this past session clears the path for producers of alcohol – in and out of Kentucky – to be licensed with ABC to ship directly to consumers. No more than 10 liters of distilled spirits, 10 cases of wine and 10 cases of malt beverages per month could be shipped to an individual. The packages would have to be clearly labeled and be signed for by someone 21 or older. And shipping to dry territories, communities where alcohol sales are prohibited by local laws, would still be banned.

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, said he has heard from retailers, wholesalers and distributors concerned that some language in the proposed regulation may allow out-of-state wholesalers and distributors to sell in Kentucky. Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, said she too has heard concern about how out-of-state importers will work into the proposed regulations.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he wanted to make sure ABC follows the legislative intent of HB 514. Taylor responded that ABC had three goals when drafting the proposed regulations. The objectives were to implement the legislative intent, make sure Kentucky producers and suppliers are on the same footing as their out-of-state competitors and to respect the three-tier system.

Thayer then characterized HB 415 one of the most important bills we passed last session.

“As everyone knows, because of COVID-19 our bourbon tourism venues are pretty much flat on their back,” Thayer said. “We all know downtown Louisville is pretty much shut down because of the riots and there is a lot of bourbon tourism down there. 

“Anything we can do to open up another revenue stream for the bourbon industry is incredibly important, but I do support making sure we got this right.”

END

 

 

 

July 29, 2020

Lawmakers study impact of COVID-19 on KY vets

Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Co-chair Rep. Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, asks about the number of residents in Kentucky’s four veterans homes since COVID-19 forced the facilities to stop accepting new patients. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – There have been no reported cases of coronavirus among the residents of Kentucky’s four veterans homes, according to testimony given to a state legislative panel today. 

“Since the declaration of the emergency in March, we have had seven staff test positive, two of which, after immediate retesting were found to be negative,” Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Keith Jackson said while testifying before the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection. “Out of those employees, five have returned to work, one remains in quarantine until medically cleared and one staff member resigned prior to returning to work.”

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, asked about the turn-around time for a test result. Mark Bowman, another department member who testified, said it now takes 24 hours to 48 hours to receive a result. He said early in the pandemic it was taking up to 10 days.

Jackson attributed the department’s success of curtailing the spread of COVID-19 in the veterans homes to continuous testing of all staff and residents in addition to other aggressive measures.

“One of the unfortunate by-products of our strenuous screening and protective measures has been a restriction on visitation,” Jackson said. “However, each facility has found creative ways to help families keep in touch with their loved ones.” Those include using iPads, phones and plexiglass visitation stations.

The department is expanding telemedicine with Veterans Affairs medical centers in Lexington, Louisville and Marion, Ill., to decrease the chances residents might be exposed to COVID-19 during doctor visits. The homes have also stopped accepting new residents. Jackson said that had regrettably caused a 7 percent drop in the residential population across the system.

That prompted committee Co-chair Rep. Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, to ask the occupancy of each veterans home. Bowman responded:

         Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center in Hazard had 98 of 120 beds filled;

         Central Kentucky Veterans Center in Radcliff had 64 of 120 beds filled;

         Western Kentucky Veterans Center in Hanson has 80 of 156 beds filled;

         and Thomas-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore had 145 of 285 beds filled.

 

The department hopes to resume admissions in late August or early September, but Jackson added that would depend on local infection rates.

Jackson said that personal protective equipment remains difficult and expensive to secure for his department, but the veterans homes have sufficient supplies. The department has applied for a more than $1 million federal grant to build four warehouses for future emergency preparedness storage.

The department also received $3 million in April from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Jackson characterized the federal tax dollars as “instrumental” in supporting Kentucky’s four veterans homes.

Jackson said his department began offering free day care for children of the nursing home staff during the disruption of in-person schooling and closure of child care facilities. He added that has helped the department to retain staff, something that has been a challenge in recent years. Department officials have said staffing shortages have contributed to the low occupancy rates at some of the homes.

At least two pieces of legislation have been passed in recent years to address the staffing issues. Bowman said one measure passed this past session, known as Senate Bill 149, will ease staff shortages by allowing the department to hire nurse aides on personal service contracts.

END

 

 

 

July 28, 2020

Lawmakers briefed on elections in COVID-19 era

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, asks Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams about plans for November’s general election during today’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams gave a state legislative panel today an idea of how November’s general election might look amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“First, our primary election was a nationally-recognized success,” Adams said while testifying before the Interim Joint Committee on State Government. “With all the things Kentucky is at the bottom of in so many areas, today we are No. 1 in something. We had the highest turnout we have seen in many years. Most important, we kept people safe.”

While November’s plan is still being drafted, Adams said he envisions it consisting of a combination of some absentee voting; early, in-person voting; and voting on Election Day. He said he is concerned expanding absentee voting, to the extent it was done for the May primary, could overwhelm county clerks and the U.S. Postal Service. Adams said he is more comfortable with having early, in-person voting to relieve potential crowds at polls on Election Day.

“Early voting worked,” Adams said. “Our county clerks are split on whether we should expand absentee voting in November, but they universally support in-person, early voting to help smooth out the number of voters over a period of weeks, rather than one day. This is a far less expensive and labor-intensive way to conduct an election.”

Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, asked how much it will cost to hold the November election in the safest and most-efficient manner.

Adams said the state spent two-thirds of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money it received for elections on May's primary. He said that left only $2.5 million of CARES Act money for the November general election unless Congress approves additional funds.

“Let’s be clear, this is the most expensive election Kentucky has ever had,” Adams said of the primary.

He said it traditionally costs between $10 million and $11 million to hold general elections in Kentucky. Adams said COVID-19 precautions would increase that cost for the upcoming general election, but he could not name a price until the added precautions had been agreed upon. He then said that mail-in voting is the most expensive voting model.

Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, said counties needed flexibility and gave an example of how Anderson County offered drive-thru voting. Adams agreed and added that Hopkins County had mobile voting trucks.

Adams said the No. 1 complaint he received after the primary was a lack of polling locations on Election Day. He said he was exploring ways to combat that for the November election including creating a formula requiring a minimum number of polling locations based on a county’s population and geography. Adams added that there have to be enough poll workers to operate the polls.

In response to a comment from Rep. Jerry T. Miller, R-Louisville, Adams said he would like to see counties offer Saturday hours for early, in-person voting.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he wasn’t “a fan” of early voting. He said that type of voting does not favor insurgent candidacies, underfunded candidates or less-known candidates.

