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Recent News

This Week at the State Capitol - 02/21/20

Public assistance reform in HB 1 advances to Senate - 02/21/20

Medical marijuana bill advances in KY General Assembly - 02/20/20

Public assistance reform in HB 1 advances to full chamber - 02/20/20

Transportation secretary hiring reform advances - 02/20/20

Insulin cost-saving bill advances to Senate - 02/19/20

‘Jill’s Law’ gets House committee approval - 02/19/20

This Week at the State Capitol - 02/14/20

Insulin cost-saving bill heads to KY House - 02/13/20

Foster child student bill advances to Senate - 02/13/20

Medicinal marijuana bills clears House hurdle - 02/12/20

House supports UofL purchase of KentuckyOne assets - 02/12/20

Bill addresses transportation secretary hiring - 02/11/20

Dual credit bill moves to House - 02/11/20

KY 911 service fee bill advances to Senate  - 02/11/20

Excise tax proposal for vaping devices heads to House - 02/11/20

Bill targets access to care for eating disorders - 02/10/20

This Week at the State Capitol - 02/07/20

House votes to end corporal punishment in schools - 02/7/20

School safety bill headed to governor - 02/7/20

 Black History Celebration to honor contributions to U.S. military - 02/06/20

School principal hiring bill moves to House - 02/06/20

Pension and pay measures advance in House - 02/06/20

Bill aims to address youth suicide and violence - 02/06/20

Resolution to make DST permanent moves to Senate - 02/5/20

Expungement bill passes House Judiciary Committee - 02/5/20

Bill outlines principles of picking principals - 02/5/20

Eating disorder treatment bill moves in Senate - 02/5/20

Bill banning sanctuary policies heads to House - 02/4/20

Insurance fraud measure moves to Senate - 02/4/20

Donations-for-fines bill gets House approval - 02/4/20

Bill addressing animal abuse reporting advances - 02/4/20

Kentucky hemp bill receives final passage - 02/4/20

Two bills addressing children’s health advance - 02/4/20

This Week at the State Capitol - 01/31/20

First bill of session achieves final passage - 01/31/20

KY hemp bill heads back to House - 01/31/20

Medical marijuana resolution passes to Senate - 01/30/20

Bill banning sanctuary policies advances - 01/30/20

Anti-pension spiking measure moves to Senate - 01/29/20

Bill addressing lawmakers’ pensions advances - 01/29/2020

Bill updates childcare center standards - 01/29/2020

Bill tackles blood-test refusals in DUI cases - 01/28/20

Youth mental health bill clears House hurdle - 01/28/20

School bus safety bill rolls on to full House - 01/28/20

KY House passes bill to hurry construction of vets’ nursing home - 01/28/20

Senate passes new school safety bill  - 01/27/2020

This Week at the State Capitol - 01/24/20

Bill raising age to buy tobacco passes Senate - 01/23/20

A voter photo ID bill heads to House - 01/23/20

Mental health first-aid training bill advances to Senate - 01/23/20

School safety bill passes out of Senate panel - 01/23/20

Pension spiking, other issues tackled by retirement clean-up bill - 01/23/20

Senate panel hears ‘born-alive’ legislation - 01/23/20

KY takes step to ban female genital mutilation - 01/22/20

Foster care system tweaks pass Kentucky House - 01/22/20

Voter ID bill receives favorable hearing - 01/22/20

Bill to tighten sex offender limits clears House panel - 01/22/20

Kentucky hemp bill passes House, 70-17

This Week at the State Capitol -  01/17/20

Public health ‘transformation’ bill clears committee - 01/16/20

State Senate passes first bills of Regular Session - 01/16/20

Sports wagering bill clears House committee - 01/15/20

Bill banning female genital mutilation advances - 01/15/20

Bill to curb damaging rental properties heard - 01/14/20

House Transportation hears of Real ID rollout - 01/14/20

This Week in Frankfort - 01/10/20

  



 

 

 

February 21, 2020

 

This Week at the State Capitol

FRANKFORT – Although the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2020 session reached its halfway point this week, much more than half of the workload of this session likely lies ahead.

After seven weeks of legislative activity, hundreds of bills have moved closer to becoming law, although fewer than ten have reached the governor’s desk to be signed. That’s typical at this point in a session. It’s likely that the pace will progressively increase in the days ahead and that the number of bills sent to the governor’s desk could exceed 100 by the time the legislative veto recess begins in early April.

One of the lengthiest legislative debates so far this year was held on Thursday as members of the House considered – and ultimately approved – a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky. Under an amendment added to the bill, qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana would include chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and nausea or vomiting.

If House Bill 136 becomes law, the measure would establish policies for the cultivation, processing, sale, distribution and use of medical marijuana. Patients who qualify to receive a registry card to obtain medical marijuana would not be able to use the medicine in a form that could be smoked. They wouldn’t be allowed to grow marijuana at home either. Local governments would be able to prevent dispensaries from locating in their areas, if they choose.

The bill was approved by the House on a 65-30 vote on Thursday. It now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

In other business this week, lawmakers cast votes on numerous other measures, including bills on the following topics:

Diabetes. House Bill 12 would limit patient costs for a 30-day supply of insulin to $100. The legislation was approved by the House 92-0 on Wednesday and now goes to the Senate.

Marsy’s Law. A measure to add a crime victims’ “bill of rights” to the state constitution was approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday. Senate Bill 15—widely known as Marsy’s Law— would specify in the state constitution that crime victims have the certain rights, including the right to be notified about court proceedings, the right to reasonable protection from the accused, and the right to be heard in hearings. If approved by the full Senate and the House, the measure would be decided on by Kentucky voters this fall.

Lawmakers considered Marsy’s Law legislation two years ago and approved the measure, which sent it before the states’ voters in the form of a proposed amendment to the state constitution. Though a majority of Kentucky voters cast votes in favor of Marsy’s Law, the Supreme Court invalidated the measure with a ruling that said the voting ballots should have provided the entire text of the proposed amendment rather than a summary of it.

Public Assistance Reform. House Bill 1 seeks to reform the way public assistance is provided in Kentucky, with an eye toward preventing fraud while offering assistance to people seeking to move beyond public assistance and into the workforce.

Key provisions of HB 1 would require most cash assistance beneficiaries to use a single electronic benefit transfer card for all program with penalties for misusing the card. Other provisions would provide “transitional” benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and allow implementation of a Medicaid work requirement should state matching funds required to cover Kentucky’s expanded Medicaid population reach a certain level. Additionally, those with earnings between 138-200 percent of the federal poverty level who no longer qualify for Medicaid because of increased income, but who otherwise qualify for Medicaid, could participate in a state health insurance option. The program would provide the optional insurance to a qualified individual for 12 months or longer.

House Bill 1 was approved by the House 58-32 on Friday and now goes to the Senate.

Transportation secretary. Senate Bill 4 would no longer make the selection of the state transportation secretary solely a decision of the governor. Instead, the bill would create a Kentucky Transportation Board to be responsible for submitting a list of transportation secretary candidates from which the governor would make a selection. The governor’s choice would have to be confirmed by the Senate. The bill passed the Senate 25-8 on Wednesday and now goes to the House for consideration.

Citizens are encouraged to share their feedback with lawmakers on the issues under consideration by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

 

END

 

 

 

 

Feb. 21, 2020

 

Public assistance reform in HB 1 advances to Senate

House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade, R-Stanford, presents HB 1 for a floor vote. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT—A House initiative to reform how Kentucky provides low-income cash assistance, food assistance, and certain Medicaid benefits to its citizens passed the chamber today by a vote of 58-32. 

House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade, R-Stanford, said House Bill 1, as amended on the House floor today, would remove barriers to public assistance by those who need it most while holding those who may abuse the system accountable. Meade and House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, are primary cosponsors of the measure.

“I would say that if we save one life from drug addiction, or we make sure one child does not go hungry because their parents are trafficking (their benefits) card, then it’s well worth the cost that we’ve spent,” Meade told his colleagues in the House. 

Key reforms that the state would be required to implement under House Bill 1 would: require most cash assistance beneficiaries to use one single electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card for all programs with penalties for selling or otherwise misusing the card; provide “transitional” benefits through SNAP—the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps, and; allow implementation of a Medicaid work requirement should state matching funds required to cover Kentucky’s expanded Medicaid population reach a certain level.

Those with earnings between 138-200 percent of the federal poverty level who no longer qualify for Medicaid because of increased income, but who otherwise qualify for Medicaid, could participate in a state health insurance option under HB 1. The program would provide the optional insurance to a qualified individual for 12 months or longer.

Some lawmakers opposing the legislation said it could potentially cost the state more that it would save.  House Minority Whip Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, said fraud and “perceived fraud” among public cash assistance beneficiaries in Kentucky is estimated to cost taxpayers less than $400,000 a year at most. The impact of HB 1 would cost more than 50 times that amount, she estimated.

“We’ll spend $20 million to ferret this out,” she said. “And why? … The reasons are that we want to encourage people to work. Well, statistics show us that 62 percent of people who are on Medicaid are working compared to the general public’s percentage which is 58 percent.”

Meade said most of the money to pay for the initiative would be federal, not state. He also countered some legislators’ comments that HB 1 would hurt low-income families and individuals by saying the legislation would “drastically” increase benefits while helping individuals become more self-sufficient.

“Only those who lose these benefits can do so in two ways—they are either fraudulently misusing the card, the benefits that they’ve been given, or they are a completely able-bodied adult with no dependents and simply choose not to participate in a community engagement program,” said Meade.

HB 1 would also require the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to report to the state Public Assistance Oversight and Advisory Committee regarding possible changes to childcare assistance programs, and propose a legislative work group to review and report to the General Assembly on state substance abuse recovery efforts.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 

END

 

 

 

Feb. 20, 2020

 

Medical marijuana bill advances in KY General Assembly

 

HB 136 primary cosponsor Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, presents the medical marijuana legislation for a floor vote. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT— For the first time in Kentucky history, a bill to legalize medical marijuana came to a vote on the floor of the Kentucky House. Apparently the first time was a charm.

Members of the House voted 65-30 to approve the legalization of medical marijuana under House Bill 136, along with eight floor amendments to the bill. The measure now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

“HB 136 when it is passed, which I hope that it is, will be the tightest medical marijuana bill in the country,” said Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, who shares primary sponsorship of the measure with Rep. John Sims Jr., D-Flemingsburg.

Nemes said that he and Sims have spent years meeting with stakeholders to ensure that the legislation addresses their concerns.

“We’ve met with stakeholders from law enforcement, constituents, regular folks … patients, physicians, chiropractors. I mean, you name it, we’ve been there,” he said.

The bill as passed by the House would extensively clarify state policies for cultivation, processing, sale, distribution, and use of medical marijuana. Licensing of cannabis dispensaries is covered, as is maintenance of a cardholder registry for cannabis users.

Smoking of medical marijuana would be prohibited under HB 136.  The bill instead would allow the drug to be dispensed as “edibles” such as gummies, oils, or similar products.  Customers would be limited to a month’s supply at one time. 

Keeping with the sponsors’ commitment to make HB 136 a public health bill and not a revenue maker, Nemes said excise taxes and all other revenue created by the bill would go to regulation of the program and nothing else. Additionally, local governments would have the last say in whether medical marijuana businesses operate within their jurisdiction.

Among those House members voting against the proposal was former Kentucky State Trooper and current pastor Rep. Chris Fugate, R-Chavies. He cited the fact that marijuana remains a federally controlled substance that isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as a reason for his vote.

“Marijuana, no matter how we look at it, is against federal law” and joins heroin, LSD, and ectasy as a Schedule I narcotic, said Fugate. It is also a “gateway drug,” he said, referring to drugs that are believed by some to lead to abuse of more dangerous drugs later on.

Voting is support of the bill was Rep. Robert Goforth, R-East Bernstadt. The licensed pharmacist said he supports the bill on behalf of individuals like his adult brother diagnosed years ago with cerebral palsy.

Goforth said he sees his brother suffer on a regular basis from “adverse side effects” caused by FDA-approved anticonvulsants and other drugs.

“If I can give him a little bit of relief from the FDA-approved medication that has caused those adverse side effects for him, to control those conditions, I’m going to do it. I have to do it,” he said.

 

END

 



 

 

 

 

Feb. 20, 2020

 

Public assistance reform in HB 1 advances to full chamber

FRANKFORT—A top priority of House majority leaders —to reform how the state provides public assistance to its citizens – passed out of committee today and now advances to the full chamber.

House Bill 1, sponsored by House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, and Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade, R-Stanford, was approved by the House Health and Family Services Committee. It now returns to the full House for further consideration.

“We have talked for years about how to make our public assistance systems work better. Most of the time those have been discussed, quite frankly, in a very punitive manner,” said Osborne. “This has been a legitimate and heartfelt attempt, particularly by Speaker Meade, on bringing a compassionate (aspect) to this.”

Key provisions of HB 1, among others, involve changes to cash assistance programs and eligibility for expanded Medicaid. Each cash assistance beneficiary would be placed on a single electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, with exceptions made for foster care, kinship care and similar program payments. Another provision in the bill could require expanded Medicaid beneficiaries who have been part of the state’s expanded Medicaid population for at least one year to work at least 80 hours a month in order to continue to qualify for Medicaid benefits.

The work requirement for expanded Medicaid—part of a “community engagement program” that would implemented by the state under HB 1—would kick in should the percentage of the state general fund Medicaid budget needed to provide the state match for Kentucky’s expanded Medicaid population reach 50 percent.  

Those with earnings between 138-200 percent of the federal poverty level who no longer qualify for Medicaid because of increased income, but who otherwise qualify for Medicaid, could participate in a state health insurance option under HB 1. The program would provide the optional insurance to a qualified individual for 12 months or possibly longer.

Among those voting against the bill in committee was Rep. George Brown Jr., D-Lexington, who said many Kentuckians could be “banned from benefits for life” under HB 1.

“I’ve got serious problems with this, and my vote is no,” said Brown.

Rep. Daniel Elliott, R-Danville, said he thinks some of his colleagues on the committee may disagree on whether or not public assistance is misused or abused by some people.

“I believe that it is, and I think that’s what we’re trying to get at here. That’s why I’ll vote yes, because we’re stewards of the taxpayer dollar,” said Elliott.

HB 1 includes several recommendations from the 2019 Public Assistance Reform Task Force, which met several months before issuing the recommendations late last year.

END

 

 

 

 

 

 Feb. 20, 2020

Transportation secretary hiring reform advances

Senate Transportation Committee Chair Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, stands in support of Senate Bill 4, a measure that would change the way Kentucky selects its transportation secretary, during today's Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – A bill that would pave the way to changes in how Kentucky hires transportation secretaries passed out of the state Senate today.

“We need a transportation policymaking process that is transparent and accountable,” said Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, who sponsored the measure, known as Senate Bill 4. “This bill incorporates ideas from Florida, South Carolina, Virginia and other states.”

He said at the core of SB 4 would be the establishment of the Kentucky Transportation Board. The board would be responsible for submitting a list of transportation secretary candidates from which the governor would have to choose. The governor’s choice would also have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Higdon said the approach would be similar to how the Kentucky Economic Development Partnership Board has selected the state economic development secretary since the General Assembly passed legislation to reform that cabinet in 1992.

Senate Transportation Committee Chair Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, stood in support of SB 4. “I believe this bill does the best we possibly can to take the politics out of roads and the funding of them,” he said while referencing previous testimony concerning how governors have handed out road projects as political favors.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, also stood in support of SB 4. He said governors have “politicized and weaponized” transportation projects for decades.

“Every administration I ever served under used this cabinet to do things that were totally outside of process and policy and purely political,” he said. Stivers added that Kentucky is one of only nine states where the governor can currently appoint the leader of the transportation department with no legislative involvement.

Democratic Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, stood in opposition of SB 4. He said the economic development board wasn’t a good comparison because the sitting governor is the chair and a voting member of the board.

“This isn’t a road map to transparency and accountability,” McGarvey said of SB 4. “It is a road map to confusion with side trips to delay and conflict. We know why we are doing it. We are here in the early days of a new administration as the General Assembly attempts to take power from this governor.”

SB 4 states one of the transportation board’s first responsibilities will be to begin the process for the selection of a cabinet secretary. The current transportation secretary could be considered for the job but wouldn’t be guaranteed a re-appointment. 

Higdon said the board would also have several duties as related to the development of the state’s six-year road plan. SB 4 would codify a process already in place to use traffic data and other objective measurements to prioritize road projects being considered for funding in the state highway plan. Higdon emphasized that the bill would not change legislators’ role in the final selection of road projects and the appropriation of funds.

The board would consist of nine voting members appointed by the governor from nominations submitted from the state’s League of Cities, Association of Counties and Chamber of Commerce. To ensure each organization is represented equally on the board, the governor would have to appoint three nominees from each of the organizations.

Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, voted against SB 4 but did successfully introduce an amendment, known as Senate Floor Amendment 2, that would require board membership to reflect gender and racial diversity.

SB 4 passed by a 25-8 vote. It now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

END



 

  

Feb. 19, 2020

Insulin cost-saving bill advances to Senate

FRANKFORT—The more than 500,000 Kentuckians who have been diagnosed with diabetes could save on costly insulin prescriptions under a bill that today passed the Kentucky House.

House Bill 12 would cap patient cost for a 30-day supply of insulin in Kentucky at $100 per prescription, said HB 12 primary co-sponsor and licensed pharmacist Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell.  A diabetic himself, Bentley said typical costs for a month’s supply of the drug can run $1200 or more per patient.

“I use insulin. A box of Lantus is over $300 dollars,” said Bentley. “So if you use four boxes a month, that’s $1200.”

It’s that kind of expense, Bentley said, that has led some diabetics to begin rationing the life-saving drug.

“We hope that (HB 12) helps,” said Bentley. “Especially personal to me are the people I live with in Eastern Kentucky where we have a high rate of diabetes.”

An amendment to the bill filed by HB 12 primary co-sponsor and licensed pharmacist Rep. Steve Sheldon, R-Bowling Green, gives patients further assurance by prohibiting insurers from increasing the patient cost of insulin prescriptions that fall below $100. The amendment was adopted in the House by voice vote.

Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, voted in support of the bill. The mother of a Type 1 diabetic, Minter said those affected by diabetes are a “growing family.”

Minter said she ultimately supports insulin-for-all but that there is a need for HB 12 now.

“This is an excellent start, and it’s an excellent example of what this chamber can do when we are at our very best,” she said.

HB 12 passed the House 92-0. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 

END

 

Feb. 19, 2020

‘Jill’s Law’ gets House committee approval

House Bill 298 sponsor Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, testifies on the police-pursuit measure with Western Hills High School student Addison McCoun. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

 

FRANKFORT—“Police pursuit” policies would be required at law enforcement agencies statewide under a bill on its way to the Kentucky House.

House Bill 298 sponsor Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, told the House Judiciary Committee that his bill is intended to prevent innocent bystanders from being killed during police chases. He dedicated the bill to 18-year-old Jill Tyler Hurst, a Lawrenceburg teen who died last fall days after she was thrown from a vehicle that was hit by a car being pursued by police in Anderson County.

Tipton said there were six other fatalities in the state caused by pursuit-related crashes around the same time as the wreck that led to Hurst’s death.

Under HB 298—which would be titled “Jill’s Law” should it become law—every law enforcement agency in Kentucky would be required to have a police pursuit policy that would be reviewed annually. And no law enforcement officer could be involved in a police pursuit without specific training, which would be completed as part of their required in-service training.

Criminal suspects charged with misdemeanor second-degree fleeing and evading as a result of being involved in police pursuits would could lose their driver’s licenses for 30 days to as long as one year, per the measure.

Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, asked Tipton how many agencies in Kentucky are without police pursuit policies now. He said there are no exact numbers – yet.

“If this law is enacted, we will know, because they will be required to submit a copy,” said Tipton. “…There may be many that do not.”

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, asked Tipton to consider amending the bill to require proposed mandated training for officers every other year to accommodate the “number of law enforcement personnel we have around the state.” Tipton said he is open to that discussion.

Speaking alongside Tipton in support of HB 298 was Hurst’s friend Addison McCoun, a student at Western Hills High School in Frankfort. McCoun told the committee that the legislation is important to spare other lives.

“If this high-speed chase didn’t occur, Jill would be here with me today,” she said. “It shouldn’t have happened, and it should never happen again.”

HB 298 now goes to the full House for consideration.

END



 

Feb. 14, 2020

 

This Week at the State Capitol

FRANKFORT – Highlights of the legislative week typically occur in the historic Senate and House chambers, but this past week the Capitol Rotunda was the scene of an unforgettable moment for many in the statehouse.

Those attending the annual Black History Celebration, hosted by the Black Legislative Caucus, recognized a military hero who achieved great success but was not promoted to the position many believed he deserved due the racial prejudice he encountered throughout a military career that spanned more than three decades. During the Tuesday celebration, Gov. Andy Beshear announced to applause that Charles Young, who was born in 1864 to enslaved parents in Mays Lick, Kentucky, and went on to become the first African American Colonel in the U.S. Army, was being posthumously promoted to a Brigadier General in Kentucky.

Young’s commitment to service didn’t waver despite the prejudice he faced throughout his career, according to his friend, historian and NAACP founder W.E.B. DuBois. "Steadily, unswervingly he did his duty,” Dubois wrote in a memorial after Young’s death in 1922. “And Duty to him, as to few modern men, was spelled in capitals. It was his lodestar, his soul; and neither force nor reason swerved him from it.”