“Campaigns are meant to peak on Election Day,” he said. “Everyone in this room has run elections, and the information that our campaigns share with voters is meant to peak on Election Day.”

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, said the legislature shouldn’t be a bystander in deciding how Kentucky’s elections are conducted. He then requested the governor call a special session of the General Assembly to reform Kentucky’s election laws.

In response to a question from Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, Adams said he would be glad to return to the committee to update them on the November election plans.

“I’m happy to talk with anybody about it, but the longer, more bureaucratic we make the process, the later and later it is going to run,” Adams said of the time it is taking to finalize a November election plan.

Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, asked Adams to appear before the September meeting of the combined House and Senate Appropriations & Revenue (A&R) Committee to testify about the costs of the upcoming election. He added that he wanted to ensure Kentucky has the necessary money to hold the election.

“The fundamental obligation we have as lawmakers is public safety and secondarily is ensuring we have safe, fair and honest elections because that is the underpinning of the entire system,” said McDaniel, the chair of the Senate A&R Committee. “That is the starting point of democracy.”

END

 

 

 

July 28, 2020

Lawmakers discuss curtailing no-knock warrants

Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, discusses a proposal to regulate the use of no-knock search warrants during today’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – After a statewide outcry over the use of no-knock warrants in Kentucky following the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, says he’s working on a bill to regulate the use of such warrants.

“This would not allow a no-knock warrant to be a standalone use or tool for police officers,” Stivers said during Tuesday's meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government.

A no-knock warrant allows law enforcement officers to enter a property without announcing their presence. Stivers noted these are typically used in situations where it is considered dangerous for law enforcement's presence to be known.

The bill deals with an issue that has gained much attention since Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT from Louisville, was shot and killed during the execution of a no-knock warrant in connection to a narcotics investigation on March 13. When officers entered her home unannounced, her boyfriend shot at officers thinking they were intruders. One officer was injured during the incident, but charges against the boyfriend in relation to the shooting of the officer have been dismissed. No drugs were found in the home.

Taylor’s death has led to statewide and nationwide protests calling for the ban of no-knock warrants and police reform.

Stivers added he’s consulted many different groups, including the Kentucky Association of Police Chiefs and the Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association. He said he’s also read many articles and manuals on how to use certain investigative tools to aid him in crafting this bill, which he hopes to have a draft available for review soon.

Stivers noted there are some situations where no-knock warrants are needed, but those situations are rare and officers seeking a no-knock warrant should have to follow a certain list of guidelines in obtaining and executing them.

Stivers said the bill bans the use of standalone no-knock search warrants and law enforcement agencies would have to use it as a secondary tool alongside an arrest warrant or any other type of search warrant.

The bill’s draft also calls for no-knock warrants to be conducted by those who are trained in handling tactical situations, such as a SWAT team, Stivers said.

Stivers added a supervisor would be required to sign-off on its use. The legislation also calls for judges to certify that the application has not been presented to any other judge.

As for liability, Stivers said there should be entity and individual liability if a no-knock warrant is improperly obtained and executed.

“But where it is specific and distinct, that you can show someone was willful, wanton or grossly negligent in obtaining warrants (or) have falsified applications for warrants, then that individual should be specifically held, in this instance, individually liable,” Stivers said.

In discussing civil and criminal penalties, Stivers said that is something that will require further discussion with the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary.

Representatives of the Kentucky Association of Police Chiefs and Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association also shared their thoughts on no-knock warrants during Tuesday’s meeting.

“No-knock search warrants should not be used for purposes to recover property, drugs or anything like that,” said Art Ealum, police chief of the Owensboro Police Department and president of the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police.

Ealum added no-knock warrants should only be used in extreme circumstances, such as to prevent the loss of human life during a hostage situation.

Ealum said the association would refrain from expressing an opinion on the bill Stivers is working on until they are able to review the piece of legislation.

“We have had the opportunity to work with President Stivers and meet with him, and (we) anxiously await to see the bill,” said Shawn Butler, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police. “But I would tell you, in theory, we support everything he has discussed.”

Butler noted that in surveying the association’s members, no-knock warrants are rarely, if ever, used.

Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain, of the Kentucky Sheriffs' Association, said across Kentucky’s 120 sheriff’s departments, many do not use no-knock warrants.

“I did an informal survey in preparation for this testimony today,” Cain said. “I spoke with a number of my peers and with sheriffs across Kentucky and I could not find one that would endorse their use. Not one.”

While Cain cannot think of any exceptions where a no-knock warrant should be used, he believes the exceptions can be clearly laid out in Stivers’ bill.

During his testimony to the committee, Stivers did not say when a draft of the bill would be completed but did note the bill is already nine to 10 pages in length.

The next time the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government will meet will be at 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville.

END

 

 

 

July 23, 2020

Reports reveal child abuse and foster care needs

Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee Co-chair Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, comments during yesterday’s meeting. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Lawmakers on the Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee asked experts what more could be done to help children in abusive situations during the committee’s meeting yesterday.

Jill Seyfred, the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, and Kelly Crane, the state policy specialist for Prevent Child Abuse America, presented the committee updated statistics on child abuse across the Commonwealth and country.

Kentucky’s data, which was compiled by the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS), showed 50,660 reports of child abuse met the criteria for investigation last year. The number of children impacted by those investigations was 76,106.

Seyfred said Kentucky’s number remains high, in part, because of mandatory reporting laws and prevention education put in place over the last several years to combat child abuse. She said areas Kentucky could improve on to reduce child abuse included more money for education, families in need of services and social workers.

According to the data, neglect has been the top form of child maltreatment in Kentucky for the last several years. The data also showed drug abuse in the home and mental health issues were major factors in child abuse cases.

“We know that the No. 1 referral source for abuse and neglect cases comes from teachers,” Seyfred said. “Anytime we can work with teachers and help them understand the issues, understand how to report, help them be more comfortable in that role, I think will be a benefit.”

During a DCBS presentation on foster care within the state, several committee members expressed concern over significantly lower intake numbers for March, April and May of this year compared to last year. The impact of COVID-19 closing down schools across Kentucky in March is to blame for the lower intake numbers for those months, according to DCBS data provided to the committee.

“Every superintendent and every school board chair and every counselor in every school system in the state should all be aware of this,” Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, said. “And they should all be put on notice that this is an issue that needs to be given particular attention as they think about reopening and consider how best to do it. Not just educate students, but make sure they have access to resources to address their health.”