Throughout the rest of the week, legislative activity was in high gear at the Capitol. Numerous bills took steps forward in the legislation process, including measures on the following topics:

Diabetes. House Bill 12 would limit patient costs for a 30-day supply of insulin to $100. The legislation was approved by the House Health and Family Services Committee and is awaiting a House vote.

Eating disorders. Senate Bill 82 seeks to offer better treatment options to those with eating disorders by establishing the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council. The council would oversee the development and implementation of eating disorder awareness, education and prevention programs. It would also identify strategies for improving access to adequate diagnosis and treatment services and made recommendations on legislative and regulatory changes. The bill passed the Senate 34-0 on Monday and has been delivered to the House.

Expungement. House Bill 327 would require the automatic expungement of records in acquittals or cases in which criminal charges were dismissed. The bill passed the House 91-0 on Monday and has been delivered to the Senate.

High school vocational education. Senate Bill 156 would require the state to develop plans to transition state-oprtated secondary vocational educational centers to local school districts by mid-2024. The bill was approved on Thursday by the Senate Education Committee and now awaits action from the full Senate.

Medical marijuana. House Bill 136 would legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky. The bill would establish policies for the cultivation, processing, sale, distribution and use of medical marijuana. Users would be required to have a prescription and would not be able to use medical marijuana in a form that could be smoked. Counties would be able to opt out of the state-regulated-program. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee and now awaits consideration of the full House.

Transportation secretary. Senate Bill 4 would no longer make the selection of the state transportation secretary a decision solely for the governor. Instead, the bill would create a Kentucky Transportation Board to be responsible for submitting a list of transportation secretary candidates from which the governor would make a selection. The governor’s choice would have to be confirmed by the Senate. The bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday and awaits action by the full Senate.

Vaping. House Bill 32 would place a 25 percent excise tax on vaping products. The bill was approved by the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee on Tuesday and now awaits consideration by all House members.

There are convenient ways for citizens to stay in touch with the work of the General Assembly. The General Assembly’s website (legislature.ky.gov) provides information on each senator and representative, including their phone numbers, addresses and committee assignments. The site also provides bill texts, a bill-tracking service, and committee meeting schedules.

To share a message with any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 800-372-7181.

 

END



 

Feb. 13, 2020

 

Insulin cost-saving bill heads to KY House

House Bill 12 sponsor Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, presents the measure for a vote today in committee. A hi-res photo can be found here.

FRANKFORT—Patient cost for a month’s supply of insulin in Kentucky would be capped at $100 under a bill approved today by a House committee.

House Bill 12, sponsored by Reps. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, and Steve Sheldon, R-Bowling Green, would require health insurance plans to cap the patient cost for a 30-day supply of a prescription insulin drug to $100 “regardless of the amount or type of insulin needed to fill the covered person’s prescription,” per the bill. The legislation, approved today by the House Health and Family Services Committee, would take effect next year.

Bentley said the bill would help nearly half a million diabetics in Kentucky afford the life-saving drug which he said can cost $1200 a month or more per patient. 

“It’s a $6 billion industry,” said Bentley, a licensed pharmacist. “It’s really interesting that this hormone produced by the body has been so difficult to get because of the high price now.”

Speaking in support of HB 12 alongside Bentley was AARP Kentucky State President Charlotte Whittaker who commented on the high cost of diabetes in Kentucky. Whittaker said the effect of the disease is most evident in East Kentucky where the death rate from diabetes is 32 percent higher than the national rate.

“Prescription drugs don’t work if you can’t afford them,” she told the committee.

HB 12 now goes to the full House for consideration.  

 

END



 

 

Feb. 13, 2020

 

Foster child student bill advances to Senate


FRANKFORT—Legislation that would make it easier for foster children to change schools after a change in home placement has been approved by the state House.

 

House Bill 312, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, R-Stanford, will “ensure that we are immediately meeting the needs of these children who are already in a traumatic situation.”

 

Meade said key provisions in the bill will expedite the transfer of the child’s confidential records between school districts, improve state collaboration with local school districts with regard to the child’s needs, require closed foster homes to be placed on a state registry, and clarify rules for foster home placement.

 

“The KDE (the Kentucky Department of Education) will tell you there is no need for (HB 312),” said Meade. “I’ve got countless emails from teachers across the state as well as administrators across the state who say this is a major problem in their districts.”

 

HB 312 complements Meade’s “foster child bill of rights” legislation in 2019 HB 158 which became law last year. That legislation provides children in out-of-home placement in Kentucky with 15 statutory rights including the right of a foster child to have their individual educational needs met.

 

Former school principal Rep. Kim Banta, R-Fort Mitchell, said she would have “loved to have had a bill like this” during her decade as a school administrator.

 

“We floundered so many times at the expense of children being transferred without all the proper information, and I am just thrilled to be voting ‘yes’ on this today,” said Banta.

 

Also supporting HB 312 is retired educator and House Minority Caucus Chair Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, who said “being an educator getting this information (between schools) has been very difficult.”

 

HB 312 passed the House by a 91-0 vote. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 

END

 

 



 

 

 

 

Feb. 12, 2020

 

Medicinal marijuana bills clears House hurdle

FRANKFORT—A Kentucky House committee voted today to add Kentucky to the list of at least 33 other states with a government-regulated medicinal marijuana program.

The program would be established under House Bill 136, sponsored by Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, and Rep. John Sims Jr., D-Flemingsburg, approved today by the House Judiciary Committee. The bill sets out policies for cultivation, processing, sale, distribution and use of medicinal marijuana, should HB 136 become law.

The bill would prohibit smoking of medicinal marijuana and possession or use of medical marijuana in specific public buildings. Users of the substance would have to be registered and possess a medical cannabis card. Cannabis businesses would have to be licensed.

Local governments and their citizens would have the authority to decide whether or not medical marijuana businesses can operate locally.

Although HB 136 would create revenue for law enforcement and other approved uses through excise taxes and other sources, Nemes said its primary purpose is to help the sick.

He asked members of the committee hypothetically if they would try to access medicinal marijuana if it could help someone they love.

“I would break the law in a second, and I would submit that every single person up there would do the same,” said Nemes. “I think you’re voting for whether or not people who are in that hypothetical situation would continue to be criminals or not.”

Eric Crawford, who testified alongside Nemes and Sims, told the committee that passage of HB 136 would keep him from being “viewed as a criminal in a state that I love.” The Mason County man said he uses marijuana—not opioids—to relieve pain and muscle spasms caused by debilitating injuries that he sustained in a 1994 accident.

“This isn’t about nothing else but sick people,” said Crawford.

House Health and Family Services Chair Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, voted against the bill, saying she has “serious concerns” with the legislation.

“I want to make sure that seriously ill patients get the appropriate treatment and care that they need and deserve,” said Moser. “I’m going to vote ‘no’ today because I think we need more research.”

House Minority Whip Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, voted in favor of the measure, saying 90 percent of Kentuckians want access to medicinal marijuana.

“It’s time that we listen to them,” said Hatton.

HB 136 now returns to the full House for further action.

END

                                   



Feb. 12, 2020

 

House supports UofL purchase of KentuckyOne assets

 

House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, presents House Bill 99 for a vote on the House floor.    A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT—The Kentucky House voted today to approve over $6.13 million in next biennium to facilitate the purchase of Louisville’s Jewish Hospital and other assets by the University of Louisville.

 

The funds would be appropriated by House Bill 99 to pay debt service on $35 million in bonds authorized for a state KEDFA (Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority) loan. The state loan funds—to be distributed by April 1 of this year—would facilitate UofL’s purchase of KentuckyOne Health’s Louisville-area facilities.

 

HB 99 is sponsored by House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, and House Minority Leader Joni L. Jenkins, D-Shively.

 

Osborne said losing Jewish Hospital would put the UofL School of Medicine’s research status in jeopardy. A significant amount of the UofL medical center’s federal research grant funding is attributed to Jewish Hospital, he said.

 

“For those of us who represent areas in Southwest Jefferson County, this is a huge deal for us,” Jenkins added.

 

The KEDFA loan—named “the Direct Health Care Services and Research Facilities Operations Loan” in the bill—would be paid over 20 years, said Osborne. Loan forgiveness for up to half of the loan amount would be possible per certain requirements.

 

HB 99 passed the House by a vote of 86-7. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 

END

 



 

 

 

 Feb. 12, 2020

Bill addresses transportation secretary hiring

Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, explains his support of Senate Bill 4, a measure that would change the way Kentucky selects its transportation secretary, during today's meeting of the Senate Transportation Committee. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation to reroute the governor’s sole power to pick Kentucky’s transportation secretary advanced out of a state Senate committee today.

“One of the purposes behind this is, as much as possible, to take the politics out of road building,” Transportation Committee Chair Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, said while explaining his support of the measure, known as Senate Bill 4. He added there are many examples of governors from both parties holding sway over road projects to advance personal political agendas.

SB 4, as amended in committee, would do this by establishing the Kentucky Transportation Board. The board would be responsible for submitting a list of transportation secretary candidates from which the governor would have to choose. The governor’s choice would also have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Kentucky is one of only nine states where the governor can currently appoint the leader of the transportation department with no legislative involvement, said Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, a primary sponsor of SB 4. In most states, the leader has to be approved by the legislature.

The board would also have several duties as related to the development of the state’s six-year road plan, Higdon said. SB 4 would codify a process already in place to use traffic data and other objective measurements to prioritize road projects being considered for funding in the state highway plan. Higdon emphasized that the bill would not change legislators’ role in the final selection of road projects and the appropriation of funds.

The board would consist of nine voting members appointed by the governor from nominations submitted from the state’s League of Cities, Association of Counties and Chamber of Commerce. To ensure each organization is represented equally on the board, the governor would have to appoint three nominees from each of the organizations.

Board members would have to adhere to the executive branch’s code of ethics and have no financial interest in any contract awarded by the Transportation Cabinet up to two years after they leave the board.

Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, explained his “no” vote in committee. He said SB 4 appeared, on the surface, to be “politically motivated,” but he would continue to study the measure.

“This is a radical departure from what I would think would be the proper way to approach this,” Neal said. “It seems to me like it is putting the fox in the henhouse.”

Harris pointed out that the bill was prefiled on Election Day – before the outcome of the governor’s race was known.

“From the outside looking in, it could seem I filed a political bill, but it is not,” Higdon said. “It is a bill to improve the process, to make the process transparent, to give people input into this process. My motives are genuine.”

Higdon said the approach to pick a transportation secretary would be similar to how the Kentucky Economic Development Partnership Board has selected the state Economic Development Secretary for nearly three decades.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, said the provision of SB 4 concerning the selection of transportation secretary was not unprecedented. He said the General Assembly passed a similar law in 1927 during the administration of Gov. Flem D. Sampson.

SB 4 now goes to the full Senate for its consideration.

END



 

 

 

 

 Feb. 11, 2020

Dual credit bill moves to House

Senate Republican Whip Mike Wilson of Bowling Green explains Senate Bill 101, a measure he introduced concerning the transferability of dual credit hours, during today's Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation to ensure dual credit hours earned in high school would be transferable to Kentucky’s colleges and universities passed the Senate today by a 38-0 vote.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 101, would require postsecondary institutions to accept dual credits from high schools. In dual credit, a student is enrolled in a course that allows the pupil to earn high school credit and college credit simultaneously.

Senate Republican Whip Mike Wilson of Bowling Green said SB 101 was the result of the Kentucky Career and Technical Education (CTE) Task Force that met during the interim. The task force examined Kentucky’s various CTE programs across the state.

Wilson, who sponsored SB 101, said the task force identified a growing number of students taking dual-credit classes in high school that didn’t transfer to postsecondary institutions.

“I don’t know about you, but as a parent that would make me truly angry,” Wilson said of postsecondary institutions not honoring dual credit.

Several years ago, the General Assembly passed similar legislation dealing with two-year colleges and four-year universities. That legislation aligned courses with the colleges so the credits earned for those course hours could be transferred to universities.

Wilson said the goal of SB 101 and the prior legislation is to make college more affordable by giving kids a head start. The idea is that it’s more cost-effective for students to earn the credits in high school than at a university.

SB 101 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

END



 

 

 

Feb. 11, 2020

 

KY 911 service fee bill advances to Senate

House Bill 208 sponsor Rep. Rob Rothenburger, R-Shelbyville, speaks on 911 service fee legislation found the bill.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT—A bill that would restore over $1 million a year in funding to 911 service centers across the state has passed the Kentucky House.

House Bill 208, sponsored by Rep. Rob Rothenburger, R-Shelbyville, is expected to safeguard 911 service-center funding by requiring wireless providers of Lifeline federal-assistance telephone service to make monthly 911 service fee payments to the state.  Some Lifeline providers had stopped paying the fees to the state in recent years, said Rothenburger. 

“Last year we had one Lifeline provider that quit paying” and lobbied the federal government to preempt any state attempt to access those fees, he said.  “So I’ve come back to you today so we can close that loophole (to) make them pay as well as everyone else.”

Rothenburger said making sure the state continues to receive the 911 service fees will help with current implementation of so-called Next Generation 911 service – an advanced model for wireless emergency communications across the nation.

Voting against the bill was Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington. He pointed out that the 70-cent monthly 911 service fee required under current state law is also required on Lifeline cell phones provided by the federal government at no cost to eligible low-income users. 

“I just think it would be fair, at 70 cents, that everybody should pay that. And we’re taking that obligation off people for getting phones that the American taxpayer is paying for already,” Lee said.

Speaking in support of the bill was Rep. Chris Fugate, R-Chavies, a retired Kentucky State Trooper who said he once worked as an emergency radio dispatcher before becoming a state police officer.

“Long before a trooper is dispatched, or an ambulance is dispatched, or anyone else is dispatched, there is a call center that takes these calls. A lot of times the unsung heroes of law enforcement and EMS services are the dispatchers (that) take calls all hours of the day. So I’m for this,” said Fugate.

 HB 208 passed by a vote of 93-1. It now goes to the Senate.

END

 



 

Feb. 11, 2020

 

 Excise tax proposal for vaping devices heads to House

 

Rep. Jerry T. Miller, R-Louisville, comments on his excise tax proposal for vaping products sold in Kentucky.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

FRANKFORT—Weeks after the federal government raised the minimum age to buy cigarettes and vaping products to 21, the Kentucky House budget committee has voted to place a 25-percent excise tax on vaping products in the state.

 

The wholesale-level tax proposed in House Bill 32 would be slightly less than the state’s excise tax on traditional cigarettes—now 27.5 percent of the wholesale price—but is expected to reduce use of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices among youth, bill sponsor Rep. Jerry T. Miller, R-Louisville, told the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee before it approved the measure today.

 

Most e-cigarette and vaping devices have been shown to carry nicotine, an addictive drug also found in traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products.

 

“The effect of the bill is to put a new wholesale tax on vapes,” said Miller. He emphasized it would not raise taxes on traditional cigarettes, and is not intended to drive vape shops out of business. The bill instead, he said, complements HB 69—another bill Miller has filed this session to establish definitions for certain vapor product cartridges in state law while requiring sellers of those cartridges to register with the state.

 

Miller said HB 32 will help to take vaping business out of grocery and convenience-type stores and move it to registered vape shops.

 

“It is not my intent to drive away innovation or small business. These people are opening vape shops—they’ve got a lot at risk,” he added.

 

Research shows vaping products have grown more popular in recent years among children as young as 11 years old but are the only tobacco products sold in Kentucky that are not subject to an excise tax, said Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky President and former Congressman Ben Chandler, who testified on the bill before the committee.

 

“We know that raising the price of tobacco products is one of the most effective measures for reducing tobacco use,” Chandler added.  “The higher the tax, the larger the tobacco use reduction.”

 

HB 32 now returns to the full House for consideration.

 

END

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 Feb. 10, 2020

Bill targets access to care for eating disorders

Senate Republican Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, explains Senate Bill 82, a measure that would establish the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council, during today's Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – After a Kentucky mother traveled to the Capitol twice in recent months to testify about the heart-wrenching decision to send her daughter out of state for treatment of anorexia nervosa, legislation addressing access to that specialized care advanced out of the state Senate today.

“The issue of eating disorders has largely been ignored in Kentucky,” said Senate Republican Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, who sponsored the measure, known as Senate Bill 82. “It is a mental health diagnosis that essentially means an individual has little or no options for care in the state. It is time for this issue to be addressed by the members of the General Assembly.”

Adams said 900,000 Kentuckians, including nearly 30,000 children, have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. She added there are no acute care programs, residential or partial hospitalization programs for eating disorders in Kentucky.

SB 82 would establish the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council. The group would oversee the development and implementation of eating disorder awareness, education, prevention and research programs. The council would also be responsible for making recommendations regarding legislative and regulatory changes to improve access to care for eating disorders.

The second section of SB 82 would establish a trust to support the council. It would be funded by public and private sector grants or contributions. SB 82 passed by a 34-0 vote.

In other activity from the floor, Senate Bill 122 also cleared the chamber. It’s a modification to Tim’s Law of 2017. Tim’s Law allowed judges to order assisted outpatient treatment for people who have been involuntarily hospitalized at least twice in the past 12 months. SB 122 would extend the period to 24 months.

“The goal is to stop that revolving door of these individuals in and out of the state psychiatric hospital, in and out of the responsibility of peace officers for their transportation, in and out of mental inquest court, and in and out of jail when they break the law as a result of their untreated serious mental illness,” said Adams, who also sponsored SB 122. The bill passed by a 33-1 vote. 

SB 82 and SB 122 will now go to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

END



 

 

February 7, 2020

This Week at the State Capitol

FRANKFORT -- Proposals concerning the wellbeing of children are often high-priority items in the General Assembly. Hundreds of measures aimed at improving the lives of young Kentuckians have come before lawmakers in recent years, including last year’s sweeping school safety legislation designed to make sure children are safe while learning.

This year alone, more than 50 bills – roughly 11 percent of all bills under consideration – have been introduced in the General Assembly to deal with matters concerning children. Several of those measures took steps forward this week.

Senate Bill 45 would support good nutrition and the healthy development of children by requiring the child care centers to follow food and nutrition standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These standards emphasize a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and limits on sugar. The legislation would also require child care centers to follow standards developed by the state on physical activity, sugary drinks, and screen time limits for children. The bill passed the Senate 34-0 on Monday and has been delivered to the House.

Senate Bill 42 would require school identification badges issued to students to include contact information for crisis hotlines specializing in domestic violence, sexual assault and suicide prevention. The measure would apply to public middle schools and high schools, as well as public or private postsecondary institutions. The bill passed the Senate 35-1 on Thursday and now goes to the House for consideration.

Legislation to prevent Kentucky school employees from paddling students or using other forms of corporal punishment was approved by House members on Friday. Lawmakers who spoke on House Bill 22 said corporal punishment lowers students’ trust in adults and sends the wrong message that physical aggression is a way to deal with problems. Other forms of discipline are more effective, they said. The bill passed the House 65-15 on Friday and now goes to the Senate.

Legislation that adds to last year’s school safety measure was also approved by the House on Friday. Senate Bill 8 would require school resource officers to be armed. It would also allow a school superintendent to appoint someone other than a district level school administrator to serve as a district’s school safety coordinator. The bill specifies the goal of having at least one school counselor or school-based mental health services provider for every 250 students. The bill passed the House on a 78-8 vote. Since the bill has already been passed by the Senate, it will soon be delivered to the governor’s office.

Some of the state’s youngest citizens could benefit from the advancement of Senate Bill 60, which would require that newborns be screened for spinal muscular atrophy. Early diagnosis of this genetic disease helps babies receive treatment when it’s most effective. The bill passed the Senate 34-0 and now awaits the House’s consideration.

In other business this week, bills on the following issues took steps forward:

Animal abuse. Senate Bill 21 would allow veterinarians to make a report to authorities if they find that an animal under their care has been abused. The bill was approved on Tuesday by the Senate Agriculture Committee and now goes to the full Senate.

Daylight saving time. House Concurrent Resolution 53 would allow Kentucky to permanently adopt daylight saving time, if Congress ever allows states to make such a move. The measure passed the House 92-2 and now goes to the Senate.

Expungement. House Bill 327 would require the automatic expungement of records in acquittals or cases in which criminal charges were dismissed. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and awaits consideration by the full House.

Sanctuary cities. Senate Bill 1 would call upon law enforcement officials and public agencies to use their best efforts, considering available resources, to support the enforcement of federal immigration law. It would also prohibit sanctuary policies in Kentucky or attempts to block officials from cooperating with federal efforts to enforce immigration laws. The measure passed the Senate 28-10 and has been sent to the House.

School principals. Senate Bill 7 would give superintendents final say over the hiring of school principals, in consultation with school-based decision making councils. The bill would also change the membership of the school-based councils by adding a parent member. The bill was approved by the Senate 20-15 on Thursday and has been sent to the House.

 

END

 



 

 

 

 

Feb. 7, 2020

 

House votes to end corporal punishment in schools

FRANKFORT—Kentucky would put an end to corporal punishment in public schools under a bill that has advanced to the state Senate.

House Bill 22 sponsor Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, said his legislation would prohibit any school district employee or non-faculty coach from using corporal punishment – including but not limited to striking, spanking, paddling, or shaking – to discipline public school students.