Another concern for the committee was social worker caseloads and how long it can take adoptions to move through the court system.

Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, asked particularly about the situation in Jefferson County.

Christa Bell, the director for the Division of Protection and Permanency within DCBS, said social worker turnover in Jefferson County had been a struggle.

DCBS Commissioner Marta Miranda-Straub said there’s been a focus on reducing unmanageable caseloads.

Now, instead of 80 cases per social worker in Jefferson County, it’s down to an average of 37 cases.

“That’s still too high, but that’s almost a 45 percent reduction in the caseload,” Miranda-Straub said.

As for adoptions, committee co-chair Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, asked why it can take up to three years for adoptions to move through the court system.

Bell said the paperwork and documentation process required of families and the cost of adoptions cause delays.

“We put in place some strategies to try to improve that,” Bell said. “We actually reduced some of the requirements if the child had been in the same placement from the initial get-go. We removed some of those paperwork requirements.”

So far this year, 1,293 adoptions have been finalized compared to 1,257 in all of 2019, according to DCBS data provided to the committee.

“We just want to get those social workers in your hands, so we get that caseload down and get our judges maybe a little bit more on board to handle these cases with a little more speed if possible,” said Buford.

END

 

 

 

July 9, 2020

Legislative panel focuses on police body cameras

Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, asked University of Kentucky Police Chief Joe Monroe a question about police body cameras during today’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – A committee of state House and Senate members took testimony today on the pros and cons of legislation mandating police body cameras in Kentucky.

“If we are going to put a mandatory program for body cams in this state, we have to look at the funding,” said University of Kentucky Police Chief Joe Monroe while testifying before the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary. “There would be small agencies in this state who would not be able to afford these types of programs.”

South Carolina and Nevada are the only states currently requiring body cameras for police officers, said Monroe, who is also the first vice president of the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police. He said at least 24 states have laws governing required policy, storage or specific procedures regarding the public release of body camera footage.

Committee Co-chair Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, asked what the annual cost would be to equip an officer with a body camera. Monroe estimated between $1,500 and $1,800 per officer for a “low-cost camera.” He said newer, more advanced body camera technology could run up to $5,000 per officer.

Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain testified it would cost an estimated $50,000 to equip 30 deputies with body cameras in his department. He added the major expense is the hidden reoccurring costs related to storage, maintenance and the additional staff to manage it all. Cain said that was estimated to be $40,000 annually.

Petrie then asked if body cameras were worth the cost to taxpayers. Monroe said he strongly encouraged the use of body cameras. “I believe in them,” he said. “I believe the investment in them is worth it.”

Cain, who also spoke on behalf of the state sheriff’s association, said the vast majority of Kentucky sheriffs would love to have the transparency that body cameras provide. He added that budgetary issues keep many small- and medium-size departments, including his own, from acquiring those cameras.

“If this is something the General Assembly thinks should happen, and I personally agree that it should, I would hope that this body would start by looking at where that money would come from because most of the communities in Kentucky will not be able to afford them,” Cain said.

Kentucky League of Cities CEO J.D. Chaney testified that his organization has historically been against unfunded mandates but that the organization generally supports the use of police body cameras. He added that body cameras could also reduce insurance premiums for municipalities, many of which are insured through the league.

Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, asked how long camera footage should be saved and whether costs to departments could be reduced if the state provided storage. Monroe said his department kept footage for a minimum of 30 days. He added that cost to local departments would likely be reduced if the state provided data storage.

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, asked what departments could do to ensure officers equipped with body cameras used them. Monroe said that is done through policy and training.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said requiring every police officer to wear a body camera isn’t going to be the cure-all when it comes to building trust between police departments and the communities they serve.

“A lot of people think politicians are corrupt, but do we want a camera in the Senate president’s office, or the governor’s office, or my office, to make sure we do everything right every day?” said Schickel, a former law enforcement officer. “Where does this all stop?”

In addition to the costs, Monroe said the negatives associated with body cameras include the fact that the footage does not capture the officer’s mindset based on what he or she perceived was occurring.

Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, asked about the benefits of body cameras. Monroe said they include better transparency, improved trust, reduced citizen complaints and the phenomenon of the “civilizing effect.” It’s a term referring to individuals engaging in more civil behavior toward each other when they know they are being recorded.

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, said he supports body cameras. The former internal affairs investigator and assistant police chief said Paducah police successfully pioneered the use of body cameras in Kentucky years ago.

“They use the opportunity with the video that is taken from those body cameras to support their officers and to put positive stories out,” Carroll said. “They have been a value to them in that way.”

He asked where the technology of body cameras was heading. Monroe said his department was exploring the possibility of cameras providing live, real-time video to dispatchers.

END

 

 

July 8, 2020

 

New laws go into effect next week

FRANKFORT -- Most new laws approved during this year’s regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly will go into effect on Wednesday, July 15.

That means voters will be asked to show a photo ID at the polls, veterinarians will be allowed to make a report to authorities if they find an animal under their care has been abused, and holders of state-issued ID cards will be added to the list of potential jurors.

While COVID-19 concerns caused lawmakers to gavel into session for only 53 of the 60 days allowed under the Kentucky Constitution, 285 Senate bills and 647 House bills were introduced for a total of 932. Of those, 49 Senate bills and 75 House bills became law for a total of 124. That’s in addition to 462 resolutions that were introduced in both chambers, four of which carry the weight of law. That means 13.3 percent of all bills introduced became law.

The Kentucky Constitution specifies that new laws take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the legislature, which was April 15, unless they have special effective dates, are general appropriation measures, or include emergency clauses that make them effective immediately upon becoming law.

While some major measures have already taken effect -- such as the state budget and COVID-19 relief -- the majority of bills don't go on the books until July 15. They include measures on the following topics

Alcohol: House Bill 415 will allow distillers, wineries and breweries to ship directly to consumers, in and out of Kentucky, once certain regulations are in place. The bill imposes shipping limits of 10 liters of distilled spirits, 10 cases of wine and 10 cases of malt beverages per month. Packages of alcohol will have to be clearly labeled and be signed for by someone 21 or older. HB 415 will also prohibit shipping to dry territories, communities where local laws prohibit alcohol sales.

Animal abuse: Senate Bill 21 will allow veterinarians to make a report to authorities if they find that an animal under their care has been abused. Veterinarians are currently prohibited by law from reporting abuse of animals under their care unless they have the permission of the animal’s owner or are under a court order.