Riley, who is a retired state educator, said experience has taught him that corporal punishment “is not an effective form of discipline. The purpose of discipline in schools and other places is to change behavior in a positive way, and research shows (corporal punishment) does not do that.”

Three students who came up with the idea to end corporal punishment in Kentucky schools four years ago as seventh graders in Kentucky Youth Assembly and later spoke against the practice before the General Assembly were present for the bill’s passage.  Those students—identified as Alex Young, Elizabeth George, and Charlie Gardner—were introduced to the full House by Rep. Lisa Willner.

“They have researched this, they have presented this bill now—and testified in committee—for four separate years … from seventh grade through 10th grade,” said Willner, D-Louisville, voting in support of HB 22. “I hope the members of this body will join me in voting ‘yes’ on this very important piece of legislation.”

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, said elementary-age students and students with disabilities are more likely to be subjected to corporal punishment than others. He also voted for HB 22, and asked his colleagues to do the same.

“The use of corporal punishment in our schools is antithetical to this body’s values and our efforts to create safe, trauma-informed schools that value positive relationships among our children and adults,” said Nemes.

House Education Committee Chair Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, also voted for the measure. The former special education teacher said schools have less traumatic forms of discipline at their disposal when needed. 

“There is still discipline within the school system. We’re just eliminating this one,” said Huff.

HB 22 passed the House by a vote of 65-17.

END

 



 

 

 

Feb. 7, 2020

School safety bill headed to governor

Rep. Jeffery Donohue, D-Fairdale, proposes amendments to the school safety provisions in SB 8.  A hi-res photo can be found  here.

 

FRANKFORT—Armed school resource officers would be required on public school campuses statewide under a Senate bill that received final passage today in the Kentucky House.

Senate Bill 8, which passed the Senate 34-1 last week, received final passage on a 78-8 House vote. It now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

Supporters of the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, expect the bill to improve school safety by requiring at least one trained, sworn law enforcement officer at each public school campus in the state. Currently just over half of Kentucky’s counties have SROs, according to the Kentucky Center for School Safety.

School districts and other state agencies could work with local and state law enforcement agencies to hire and assign the SROs as “funds and qualified personnel become available,” according to the bill.

SB 8 also includes a mental health component that sets a goal of requiring each public school district or public charter school to have at least one school counselor or school-based mental health provider for every 250 students beginning July 1, 2021, dependent on available funds and personnel.

The bill was presented for a vote in the House by Rep. C. Ed Massey, R-Hebron, who told his colleagues that the purpose of SB 8 “is to increase safety within our schools.”

House Minority Leader Joni L. Jenkins, D-Shively, was among those voting against the bill. She questioned the need for the legislation and its cost to school districts.

“Districts that want to do this can do this” already, Jenkins said, adding she knows of school districts with large at-risk student populations where SROs have made a difference in student lives. Jenkins’ primary opposition to the bill, she said, is to what she called “unfunded mandates” in SB 8.

Massey said funding for SROs in his district is covered through local partnerships. Federal, or other government funding, is also a potential revenue source, he said.

“So there is a multitude of avenues (available),” said Massey.

END

 



 

 

 

 

Feb. 6, 2020

 

Black History Celebration at Capitol to honor contributions to U.S. military

Leader of National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations to give keynote address

FRANKFORT -- Contributions of African Americans to the U.S. military and the defense of our nation will be saluted during the 2020 Black History Celebration at the State Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

The event will include a special award presentation by Gov. Andy Beshear.

“We’re eager to share stories of heroism and show appreciation for African Americans who served our nation throughout its history,” said Rep. Reginald Meeks, Chair of the Black Legislative Caucus, which is hosting the event. “Their inspiring stories are a reminder that we owe much to those who placed service to others ahead of their own self-interest.”

The celebration begins at 11:30 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda and is open to the public.

Charles Blatcher III will give the keynote address. Blatcher, Chairman of the National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations, is a U.S. Navy veteran who has served as a consultant and advisor to the Department of the Army, the Department of the Interior, and the White House Conference on Families. He has received numerous honors including a Congressional Black Caucus Award and the George Washington Medal of Excellence from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.

Remarks will also be offered by members of the Kentucky General Assembly, including legislative leaders.

Sen. Gerald Neal, a member of the Black Legislative Caucus, said the event will pay tribute to national heroes.

“African Americans have played pivotal roles in our nation’s military history all the way back to the American Revolution” said Sen. Gerald Neal, a member of the Kentucky Black Legislative Caucus. “African Americans served at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. They fought in the Civil War, they battled Hitler’s army, and they served bravely in conflicts throughout our nation’s history. We want to salute their service and share stories of their service and sacrifice.”

Music will be provided by the Kentucky State University Concert Choir Ensemble.

The event will include an award presentation by the Kentucky Black Legislative Caucus.

Immediately after the celebration, a reception will be held on the Capitol’s 2nd floor mezzanine.

 

END



 

 

 Feb. 6, 2020

School principal hiring bill moves to House

 

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, explains Senate Bill 7, a measure he introduced addressing the hiring process of public school principals, during today's Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation that would place the power of hiring school principals into the hands of their superintendents passed the state Senate today by a 20-15 vote. 

The measure, known as Senate Bill 7, would remove that responsibility from school-based decision making councils. Under SB 7, superintendents would have to only consult with the councils. 

“We all know ... the principal is the single biggest factor ... on whether a school is successful or not,” said sponsor Sen. John Schickel, R-Union. “But under our current system, the people we hold accountable – superintendents, the school board members we elect to represent us – do not have the power to hire principals.” 

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, stood to explain he was voting “no” but appreciated a provision of SB 7 that would change the membership of councils by adding a parent. That would equalize the number of parents and teachers on councils. 

Thomas said the Kentucky Education Reform Act moved the hiring responsibility to the councils because “so many school districts were ripe with nepotism and abuse.” 

Schickel has been advocating for the change for five years. He said the uniquely Kentucky way of hiring principals comes as a shock to people not familiar with our public school systems.

SB 7 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

END



 

 

 

Feb. 6, 2020

 

Pension and pay measures advance in House


FRANKFORT—A House committee today advanced bills that would close the Legislators’ Retirement Plan, change how pension liability costs paid by public employers are calculated, and amend statutory language on any future state employee annual cost-of-living raises.

One of the bills getting the go-ahead was House Bill 270, a proposal to close the Legislators’ Retirement Plan (LRP) –which serves current and former elected members of the Kentucky General Assembly—to any new members as of July 1, 2020. Legislators elected after that date would have to participate in the Kentucky Employees Retirement System (KERS) non-hazardous plan per the bill, HB 270 sponsor Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville told the House State Government Committee.

An exception would be made for legislators who are also public school teachers. Those lawmakers could remain in the state Teachers’ Retirement System, per the bill.  

Other changes under HB 270 would require LRP members who entered that plan as of Jan. 1, 2014 be moved to the KERS non-hazardous plan. Legislators who entered the plan in 1982, but prior to Jan. 1, 2014, would have their benefits calculated at a lower rate after July 1 of this year per the bill, among other provisions.

Tipton said HB 270 would also impact legislators who retire from the General Assembly then begin work in another branch of state government. Retirement credit earned in their new position as of July 1, 2020 would not be able to be used to calculate benefits under the LRP, he said.

Also, changes effective as of July 1 per the bill would not be part of an “inviolable contract,” statutory language that prevents any reduction or weakening of earned pension benefits.

Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, spoke in favor of HB 270 which she said reflects “the proper tension point” facing Kentucky’s public pension systems.

“We have to move in a way right now that says, ‘We’re joining everybody else…because it’s time,’ said Flood. “We have a responsibility to make sure everybody is viable.”

Also approved was House Bill 143, sponsored by Tipton, which would eliminate a longstanding, yet recently underutilized, provision in state law that provides for an annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of 5 percent to state employees. The COLA would instead be tied to the requisite consumer price index, resulting in a 2.25 percent annual increment in the next budget cycle according to the bill’s fiscal note—although the bill would not budget for any future annual state employee COLA. 

Wording in current law has allowed the 5 percent state employee COLAs to be passed over for many years. Tipton said that full 5 percent COLAs under state law were last funded in 2001.

Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, said it has been “frustrating” to not be able to pay COLAs to employees in lean budget years. He is hopeful, he said, that can be changed.

“Let’s not only put it in law, but try like heck to make it a reality for our public employees that work so hard for our people,” said Nemes.

The last retirement measure approved by the committee was HB 171, sponsored by Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown, which would base KERS non-hazardous employers’ actuarial liability to the retirement system on a set dollar amount instead of a percentage of payroll beginning next fiscal year.

The change, said DuPlessis, would ensure that small agencies especially are only required to pay what they owe to the system and “no more, no less.”

The bill received the support of House State Government Committee Chair Jerry T. Miller, R-Louisville, who said HB 171 would provide more stability in the long term.

“It helps particularly rape crisis centers, and others … smaller entities that will benefit almost immediately from your bill,” Miller said, adding that the bill will ultimately go before the House budget committee for additional review.

The three bills now go to the full House for further consideration.

END

 

 



 

 

 

Feb. 6, 2020

Bill aims to address youth suicide and violence

 

Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, explains Senate Bill 42, legislation she introduced to address youth suicide and interpersonal violence, during today's Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation that would put crisis hotline numbers on student IDs advanced out of the state Senate today. 

The measure, known as Senate Bill 42, would 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. The requirement would go into effect on Aug. 1 and apply to public middle and high schools, as well as public and private postsecondary schools that issue student IDs. 

“Senate Bill 42 is a simple little bill that may save lives,” said sponsor Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville. “By having these crisis prevention numbers ... on the back of their IDs, we will be letting them know that they are not alone. Help is readily available.”

Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown stood to speak in favor of the bill. He said teen suicides have become an epidemic across the nation.

“I don’t know what the answer is from a government point of view,” he said. “But I do believe (Harper Angel) has today come up with a very simple solution that I think can help save lives by providing a place for troubled youths to go, seek help, to know there is someplace they can reach out to anonymously to help them through their problems.”

Thayer reflected on the suicide of his nephew’s father. 

“That has tinged my family’s life ever since,” he said. “I know what it is like to be touched by this horrible epidemic, and I’m so grateful to (Harper Angel) for her forethought in bringing this bill together before us today.” 

During a prior committee hearing on SB 42, supporters of the bill expressed alarm in the record-breaking number of youth suicides last year in the state's two largest cities -- Lexington and Louisville. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Kentucky and the second leading cause of death for residents ages 15 to 34, according to language in the bill. 

Interpersonal violence statistics listed in the text of SB 42 include these additional stark figures: Thirty-nine percent of Kentucky women experience sexual violence in their lifetimes. Child abuse and neglect are more prevalent in Kentucky than any other state in the nation, with 22 victims per 1,000 children compared to the national average of nine victims per 1,000 children.

SB 42 passed by a 35-1 vote. It now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

END



 

 Feb. 5, 2020

 

Expungement bill passes House Judiciary Committee

FRANKFORT—A bill that would require automatic expungement of acquittals and dismissals of criminal charges under Kentucky law has passed the House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 327 would require automatic expungement in eligible cases per court orders entered after the legislation takes effect, should it become law. Those eligible for expungement under the bill would be able to request that the acquittal or dismissal remain on their record, while individuals with past acquittals and dismissals would be allowed to petition the court for expungement at no cost to them.

Expungement of felony charges that do not result in an indictment after one year of being held over to a grand jury would be allowed at a court’s discretion.

HB 327 sponsor Rep. Kevin D. Bratcher, R-Louisville, told the committee that his bill “corrects something that I certainly did not know was going on and I’ll bet you that most of your constituents don’t know,” referring to the absence of automatic expungement for acquittals and dismissals under current state law.

Among those testifying alongside Bratcher was Charles Aull of Greater Louisville Inc., the Louisville Metro area’s Chamber of Commerce. Aull said HB 327—which, he stated, also has the support of the Kentucky Chamber among other organizations—would remove barriers “to work and to increasing labor force participation.”

When asked by Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, what filing fee would be required for those who must still petition for expungement, Aull said there is none. That response was followed by a comment from House Judiciary Chair Jason Petrie, R-Elkton.

“If the Commonwealth has brought all its resources to bear against an individual, and fell short of a conviction, then why should that (person) … do much of anything to correct the Commonwealth’s shortfall,” Petrie said.

HB 327 passed the committee by a vote of 22-0-0. It now goes to the full House for consideration.

END

 




 

Feb. 5, 2020

 

Resolution to make DST permanent moves to Senate

FRANKFORT—States that want to spring forward and never turn their clocks back just got some help from the Kentucky House.

By a vote of 92-2, the state House today passed a resolution urging Congress to allow Kentucky and other states to permanently adopt daylight saving time, or DST. House Concurrent Resolution 53, which also requires the state Senate’s approval for final passage, now goes to that chamber for consideration.

Rep. Brandon Reed, R-Hodgenville—who along with Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville, is a primary sponsor of HCR 53—said “significant interest” in the legislation has been shown by constituents “who want more daylight hours in the evening and, most importantly, not have to change clocks throughout the year.”

But whether or not a change is made is ultimately up to the federal government which sets the dates for daylight saving time—also referred to as “daylight savings time” and “daylight time.” Those changes must be approved by Congress, which is where HCR 53 sponsors hope the legislation will shed some light.

“With this resolution we are asking them to either go all year or allow the states to make the decision permanently, (hashtag) free the daylight,” said Reed.

Some other states have already approved legislation to make DST permanent, with Florida, Washington, and Tennessee among them, he added. Until a change is made by Congress, however, the laws have no effect.

One lawmaker voting in support of the resolution was Rep. Wilson Stone, D-Scottsville, who said Kentuckians have become “accustomed to such long afternoons.”

“Hopefully it will be something the federal government will decide is good for all of us, and will allow us to do it,” Stone told his colleagues.

Daylight savings time in Kentucky this year will begin on Sunday, March 8 and end on Sunday, Nov. 1.

--END--

 



 

 

 

Feb. 5, 2020

Bill outlines principles of picking principals

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation that would give superintendents the final say over the hiring of school principals advanced out of a state Senate committee today.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 7, would remove the responsibility from school-based decision making councils, known as SBDMs in education parlance. Under SB 7, superintendents would have to only consult with the councils.

Another provision of SB 7 would change the membership of councils by adding a parent. Eric Kennedy of the Kentucky School Boards Association said this would equalize the number of parents and teachers on councils.

“It gives the accountability of our school systems back to really where it should be and that is with parents and the community,” sponsor Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, said while testifying before the State & Local Government Committee. “It does this by allowing superintendents who are hired by school boards who are elected by the people a chance to select their principals. We all know the principal is the biggest indicator of how a school is going to do.”

He said the uniquely Kentucky way of hiring principals comes as a shock to people not familiar with our public school systems.

Schickel added that he has been advocating for the change for five years. Kennedy said legislation passed last year already allows the superintendent of the Jefferson County School District, the largest in the state, to hire principals.

Lucy Waterbury, a parent of a public school student, spoke in opposition to the bill. She said the councils were one of the major provisions of the Kentucky Education Reform Act from the early ‘90s.

“If we want to pretend like SBDMs came out of a vacuum, we would be lying and living revisionist history,” she said. “Parent power, teacher power, local stakeholder power was needed in Kentucky then. It is needed now.”

Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, said changes made to SB 7 through the form of a committee substitute placated his prior concerns. He added that the current practice of having SBDMs select principals muddles accountability in the chain of command of school districts.

“I appreciate the sponsors working on this and narrowing the scope and the focus,” McDaniel said. “Accountability is a good thing.”

END



 

 

 

 

Feb. 5, 2020

Eating disorder treatment bill moves in Senate

 

Senate Republican Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, explains Senate Bill 82, a measure establishing the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council, during today's meeting of the Senate Health & Welfare Committee. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation addressing the lack of treatment options in Kentucky for eating disorders advanced out of the Senate Health & Welfare Committee today.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 82, would establish the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council to oversee the development and implementation of eating disorder awareness, education and prevention programs across the commonwealth. The council would be funded by grants from federal agencies and private foundations.

While testifying in support of SB 82, mental health advocate Sheila Schuster referenced prior testimony from a college student who struggled to find medical treatment that would accept her insurance. She said that is why it was important SB 82 specify that the Kentucky Department of Insurance be represented on the council.

“Insurance payment is so, so difficult to get for all of this and it is very, very expensive treatment if you are talking about partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient,” Schuster said. 

She said she was also pleased the council would include representatives from post-secondary institutions.

“So many of these individuals are actually college age,” Schuster said. “It is not just females. It is also males. It often goes unreported because there is stigma around it.”

Senate Republican Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, said she has been approached by a number of people who suffer from eating disorders in silence since introducing the legislation.

“It has been so encouraging because I have had people in this very building come to me privately and say, ‘I’ve struggled with this, and I’m so glad to see someone pay attention to it.’” she said.

Committee Chair Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, said he too was moved by the college student’s testimony about having to travel out of state to receive proper care. Alvarado, a pediatrician by training, said it was hard to find appropriate care in Kentucky to treat the underlying mental illness associated with so many eating disorders.

“We lack resources in this state. Almost 30,000 people struggle with this at least every year,” Alvarado said, reiterating that people do suffer in silence.

SB 82 not goes to the full Senate for its consideration.

END



 

 

 

 

Feb. 4, 2020

Bill banning sanctuary policies heads to House

 

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, stands to explain Senate Bill 1, titled the Federal Immigration Cooperation Act of 2020, during today's Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – The Federal Immigration Cooperation Act of 2020 passed the state Senate today by a 28-10 vote.

The legislation would prohibit law enforcement officials and other public officials from enforcing any sanctuary policy, a term applied to jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The measure is designated Senate Bill 1, an assignment reserved each year for bills deemed a priority of the Senate majority’s leadership.

“This bill ensures cooperation between state, local and federal law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of immigration law,” said Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, a sponsor of SB 1. “It ensures this by keeping political ideology out of law enforcement.” 

SB 1 would also require law enforcement and other public agencies to use their best efforts, considering available resources, to support the enforcement of federal immigration law. Carroll said an amended version of the bill expanded exemptions from local school districts to rape crisis centers, domestic violence centers and other groups that provide social services.

“We must protect our people,” said Carroll, in referencing ‘Dreamland,’ a book that chronicled how the prescription opiate epidemic intersected with the heroin scourge in America. “We all know the issues we have had with criminal gangs coming to our state.”

Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, was one of several who stood to oppose SB 1. 

“I take issue with this bill for a number of reasons,” he said. “One, there is no sanctuary city ... in the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Neal said supporters of the bill were unable to cite one instance where local law enforcement refused to assist U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

“What all this adds up to is there is no problem here,” he said. “I can’t figure out why we are here on this matter in this way.”

Carroll called SB 1 a preemptive measure. 

“If our state starts implementing sanctuary policies, and we are declared a sanctuary state by the federal government, we stand to lose millions of dollars of aid from the federal government – dollars that are used to provide services to the very people the opponents of this bill say they are trying to protect,” he said. 

Carroll added that SB 1 wasn’t a statement on immigration policy.

“This bill is about law enforcement and law enforcement having the tools to do their job,” he said.

SB 1 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

END


 

 

Feb. 4, 2020

Insurance fraud measure moves to Senate

FRANKFORT—A bill that would tighten state laws regarding insurance fraud and motor vehicle antitheft discounts received state House approval today.

Insurance fraud provisions in House Bill 313 would extend civil immunity to companies that report information on suspected criminal activity to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, while antitheft provisions would ensure that motor vehicle insurers give an “appropriate discount” to policyholders.

HB 313 sponsor Rep. Joseph M. Fischer, R-Fort Thomas, said the insurance fraud provision is needed to ensure that Kentucky insurance companies can report suspected fraud outside of Kentucky’s borders. Current law provides civil immunity only to companies who report in-state to the Kentucky Department of Insurance, he said.

“Because the incidences of insurance fraud transcends state borders, it’s important that insurers and the (NICB) are free to share this information … throughout the country,” said Fischer.

The antitheft provision, he said, is required to bring statutory language regarding auto alarm security systems “up to modern standards.”

“Since the current law was passed in 1986, the auto industry has developed security technology that far surpasses the primitive alarm systems that were available in 1986,” said Fischer. Provisions in HB 313, he said, will amend the 1986 provisions and enact new language that requires insurance companies to base antitheft discounts on “sound actuarial data for automobiles that contain the upgraded technology.”

Implementation of the antitheft provisions would be delayed under January 1, 2021 to give motor vehicle companies time to comply with the changes, said Fischer.

HB 313 passed the House 93-0. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 

END

 


 

 

 

Feb. 4, 2020

Donations-for-fines bill gets House approval

 Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, presents HB 269 regarding donations in lieu of civil parking fines for a floor vote.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

FRANKFORT—A bill that would allow local governments to elect to receive donated goods in lieu of civil parking fines passed the state House today 90-4.

House Bill 269 sponsor Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, said the bill would allow cities statewide to accept donations of specified goods in lieu of full or partial payment of civil fines for parking violations. Cities would need to pass an ordinance to opt in to the donation program, she said.

“Other jurisdictions that have passed this type of legislation … they call it ‘Food for Fines’ or ‘Donations for Citations’ – they can donate food, school supplies, hats, scarves and gloves,  and donate them to qualifying nonprofits,” said Cantrell.

Under HB 269, a civil parking fine would be considered “paid in full” and a receipt given once a donation is accepted. That receipt could not be used as a tax deduction.