Eating disorders: Senate Bill 82 will establish the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council. The group will oversee the development and implementation of eating disorder awareness, education, prevention and research programs.

Elections: Senate Bill 2, dubbed the voter photo ID bill, will require voters to present photographic identification at the polls, starting with November’s general election. If a voter does not have a photo ID, they will be able to show another form of ID and affirm, under the penalty of perjury, that they are qualified to vote. The bill allows poll workers to vouch for a voter they know even if that person has no valid ID. People who request mail-in absentee ballots must also provide a copy of a photo ID, or must complete an affirmation that they are qualified to vote. Another provision of SB 2 will provide a free state-issued ID card for individuals who are at least 18 and do not have a valid driver’s license.

Human rights: House Bill 2 will require a national anti-human trafficking hotline number to be advertised in airports, truck stops, train stations and bus stations. Posters with the hotline number are currently required in rest areas. The bill also closes a loophole in the state sex offender registry by adding specific human trafficking offenses to the definition of a sex crime.

Infrastructure protection: House Bill 44 will strengthen security for critical infrastructure across Kentucky by specifying that above-ground natural gas and petroleum pipelines in addition to certain cable television facilities aren’t suitable areas for drone flights. The legislation also defines tampering with the assets as felony criminal mischief.

Jurors: Senate Bill 132 will add people with state-issued personal identification cards to the pool of potential jurors in the county where they live. Currently, the pool draws from driver’s license lists, tax rolls and voter registration lists.

Lt. Governor: House Bill 336 will let gubernatorial candidates select their running mate for lieutenant governor before the second Tuesday in August instead of during the spring primary campaign.

Mental health: House Bill 153 will establish the Kentucky Mental Health First Aid Training Program. The plan is aimed at training professionals and members of the public to identify and assist people with mental health or substance abuse problems. The program would also promote access to trainers certified in mental health first aid training.

Senate Bill 122 will make a change to Tim’s Law of 2017, a much-heralded law that has rarely been used by the courts. The law allowed judges to order assisted outpatient treatment for people who had been involuntarily hospitalized at least twice in the past 12 months. SB 122 extends the period to 24 months.

Sex offenders: House Bill 204 will prohibit sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a publicly leased playground. Sex offenders must already follow these standards for publicly owned parks.

Students’ wellbeing: Senate Bill 42 states that, starting on August 1, student IDs for middle school, high school and college students must list contacts for national crisis hotlines specializing in domestic violence, sexual assault and suicide prevention.

--END--

 

 

June 26, 2020

 

Lawmakers hold hearing on UI benefit payment delays

 

FRANKFORT – After hundreds of people seeking help in resolving their unemployment insurance claims descended on the Capitol last week, a legislative panel convened today to investigate the backlog.

Calling it “almost criminal” that some Kentuckians have waited since March to have their claims processed, Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R- Lebanon, said the executive branch had “created a crisis within a crisis.” He said the governor’s administration appeared to underestimate the need for unemployment insurance when it ordered many businesses to close in a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, used the meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development & Workforce Investment to press whether Kentucky’s Office of Unemployment Insurance (OUI) officials were consulted before the governor ordered many businesses closed.

Education Workforce & Development Cabinet Deputy Secretary Josh Benton testified that he was not consulted before the order that closed the businesses. OUI currently is housed in Benton’s cabinet although there are plans to move it to the Labor Cabinet.

Carroll, a co-chair of the committee, then questioned the wisdom of moving OUI to the other cabinet amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Labor Cabinet Secretary Larry Roberts testified that the move would put OUI in a cabinet it had traditionally been housed. He said that should bring more expertise to the office during this crisis.

Adam Bowling, R- Middlesboro, lamented that the state was able to marshal all its resources to provide COVID-19 testing in every county but couldn’t use those resources to process the surge of UI claims. He added there have been about 14,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to the hundreds of thousands who are unemployed.

“It doesn’t seem ... that the state has done anything to reach out and better this situation,” Bowling said. “I realize we are overwhelmed. I realized the system is antiquated. I realize changes need to be done moving forward, but we have to work with what we have now. We have to use every resource we can to better this situation.”

Roberts said officials are using what they learned assisting the people who gathered at the Capitol last week to hold in-person events across the state. There will be in-person services offered by OUI in Ashland and Owensboro next week. That service will also be expanded to Somerset, Hopkinsville, Northern Kentucky and Prestonsburg sometime after July 4.

Rep. Buddy Wheatley, D-Covington, asked what the procedure was for people who live in Kentucky but work in another state. Wheatley’s district borders Ohio. Benton said the “rule of thumb” was to apply for UI benefits in the state where one works.

“I’m with a lot of the other legislators here who have felt a great deal of stress related to this issue,” Wheatley said. “We like to have answers to questions.”

Carroll urged the governor's office to better communicate with legislators.

Education & Workforce Development Cabinet Legislative Affairs Director Heather Dearing testified that OUI couldn’t accept an offer to use legislative staff to process claims because those staff members hadn’t received the federally required background checks. She added, however, that OUI was working closely with the legislators' constituent services office to help resolve claims. Legislative staff also assisted with the Frankfort in-person services.

Committee Co-chair Rep. Russell Webber, R-Shepherdsville, asked whether an $865 million no-interest loan Kentucky received to pay for all the UI claims would increase the contribution rate small businesses pay into the state’s UI trust fund. “These businesses have really been hit hard,” Webber added. “A hit with a rate increase I think would be detrimental to a lot of these businesses.”

Benton said what businesses pay into the trust fund would go up unless there was legislative action taken in conjuncture with the executive branch.

Rep. Charles Booker, D-Louisville, asked what legislators could do at this point to move forward and help.

“Do we want to be dependent upon the federal government on how we run the public workforce system?” Benton said in response. “Is there an opportunity to provide stability of funds and other resources to make sure we don’t have the ebbs and flow of seasoned staff and service coverage moving forward?”

Roberts added that the UIO budget went from $41 million in 2010 to $25 million in 2018, causing the loss of 95 employees and the closing of 29 regional offices. “Gov. (Andy) Beshear is very frustrated as you are and as all of our constituents are,” Roberts said. “We have recognized that we cannot do enough with the staff that we have.”

Roberts said Beshear has directed the OUI staff to negotiate with an outside vendor for assistance with claims. “Without that, it would take us several months to get through all these claims,” Roberts said, adding he hopes by Monday the governor will be able to announce the state has hired a company with UI experience in other states to help.