Cantrell said cities would forego some revenue through such a program, but their choice to participate would be entirely optional.

“The local government first has to adopt an ordinance before any part of this bill goes into effect,” she said. “(They) have the freedom to opt into this program or not.”

HB 269 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

END

 



 

 

 

 

Feb. 4, 2020

Bill addressing animal abuse reporting advances

 

Sen. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown, explains an amended version of Senate Bill 21, a measure concerning veterinarians reporting animal abuse, during today's meeting of the Senate Agriculture Committee. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation that would untie veterinarians’ hands to report animal abuse passed out of the state Senate Agriculture Committee today.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 21, would allow veterinarians to report the abuse of animals under their care, said Sen. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown, who sponsored the legislation. 

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. 

“In fact, Kentucky is the only state where the veterinarian cannot report,” said Dr. Jim Weber, the legislative chair of the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association (KVMA). “In every other state in the country, a veterinarian either ‘may’ or ‘shall’ report.”

Weber said the KVMA supports language in SB 21, which would allow veterinarians to use their best judgment when reporting suspected animal abuse. He said it is his preference to educate an animal owner on proper care rather than report something to police.

A second provision of SB 21 would grant veterinarians immunity in court for reporting any alleged abuse.

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, said she couldn’t support legislation that contained an immunity clause for veterinarians. She said a veterinarian who falsely reported animal abuse shouldn’t be protected by such a blanket provision.

Weber said the immunity clause gave SB 21 teeth because it would remove a veterinarian’s fear of being sued for reporting suspected animal abuse.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said veterinarians are often small business owners.

“It seems to me there is a good balance in this bill,” he said. “Veterinarians are not going to abuse it because they don’t want their business to be harmed, but on the flip side there is the immunity from prosecution for doing the right thing.” 

Weber also told committee members to think of SB 21 as more than an animal welfare bill. He said the measure was also a public health bill.

Weber then referenced federal government research on co-occurring animal abuse and interpersonal violence, including domestic, child and elder abuses. Weber added that such findings have led to calls for greater coordination between human and animal welfare organizations to identify abusers and get help to the victims – whether human or animal.

SB 21 now goes to the Senate for the full body’s consideration. 

END


 

 

 

Feb. 4, 2020

Kentucky hemp bill receives final passage

 Rep. Matthew Koch, R-Paris, presents HB 236 regarding hemp for a vote in the House chamber.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 


FRANKFORT—The Kentucky House voted 85-4 yesterday to give final passage to a bill that would create new paths for Kentucky hemp while keeping the state’s hemp program in line with federal law.

House Bill 236 would allow the state to expand the number of qualified laboratories authorized to test the state’s hemp crop for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a psychoactive component found in hemp and other types of cannabis. THC testing of the state’s hemp crop is now handled by the University of Kentucky, which HB 236 sponsor Rep. Matthew Koch, R-Paris, said has experienced a recent testing backlog.

Both state and federal law limit the amount of THC in Kentucky’s hemp crop to 0.3 percent.

Koch said a Senate amendment to the bill approved by the House before final passage clarifies that language in HB 236 regarding transport of hemp refers to hemp extract, not hemp raw material.

“Farmers were concerned that the (former) language … in there with hemp ‘material” would affect the transport of harvest from the fields,” said Koch. “This language is, of course, intended to address the transport of extract, not raw materials.”

House Agriculture Committee Chair Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield, told the House last month that there is some discussion at the federal level about raising the legal THC limit of hemp from 0.3 percent to 1 percent. But, he clarified, that is a “federal issue.”

“I would support our federal delegation if they decide to go down that road, and I would encourage my colleagues to reach out to their congressmen and their U.S. senators to encourage them to change the definition of hemp from 0.3 to 1.0 (percent),” Heath said

HB 236 as amended passed the Senate 37-0 on Jan. 30. The measure now goes to the governor for his signature.

 

END

 



 

 

 

 

Feb. 4, 2020

Two bills addressing children’s health advance

 

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, explains Senate Bill 60, a measure relating to newborn screening for spinal muscular atrophy, known as SMA, during yesterday's Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Adolescents in childcare centers would be curtailed from plopping down in front of TVs while washing down junk food with sugary drinks under legislation that has passed the state Senate by a 34-0 vote.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 45, would require licensed childcare centers to meet the most recent version of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s food and nutrition standards for child and adult care centers. A second nutrition provision would set standards for sugary drinks.

“SB 45 ... simply addresses childcare standards for all licensed childcare centers within the commonwealth,” Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, said while explaining SB 45 yesterday on the Senate floor. “These are standards that are followed by the vast majority of facilities, but this will bring all facilities under the umbrella.”

SB 45 would also require childcare centers to meet certain physical activity, sugary drink and screen time standards. That term is used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching television.

In other activity from the Senate floor, a spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) screening bill also cleared the chamber to a 34-0 vote. 

That measure, known as Senate Bill 60, would require the screening for newborns, said Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, who sponsored the legislation. 

He explained the Food and Drug Administration recently approved gene therapy for children under 2 who have infantile-onset SMA. The therapy has improved muscle movement, function and survival of children who receive an early diagnosis, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“This bill was brought to my attention by a family of a young man ... in my district who was born with this disease several years ago,” Higdon said.

SB 45 and SB 6 now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

END  


 

 

Jan. 31, 2020

 

 

This Week at the State Capitol

FRANKFORT -- The biggest issue of the General Assembly’s 2020 session came to the forefront this week as lawmakers received a state budget proposal from Gov. Andy Beshear.

Now that the proposal is in legislators’ hands, members of budget subcommittees are digging into the two-year spending plan to fully understand how it would impact state finances, programs, and services. They’ll soon start considering the changes they want to make to ensure that the final document they approve is one that a majority of lawmakers agrees best meets the needs of the state. Lawmakers intend to pass a final version of the budget by April 1, a timeline that would ensure they have an opportunity to override any vetoes issued by the governor.

The governor’s spending plan, which was unveiled in a speech Tuesday during a joint session of the General Assembly, was presented as an “Education First” budget that would increase education funding by over $400 million over the next two fiscal years. Included in the plan is a $2,000 pay raise for teachers spread out over two years, a 1 percent increase in the per pupil funding formula for schools and $11 million each year for new textbooks.

Other highlights include funding for an additional 350 state social workers, $5 million each year for preschool programs in disadvantaged areas, and $1 million each year, which would leverage additional federal funds, to enroll more children in the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program (KCHIP.)

The proposal also calls for generating an additional $147.7 million in new revenue, which would be based on taxes and fees on sports betting, a cigarette tax increase, a tax on vaping products, and an increase in the minimum for the limited liability entity tax.

Lawmakers’ reaction to the spending plan varies depending on who you ask. They did not receive the customary briefing on the budget proposal before the governor unveiled the plan, so some expressed reluctance to immediately draw conclusions until they could study it in-depth.

Supporters of the proposal highlighted its potential impact on education, such as the proposed teachers’ raises or a proposed 1 percent increase in postsecondary funding after years of cuts. Those with concerns with the plan pointed to its reliance on proposed tax increases that have not yet mustered the support to be passed into law. Some also noted that the governor’s plan doesn’t provide for additional school resource officers and school counselors that were envisioned when lawmakers approved a sweeping school safety bill last year, although the governor’s plan does include $18.2 million for school security upgrades.

While the arrival of the governor’s budget plan was the big news this past week, a number of other noteworthy issues also took steps forward:

  • Immigration law. Senate Bill 1 would call upon law enforcement officials and public agencies to use their best efforts, considering available resources, to support the enforcement of federal immigration law. It would also prohibit sanctuary policies in Kentucky or attempts to block officials from cooperating with federal efforts to enforce immigration laws. The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday and now awaits a vote of the full Senate.

  • Legislative pensions. Senate Bill 6 would rein in legislative pension “spiking” by preventing a pension from dramatically increasing when a lawmaker take a job elsewhere in state government. The measure would prohibit state lawmakers from using salary credited in another state retirement system to determine final compensation in the legislators’ plan. That bill passed the Senate 35-0, with two “pass” votes, and has been delivered to the House for consideration.

  • Mental health. House Bill 213 would allow homeless teens from ages 16 to 18 to receive outpatient mental health care without parental consent. The measure passed the House 95-0 on Tuesday and now awaits Senate consideration.

  • School safety. Senate Bill 8 adds to a major school safety measure approved by lawmakers last year. In addition to requiring that school resource officers be armed, the bill would specify which schools are required to have the officers, who produces an active shooter training video and when classroom doors can be left unlocked. The bill passed the Senate 35-1 on Monday and now awaits consideration by the House Education Committee.

  • Veterans. House Bill 24 would support plans to build a veterans nursing home in Bowling Green. The legislation would appropriate $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 building the proposed $30 million facility. The bill was approved by the House 95-0 on Monday and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

Kentuckians are encouraged to share their thoughts with lawmakers on the issues under consideration by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

 

END

 


 

 

 

Jan. 31, 2020

First bill of session achieves final passage

 

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, stands to explain House Bill 186, legislation to clarify the relationship between direct sales businesses and those who contract with them to sell products, during today’s Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.


FRANKFORT – Legislation delving into whether direct marketers are defined as independent contractors passed the state Senate today. That makes it the first bill of the 2019 Regular Session to be sent to the governor's desk for his signature.

The measure, known as House Bill 186, would eliminate some potentially expensive requirements for Kentuckians that operate direct sales businesses like those that offer home décor, health and beauty products, and clothing, said Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, who stood to explain SB 186.

These types of companies have never been required to carry workers’ compensation insurance on those who contract with them to sell products. However, Carroll said there is a great deal of concern that the way workers’ compensation laws are currently being interpreted by courts, these direct sellers may be considered employees rather than independent contractors. 

He added that 39 other states have passed similar laws to clarify the status of direct sellers.

Democratic Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, stood to explain his “no” vote.

“I believe the bill is a false promise to small business owners,” he said. “Our court system defines what constitutes an employee versus what constitutes an independent contractor.

“It doesn’t matter what we put in statute. That is not going to change. It is a judicial determination. I don’t think we should give businesses this false hope they are hiring anyone as an independent contractor.” 

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, stood to explain he was voting “yes” despite having some of the same concerns as McGarvey. 

“There is a bigger problem that we have here in the state," West said. "The judiciary ignores statute... That is something we need to look at.”

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, stood to explain his “yes” vote. He said similar measures have passed out of the Senate several times in recent years but have never become law.

“Small businesses have really wanted this bill for many, many years,” he said.

The bill passed the Senate on a 25-7 vote.

END


 

 

Jan. 31, 2020

KY hemp bill heads back to House

 

Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, explains House Bill 236, a measure relating to hemp regulations, during yesterday’s Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation designed to help Kentucky’s fledgling hemp industry has passed the state Senate by a 37-0 vote.