Carroll expressed frustration that a contractor with experience processing claims, and not just answering phones, wasn’t hired months ago and pledged to continue to revisit the problems processing UI claims in future committee meetings.

--END--

 

 

 

June 25, 2020

 

Today’s legislative committee meetings will be livestreamed

FRANKFORT – Today’s state legislative committee meetings will be conducted via videoconference and can be viewed live online. 

Committees scheduled to meet today are:

         12 noon -- Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee

         1 p.m. -- Committee on Health, Welfare, and Family Services

         3 p.m. -- Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee

All of the meetings can be viewed live on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmnoJBrwFmd7JK0HA9KcPaw.

 

--END--

 

 

 

 

June 24, 2020

  

State legislators to hold Thursday meetings via videoconference

FRANKFORT -- Legislative committee meetings scheduled for Thursday, June 25 will be conducted via videoconference.

The meetings will be held remotely rather than in-person in response to a Kentucky State Police request to reduce the number of public workers on the State Capitol campus to help ensure public safety on a day when a large public gathering might limit access to the Capitol grounds.

Committees scheduled to meet Thursday include the Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee, the Committee on Health, Welfare, and Family Service, and the Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee. Within one or two business days, video recordings of the meetings will be posted on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmnoJBrwFmd7JK0HA9KcPaw.

The Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection meeting that was originally scheduled for tomorrow has been rescheduled for 1 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30.

--END-

 

 

 

June 4, 2020

Legislative panel hears police reform proposals

Keturah Herron (left), a policy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and Black Lives Matter member, and Louisville Metro Council President David James testify before today’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Louisville Metro Council President David James asked lawmakers for help in rebuilding the community’s trust after days of protests following the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor.

“To help with the police issue, we have to build back credibility in our police department,” James said while testifying before today’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary. “There has to be trust between the community and police for policing to ever work and be successful.”

Committee Co-chair Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, said the testimony of James and Keturah Herron of the American Civil Liberties Union was an opportunity to provide a platform for the pair to speak about the events surrounding Taylor's death.

The 26-year-old EMT was fatally shot by police after officers entered her home in the early morning hours of March 13 on a “no-knock” warrant in connection with a narcotics investigation. An officer was shot by Taylor’s boyfriend who has maintained he thought he was shooting at robbers – and not the police. No drugs were found in the home, and charges in connection to the shooting of the officer have been dismissed.

“We are not going to take questions,” Westerfield said to the committee members, some of whom participated via video chat. “We are not going to comment or make statements. I’ll save that for each of you in your own district in your own way and in your own time. This is a time for us to listen. We need to hear what needs to be said from these two fine professional folks.”

James said he had a unique perspective on rebuilding the community’s trust in law enforcement since he was a police officer before joining metro council.

He said Louisville needs a civilian review board, but that the General Assembly would have to grant it subpoena power for it to be effective.

The second action James suggested was legislation to severely limit “no-knock” warrants across Kentucky. He said metro council is considering a proposed ordinance curtailing the use of such warrants, but it would not apply to the 26 other city police departments that operate within Jefferson County.

“I would ask you all to consider this for our entire state,” James said. “They’re dangerous. They are dangerous for police officers, and they are dangerous for citizens. I believe they should be used in only the most extreme circumstances to protect life.”

Thirdly, James suggested the General Assembly examine the subjects of poverty and housing. “The issues with law enforcement and trust are not simply just about policing,” he said. “They are about all sorts of other things. Policing is just a symptom of that.”

The fourth suggestion James made was for the legislature to join metro council in forming a permanent committee to look at equality and inclusion.

“We think it is very important that we look at all the policies and procedures of the city, of the government, to see what we can do better,” he said. “I would ask that the legislature do the same for the state because I think we need to do better. I think we can do better. And I ask you to help us do better."

Lastly, James said Kentucky’s police officers’ bill of rights needs to be revised by legislators. He said the way it is written limits management’s ability to discipline police officers.

“I don’t think you want bad police officers policing our communities,” James said. “I know I don’t. I want the good ones policing our communities. And I want all of our citizens to be treated equally and fairly under the color of law.”

James ended his testimony by stressing that law enforcement, especially African-American police officers, are under tremendous stress. “They are caught in the middle,” he said, adding that some have had to move their families into hotel rooms because of threats.

James offered to help lawmakers any way he could that would lead to a more equitable Kentucky.

Herron, a policy strategist with ACLU of Kentucky and member of Black Lives Matter, challenged the General Assembly to consider race and gender data when crafting public policy through legislation. She also urged the passage of a restoration of voter rights bill.

“I challenge ... the legislative body to start looking at those things," Herron said. "I am here to have a one-on-one conversation if anyone has further questions. I’m here to be of assistance."

After the testimony, Westerfield said he appreciated the pair’s willingness to work with legislators. “I trust that I and others will take you up on that pretty darn soon,” Westerfield said of the offers.

END

 

 

June 2, 2020

Educators discuss teaching during COVID-19

 

FRANKFORT – A legislative panel was briefed today on the challenges COVID-19 poses to reopening public schools across the state

“Schools are a major part of the economy,” Oldham County Schools Superintendent Greg Schultz said while testifying before the Interim Joint Committee on Education. “We recognize that. We want to be open. We want to incorporate safe and healthy practices in regards to COVID, but to be able to do so, the requirements must be doable.”

Schultz gave a presentation on superintendents’ concerns related to the pandemic via video chat while committee members practiced social distancing by sitting at least six feet apart or also using video chat to participate in the meeting.

Schultz said policymakers needed to balance what could realistically be done with ideal public health protocols.

For example, Schultz said guidance that urged one student per seat in every other row of a school bus was unfeasible. “There is just no way most school districts will be able to get their students to school in a timely fashion or a cost-effective fashion under that guidance,” he said.

Social distancing would also be a problem in the school building. Schultz said the physical size of classrooms would make it impossible to follow social distancing guidelines in some buildings. He said this would be a particular problem at high schools because of the larger class sizes in those grades.

For second-graders and younger, Schultz said it would be challenging to enforce the mask guidance. He added that even the most benign guidance, such as frequent hand washing, would take away from instructional hours in the lower grades.

“Sometimes we just need to keep in mind the responsibility of teachers in all of this as well,” Schultz said. “Teachers are being asked to play the role of lunchroom monitor as we eat in our classrooms, health coordinator as they check on the wellness of their students, and janitors as they are asked to clean their rooms.”

He said the added duties would be compounded by the teacher shortage and the aging teacher population.

Schultz said there is also the question of what to do with students who have or live with someone with a compromised immune system. He said with teachers back in the classrooms there would be fewer instructors available to provide distance learning to those students.

That’s all in addition to concerns regarding state funding models based on attendance and liability issues around COVID-19, Schultz added.

Kelly Foster of the Kentucky Department of Education testified that the reopening guidance was already being “refined” based on the feedback.

“We have heard those (concerns) loud and clear,” she said. “We want to recognize our partnership with public health. We are meeting with them at least once a week, sometimes more than that.”

Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, said she wholeheartedly agreed with the concerns.

“The variables within the school day ... do make following the guidelines problematic,” said Huff, co-chair of the committee. “You bought up some good points. I think we do need to look at some of the points that you made and make some changes and suggestions.”

As school districts closed in-person classes earlier this year, teaching was done through take-home packets, the internet and telephone. Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, asked what the academic performance has been of children during the non-traditional instruction.

Schultz said non-traditional instruction probably exasperated the equity issues. He said students who do not have a computer, reliable internet service and supportive family will likely fall behind.

“I think what we will see ... is that achievement gaps will widen because there is just not the same level of support,” Schultz said. “We have achievement gaps when students are in front of us. That tends not to get better when they are not in front of us.”

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, asked Schultz when his district would intervene with students who fell behind during non-traditional instruction. He said that could be as soon as June 15.

Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, spoke about the mental wellbeing of students.

“The emotional and mental health of our students has deteriorated during this time,” Riley said. “Oftentimes I talk to parents who say their children are crying because they don’t get to see their friends.”

END

 

 

March 22, 2020

 

State revenue shortfalls projected

FRANKFORT— The state is bracing for a $456.7 million – or four percent – General Fund revenue shortfall and a nearly $162 million shortfall in the state Road Fund this fiscal year, based on revised estimates from the group responsible for the state’s revenue forecasts.

The Consensus Forecasting Group—a panel of independent economists whose forecasts are used in state budget decisions – today revised its estimates for both funds for Fiscal Year 2020 at the request of State Budget Director John Hicks.

Hicks requested the revisions in an April 30 letter amid economic disruptions tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State budget officials told the CFG that the projected General Fund shortfall can be addressed through a budget reduction plan. That plan was included in the enacted FY 2020-21 Executive Branch budget found in 2020 House Bill 352, according to Office of the State Budget Director official Greg Harkenrider.

Budget reduction plans can be used when an “actual or projected” General Fund or Road Fund shortfall is five percent or less below the official enacted estimate approved by the Kentucky General Assembly, said Harkenrider.

With the projected Road Fund shortfall for fiscal year 2020 expected to fall 10.4 percent below the official enacted estimate, that shortfall would not fall under the enacted budget reduction plan in HB 352. It must instead be addressed by future action of the General Assembly, said Harkenrider.

That could precipitate the need for the Governor to call lawmakers into special session “given (that) there is less than six weeks left in FY 20,” he told the panel.

The revised estimates agreed to by the CFG were based on “pessimistic” scenarios that anticipate steep declines in consumer spending, real GDP, manufacturing employment, and other key economic indicators – a reflection of the current national recession, which OSBD official J. Michael Jones, PhD said began the third quarter of this fiscal year.

Although the recession is only expected to last for three quarters, Jones said overall recovery time is expected to be “significantly longer” than in more optimistic scenarios.

Kentucky’s General Fund collections were up 6.4 percent in the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2020 with year-to-date General Fund growth of 3.9 percent after March. That growth fell 1.2 percent after April, according to the OSBD. Total receipts fell 33.6 percent for April, a decline of $432.9 million, the agency reports.

For the Road Fund, the revised estimate largely reflects April receipts in motor fuels, motor vehicle usage revenue, and motor vehicle license revenue.  Motor fuels receipts fell $7.5 million, or 11.8 percent, while motor vehicle usage receipts dropped $29.9 million or 60.1 percent per the OSBD. Receipts for motor vehicle licenses fell 20.2 percent.

The revised revenue estimate for the state’s General Fund for FY 2020 is $10.9 billion, down from the official enacted estimate of $11.4 billion. The revised revenue estimate for the Road Fund for FY 2020 is $1.39 billion, down from an estimated $1.55 billion in the official enacted estimate.

--END-

 


 

 

 

May 15, 2020

 

COVID-19 concerns mean fewer people on Capitol campus,

but public has ways to stay connected to General Assembly

FRANKFORT – Public access to the State Capitol and the Capitol Annex buildings remains temporarily restricted as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, but Kentuckians still have numerous ways to stay connected to the work of their state lawmakers.

Kentucky Educational Television (KET) provides coverage of the General Assembly’s committee meetings. Meetings are livestreamed on KET’s Legislative Coverage web page at: https://www.ket.org/legislature/. If a scheduling conflict prevents a meeting from being covered by KET, LRC will livestream the meeting on the following site: https://legislature.ky.gov/Public%20Services/PIO/Pages/Live-Streams.aspx.

The calendar for legislative meetings is available here: https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/LegislativeCalendar. Meeting information is also available on a recorded message by calling 1-800-633-9650.

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.

Web surfers also can see for themselves the issues before lawmakers by browsing prefiled bills at: https://legislature.ky.gov/Legislation/Pages/default.aspx. The page also offers links to issues of the Interim Record, a publication that provides the minutes of legislative committee meetings. Information on legislative committees – including materials and handouts prepared for legislative committee meetings – can be viewed on the committee pages available at https://legislature.ky.gov/Committees/Pages/default.aspx.

In addition to general information about the legislatures, the Kentucky General Assembly website (https://legislature.ky.gov/Pages/index.aspx) provides information on each of Kentucky’s senators and representatives, including their legislative committee assignments, contact information, and Twitter handles.

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

--END-

 


April 27, 2020

 

Legislative leaders direct LRC staff to assist with unemployment benefits backlog

FRANKFORT – Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker David Osborne have instructed Legislative Research Commission (LRC) Director Jay D. Hartz to arrange for legislative staff members to assist in reducing the state’s backlog of unemployment insurance applications.

The authorization from legislative leaders will allow LRC staff to start working with the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to process information needed to file unemployment insurance claims.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has everyone looking for ways to help,” said Stivers, R-Manchester. “One priority is to get financial assistance to people across Kentucky who currently aren’t working due to business closings and the economic fallout of COVID-19. Legislative staff members are ready to assist with processing the state’s record number of unemployment insurance claims.”

“Seven weeks into this shutdown, we are still hearing from constituents across the state about difficulties getting through to a live operator. They’re calling us concerned that they won’t be able to pay their bills or provide for their families. We understand that this system was not designed to handle so many calls and applications. Our LRC staff have a great deal of institutional knowledge and help our constituents all the time. If they can help make unemployment benefits more accessible, we appreciate their willingness to step up,” said Osborne, R-Prospect. 

Hartz said his agency is currently working with the cabinet to set up training that will allow LRC staff members to begin assisting with unemployment insurance applications.

--END--

 


 

 

April 15, 2020

  

KY General Assembly adjourns 2020 session

FRANKFORT -- Every legislative session develops a unique personality. COVID-19 shaped the character of the 154th regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly that ended today.

The worldwide pandemic prompted the legislature, an institution steeped in tradition, to make changes to usual procedures. Lawmakers went from considering drafts of a two-year state budget to instead passing an austere one-year spending plan, an acknowledgment of the difficulties of making long-term revenue projections amid the economic turmoil of a pandemic. COVID-19 relief bills were quickly drafted and acted upon during the latter part the session.

Efforts to promote social distancing left the marble corridors of the 109-year-old Capitol quieter than usual for a budget session. Broadcast coverage of the session was expanded after the general public was restricted from visiting the Capitol. House members were allowed to cast votes while not in the chamber. Ultimately, the legislators gaveled into session for only 53 days -- seven days less than allowed by the Kentucky Constitution.

The $11.3 billion executive branch budget, however, will keep steady the basic per-pupil funding for Kentucky schools and support safety measures envisioned when lawmakers approved a major school safety bill last year. The spending plan, contained in House Bill 352, also provides the full actuarial-recommended level of funding for state public pension systems.

A COVID-19 relief measure, contained in Senate Bill 150, will loosen requirements for unemployment benefits and extend help to self-employed workers and others who would otherwise not be eligible.

It will also expand telemedicine options by allowing out-of-state providers to accept Kentucky patients, provide immunity for health care workers who render care or treatment in good faith during the current state of emergency, extend the state’s income tax filing deadline to July 15, address open meeting laws by allowing meetings to take place utilizing live audio or live video teleconferencing, and require the governor to declare in writing the date that the state of emergency ends.

Additional bills that the General Assembly approved include measures on the following topics:

Addiction treatment: Senate Bill 191 addresses certification and educational requirements for alcohol and drug counselors. The bill also directs Kentucky to establish guidelines employers can use to develop programs to help more individuals struggling with substance use disorders while maintaining employment.

Alcohol: House Bill 415 will allow distillers, wineries and breweries to be licensed to ship directly to consumers -- in and out of Kentucky. The bill imposes shipping limits of 10 liters of distilled spirits, 10 cases of wine and 10 cases of malt beverages per month. Packages of alcohol will have to be clearly labeled and be signed for by someone 21 or older. HB 415 will also prohibit shipping to dry territories, communities where alcohol sales are prohibited by local laws.

Eating disorders: Senate Bill 82 will establish the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council. The group will oversee the development and implementation of eating disorder awareness, education, prevention and research programs.

Elections: Senate Bill 2, dubbed the voter photo ID bill, will require voters to present photographic identification at the polls, starting in the general election in November. If a voter does not have a photo ID, they will be able to show another form of ID and affirm, under the penalty of perjury, that they are qualified to vote. The bill also allows poll workers to vouch for a voter they personally know even if that person has no valid ID. Another provision of SB 2 will provide a free state-issued ID card for individuals who are at least 18 and do not have a valid driver’s license. It currently costs $30 for that ID.

Hemp: House Bill 236 will conform Kentucky’s hemp laws to federal guidelines that changed after the passage of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill. That bill removed hemp from the list of federally controlled substances, which allowed farmers across the nation to grow hemp legally. The bill also expands the number of labs authorized to test hemp for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive component found in hemp and other types of cannabis.

Human rights: House Bill 2 will require a national anti-human trafficking hotline number to be advertised in airports, truck stops, train stations and bus stations. Posters with the hotline number are currently required in rest areas. The bill also closes a loophole in the state sex offender registry by adding specific human trafficking offenses to the definition of a sex crime.

Senate Bill 72 will ban female genital mutilation, often referred to as FGM, in Kentucky. A federal ban that had been in place for more than two decades was found unconstitutional in 2018. The bill will also make performing FGMs on minors a felony, ban trafficking of girls across state lines for FGMs and strip the licenses of medical providers convicted of the practice. The World Health Organization classifies FGM, a procedure that intentionally alters or causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, a human rights violation.

Infrastructure protection. House Bill 44 will strengthen security for critical infrastructure across Kentucky by specifying that above-ground natural gas and petroleum pipelines in addition to certain cable television facilities aren’t suitable areas for drone flights. The legislation also defines tampering with the assets as felony criminal mischief.

Jurors: Senate Bill 132 will add people with state-issued personal identification cards to the pool of potential jurors in the county where they live. Currently, the pool draws from driver’s license lists, tax rolls and voter registration lists.

Lt. Governor: House Bill 336 will let gubernatorial candidates select their running mate for lieutenant governor before the second Tuesday in August instead of during the spring primary campaign.

Marsy’s Law: Senate Bill 15 would enshrine certain rights for crime victims in the state constitution. Those would include the right to be notified of all court proceedings, reasonable protection from the accused, timely notice of a release or escape, and the right to full restitution. SB 15 is tied to a national movement to pass statutes that have been collectively known as Marsy’s law in honor of Marsy Nicholas, a 21-year-old California college student who was stalked and killed by an ex-boyfriend. A similar proposed constitutional amendment passed the General Assembly in 2018 and was subsequently approved by voters, but the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the law was invalid due to unconstitutional ballot language.

Now that it has been approved by lawmakers, Kentucky voters will decide on the proposed constitutional amendment this November.

Mental health: House Bill 153 will establish the Kentucky Mental Health First Aid Training Program. The plan would be aimed at training professionals and members of the public to identify and assist people with mental health or substance abuse problems. The program would also promote access to trainers certified in mental health first aid training.

Senate Bill 122 will make a change to Tim’s Law of 2017, a much-heralded law that has rarely been used by the courts. The law allowed judges to order assisted outpatient treatment for people who had been involuntarily hospitalized at least twice in the past 12 months. SB 122 extends the period to 24 months.

Mobile phones: House Bill 208 will require wireless providers of Lifeline federal-assistance telephone service to make monthly 911 service fee payments to the state. It will restore over $1 million a year in funding to 911 service centers.

Pensions: House Bill 484 separates the administration of the County Employees’ Retirement System (CERS) from the Kentucky Retirement Systems’ board of trustees. CERS accounts for 76 percent of the pension assets KRS manages and makes up 64 percent of the KRS membership -- but controls only 35 percent of the seats on the KRS board.

Public health: House Bill 129, dubbed the public health transformation bill, will modernize public health policy and funding in Kentucky. It will do this by streamlining local health departments by getting them to refocus on their statutory duties. Those are population health, enforcement of regulations, emergency preparedness and communicable disease control.

REAL ID: House Bill 453 will allow the transportation cabinet to establish regional offices for issuing driver’s licenses and personal identification cards. It also requires a mobile unit to visit every county multiple times per year to issue such credentials. It will ensure Kentucky complies with the federal REAL ID ACT enacted on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation.

School safety: Senate Bill 8 will require school resource officers (SROs) to be armed with a gun. The measure also clarifies various other provisions of the School Safety and Resiliency Act concerning SROs and mental health professionals in schools.

Sex offenders: House Bill 204 will prohibit sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a publicly leased playground. Sex offenders must already follow these standards for publicly owned parks.

Students’ wellbeing: Senate Bill 42 will require student IDs for middle school, high school and college students to list contacts for national crisis hotlines specializing in domestic violence, sexual assault and suicide.

Taxes: Senate Bill 5 will require library boards, and other so-called special-purpose governmental entities, to get approval from a county fiscal court or city council before increasing taxes.

Terms of constitutional offices. House Bill 405 proposes a constitutional amendment that would increase the term of office for commonwealth's attorneys from six years to eight years beginning in 2030 and increase the term of office for district judges from four years to eight years beginning in 2022. It would also increase the experience requirement to be a district judge from two years to eight years. The proposed constitutional amendment will be decided on by voters this November.

Tobacco: Senate Bill 56 will raise the age to purchase tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, to 21 from 18. The move will bring Kentucky’s statute in line with a new federal law raising the age to 21. The bill will remove status offenses for youth who purchase, use or possess tobacco, often called PUP laws, and will shift penalties to retailers who fail to follow the increased age restriction.

Veterans: House Bill 24 will support plans to build a veterans nursing home in Bowling Green. The legislation appropriates $2.5 million needed to complete design and preconstruction work for the 90-bed facility. That must be completed before federal funding is allocated to start construction on the proposed $30 million facility.

Most new laws -- those that come from legislation that doesn’t contain emergency clauses or special effective dates -- will go into effect in mid-July. Proposed constitutional amendments must be ratified by voters in November before they would take effect.

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April 15, 2020

 

 

General Assembly overrides budget vetoes

FRANKFORT— The General Assembly today voted to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s vetoes of portions of a one-year $11.3 billion state Executive Branch budget.

All 18 gubernatorial vetoes to the state budget bill, or House Bill 352, were read by bill sponsor and House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, before he called the House to cast a single vote to override the vetoes. That vote passed, 57-33.  In the Senate, the vote to override the vetoes on HB 352 was 27-7.

Supporters of the governor’s vetoes to HB 352 cited the need to give the governor more flexibility to address budget uncertainties in the face of a viral pandemic that has forced massive unemployment in Kentucky and nationally.

The governor has cited a rising number of unemployment claims as one reason he vetoed language that he has said could limit the ability of state agencies to address the crisis.

Other language in HB 352 that was vetoed by the governor but reinstated by the General Assembly will give Kentucky’s Attorney General the final word regarding any questions that arise regarding interpretation of HB 352 or the Transportation Cabinet budget.

Under current law, the Finance and Administration Cabinet has the authority to decide questions regarding the meaning of the Executive Branch budget and Transportation Cabinet budget when the General Assembly is not in session.

In response to questions, Rep. Steven Rudy, Chair of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, said language in the budget does not restrict the governor’s ability to deal with the current state of emergency.

“I don’t know of any specific areas where we are giving him limits on how he can deal with the coronavirus,” said Rudy, R-Paducah. He said the Executive Branch has access to a year’s worth of restricted funds appropriated by the General Assembly.

“I don’t see there is any possible way they would run out before January” when the General Assembly reconvenes to consider passing a budget for the second year of the 2020-2022 biennium. If more funding is needed, Rudy said the General Assembly has the sole constitutional authority to provide it.

“We, the General Assembly, are an important part of our three branches of government. We are the appropriators of the money and I think it’s important that we’re included in that process,” he added. 

House Minority Floor Leader Joni L. Jenkins, D-Shively, said she agrees that the General Assembly is an important body, but added that “I gather from your answer to that last question that should the future-- which is very hard to predict at this time -- indicate that the governor does not have the flexibility to move money, he would then almost be obligated to call us back into special session.”

Rudy said if there was an “extraordinary” need for revenue or appropriations then the governor is the only authority that can call the General Assembly back to act on such legislation.

Veto actions on HB 351—often referred to as the “revenue bill”—were overridden on a 57-32 vote in the House and 24-9 in the Senate.  Rudy said the governor’s veto actions on HB 351 were “invalid” since line-item vetoes can be made to appropriations bills but not revenue measures. HB 351 is not an appropriations bill per definitions set forth in the state constitution, said Rudy.

“The primary and specific aim of HB 351 was not to appropriate tax dollars, but rather HB 351 is an act of general legislation containing provisions of general law,” he stated. Even if the bill had included an appropriation, Rudy said that would not make the bill an appropriations bill in its entirety.

House Minority Whip Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, defended the governor’s actions. She said HB 351 may not be called an appropriations bill but that it includes appropriations language. “It is utterly appropriate that we would allow a veto of appropriations language,” she said.

The Senate and House also voted to override vetoes of portions in the two-year state Road Plan found in HB 354,  and the funding for that plan plus other needs included in the state Transportation Cabinet budget found in HB 353 by votes of 59-31 and 58-32 respectively in the House and 28-6 on both bills in the Senate.

All bills with vetoed provisions reinstated by the General Assembly will be filed with the Secretary of State instead of being returned to the governor.

 

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