Known as House Bill 236, the measure would 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.

“Make no mistake, this industry is a new industry,” said Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, who stood to explain HB 236 on the Senate floor yesterday. “It is in its infancy and it does have problems. Those are growing pains. We all recognize that.”

Hornback said hemp isn’t something farmers are going to “get rich quick” by growing, but he thinks it will ultimately become a sustainable crop for Kentucky's agriculture industry. Hornback said Kentucky farmers grew more hemp than they could sell last year. He said the same happened with milk, corn, soybeans, chicken and swine.

“We are the best at running ourselves out of business,” said Hornback, who is also a farmer.

Other provisions of HB 236 would expand the number of laboratories authorized to test the state’s hemp crop for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive component found in hemp and other types of cannabis. THC testing of the state’s hemp crop is now handled by the University of Kentucky, which has experienced a testing backlog over the past year. 

Hornback said HB 236 would also clarify that companies could transport hemp extract with higher concentrations of THC between processing facilities.

END


 

 

Jan. 30, 2020

 

Medical marijuana resolution passes to Senate

 

Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, presents HCR 5 for a vote before the full House.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

FRANKFORT—A resolution asking federal regulators to speed up their research on medical marijuana received bipartisan support today in the Kentucky House.

House Concurrent Resolution 5 sponsor Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, said his resolution would serve as an official request from the Kentucky General Assembly for more federal research into the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana. Some federal study is already underway, he said.

“There has been a study OK’d (at the federal level) at Yale University in the med school. It is a Phase I study – the marijuana will be produced in the United States,” said Bentley. “I think that is a big step forward, because in our resolution here we ask those institutions to do this. We haven’t been doing this in vain.”

HCR 5 differs from similar resolutions filed by Bentley in past sessions that would have made legalization of medical marijuana in Kentucky dependent on more federal study. Bentley said HCR 5 isn’t tied to any current medical marijuana proposals in the General Assembly including HB 136, sponsored by Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, and Rep. John Sims Jr., D-Flemingsburg.

Nemes voted in support of the resolution and what he said he sees as its call for safety and efficacy while adding that HCR 5 “in no way—in my view—is a delay on the necessity that we pass medical marijuana this session.”

Thirty three states have legalized medical marijuana. The substance remains an illegal controlled substance under federal law, however.

HCR 5 passed the House 89-2 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 

END


 

 

 

Jan. 30, 2020

Bill banning sanctuary policies advances

 

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, (left) and Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, explain an amended version of Senate Bill 1, titled the Federal Immigration Cooperation Act of 2020, during today's meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – An amended version of the Federal Immigration Cooperation Act of 2020 advanced out of a state Senate committee today.

The legislation would prohibit law enforcement officials and other public officials from enforcing any sanctuary policy, a term applied to jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The measure is designated Senate Bill 1, an assignment reserved each year for bills deemed a priority of the Senate majority’s leadership 

“The question is, ‘Are we going to enforce the laws of this country and our commonwealth or are we going to ignore them?’” said Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, while presenting SB 1 to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We owe it to our people to ensure the safety of our people. We must enforce federal law. We must have cooperation between state, federal and local officials. That is what this bill is about.”

He called SB 1 a preemptive measure.

“We don’t have cities that have been declared sanctuary cities by the federal government but ... we are heading that way,” said Carroll, a former police officer. “This bill sends a mandate that we are going to follow the law; we are going to cooperate with federal officials.”

SB 1 would also require law enforcement and other public agencies to use their best efforts, considering available resources, to support the enforcement of federal immigration law. Carroll said the amended version of the bill expanded exemptions from local school districts to rape crisis centers, domestic violence centers and other groups that provide social services.

Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, said he liked the exemptions.

“I want to commend the drafters for the fine work they have put into this bill,” he said. “I like the fact that there is an exemption put in here ... to show the humane component.

“We need to get the bad actors out, but we need to show compassion and protect the victims. I think the way this bill is narrowly drafted does that in a really outstanding way.”

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, who cast a “pass” vote on SB 1, questioned the effectiveness of a provision that would prohibit racial profiling. She expressed concerns SB 1 would stir more fear among immigrants.

“I’ve got some problems with this bill,” Webb said. “I hope we can get a remedy. If we want to address sanctuary cities, that is one thing, but this bill goes far beyond that.”

In response to concerns about certain provisions of SB 1, Carroll said the measure just reaffirms what’s already the law of the land.

“It is not the intent ... to prevent any person here illegally from requesting or getting the help they need,” Carroll said in reference to concerns SB 1 would discourage undocumented migrants from, among other things, reporting crimes perpetrated against them. He added that another provision would carve out protections for undocumented migrants who are victims or witnesses to crimes.

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, said he strongly supported SB 1 as a former law enforcement official.

“This does not change the way we are doing business in Kentucky today,” he said. “If this bill passes ... there isn’t going to be a run on going out and arresting someone in this state who is here illegally.”

Blanton said SB 1 simply states that sanctuary policies cannot be implemented in the future.

“Rest assured, this is a bill about law enforcement and protecting the cooperation between federal, state and local officials,” he said. “If we set the precedence not to allow that, what is next? Do we tell our law enforcement they can’t participate with the DEA or the FBI or the U.S. marshals’ service? Where does it end?”

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, also spoke in support of SB 1.

“If we are going to start not cooperating with federal law in this issue then where does it end?” he said.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, concurred with West. 

“I think it is a slippery slope,” Westerfield said of not complying with federal immigration laws. “I’m not saying it is not complex. It is, but I think it sets a dangerous precedent.”

SB 1 now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.

END


 

 

 

Jan. 29, 2020

Anti-pension spiking measure moves to Senate

 

Rep. Jerry T. Miller, R-Louisville, presents anti-pension-spiking legislation found in HB 207 for a vote.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT—A bill that would change a state anti-pension-spiking provision that some say disproportionately affects lower-income public employees has passed the Kentucky House.

House Bill 207 sponsor Rep. Jerry T. Miller, R-Louisville, told the House today that his bill would prevent small increases in compensation—usually earned by lower-income workers—from triggering a reduction in Kentucky Retirement System pension benefits. Compensation would have to increase by a minimum of 10 percent plus an additional $1000 over the previous fiscal year for the trigger to take affect under the bill.

Current law sets the trigger threshold at 10 percent, with anything over that putting the anti-spiking provision into play. As little as $1 over that 10 percent has triggered the anti-spiking provision in some cases, KRS officials have said.

“This provision … makes sure that if you’re, for example, a cafeteria worker in a school system and you have very low income, you can get over that 10-percent trigger,” said Miller. “We’re setting a level below which we’re not going to invoke the spiking provision.”

Around 250 KRS members – mostly classified school district employees—were affected by the provision last year, KRS officials told the House State Government Committee last week.

Other proposed changes in HB 207 would impact requirements governing KRS board election ballots and change how increases in County Employees Retirement System’ pension and health insurance contribution rates are calculated, among other provisions.

The bill passed the House 91-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.


END

 

 


 

 

Jan. 29, 2020

Bill addressing lawmakers’ pensions advances

 

Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer presenting Senate Bill 6, an act relating to legislative pensions, during today’s Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation to rein in legislative pension enhancements, sometimes called “spiking,” passed the state Senate today. 

The measure, known as Senate Bill 6, would prohibit state lawmakers who contributed to the Legislators' Retirement Plan from June 20, 2005, through Dec. 31, 2013, from using salary credited in another state retirement system to determine final compensation in the legislators’ plan. The effective date for SB 6 would be July 1 of this year

“It does not apply retroactively to legislators, just prospectively, and will end this practice once and for all,” said Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer, who sponsored SB 6. He added that SB 6 would not apply to any legislator who took office since Jan. 1, 2014, because they participate in a hybrid cash balance plan that was approved by the General Assembly in 2013.

Thayer said the Senate has passed numerous pieces of legislation since 2010 aimed at ending legislative pension spiking.

Thirty-five senators cast votes in favor of the measure and two senators cast “pass” votes. It now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

END


 

Jan. 29, 2020

Bill updates childcare center standards

 

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, presents Senate Bill 45, legislation he introduced concerning operational standards for childcare centers, during today’s Senate Health & Welfare Committee. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Legislation to set standards for food nutrition, physical activity and screen time at childcare centers across Kentucky advanced out of a Senate committee today.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 45, would require these licensed centers to meet the most recent version of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s food and nutrition standards for child and adult care centers.

“I want to stress that the standards do not apply to food that is brought from home,” Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, said while presenting the bill to the Senate Health & Welfare Committee, “and it does not require any center that is not already operating a food program to start a program. I think that is very important.”

The physical activity provision would require the centers to meet YMCA healthy eating and physical activity standards for early childhood programs. The YMCA standards also address screen time, a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching television.

A final provision would set standards for sugary drinks.

Carroll, who sponsored the legislation, said he leads an organization that, among other things, operates an early childhood education center.

“This bill is very simple,” Carroll said. “It is another step in the process to put all licensed centers under one umbrella to improve quality.”

SB 45 now goes to the Senate floor for further consideration. If it would become law, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services would have 90 days to promulgate regulations with the consultation of various childhood advisory councils in Kentucky.

 END


 

Jan. 28, 2020

Bill tackles blood-test refusals in DUI cases

 

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, stands to explain Senate Bill 74, an act relating to blood alcohol concentration tests in driving under the influence investigations, during today’s Senate proceedings. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – Refusing to take a blood alcohol concentration test for suspicion of drunken driving could become more difficult under legislation approved by the state Senate today.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 74, would allow police to seek a search warrant for blood alcohol concentration tests in all driving under the influence (DUI) investigations. Under current law, police can only seek a search warrant for the tests in DUI investigations that involve serious injury or death.

Sponsor Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, said no other similar exemption to seeking a search warrant exists in Kentucky’s criminal code.

Kentucky motorists can have their licenses taken for refusing to take the tests under that current law, but according to testimony given during a committee hearing on SB 74, the penalties have been somewhat blunted by the use of ignition interlocks. Those are Breathalyzer-type devices connected to the ignition systems of vehicles. That’s because motorists charged with DUI can sometimes get back behind the wheel by agreeing to install the devices.

SB 74 passed by a 31-4 vote. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

END


 

 

 

Jan. 28, 2020

 

Youth mental health bill clears House hurdle

FRANKFORT—Legislation that would allow older homeless teenagers to receive outpatient mental health care without parental consent has passed the Kentucky House.

House Bill 213, sponsored by House Minority Leader Joni L. Jenkins, D-Shively, and House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade, R-Stanford, would allow homeless youth ages 16 to 18 who are defined as “unaccompanied youth” under federal law to receive outpatient mental health counseling from a qualified provider at the child’s request.

Jenkins said the bill is expected to help approximately 3,000 young people in Kentucky—many who are identified as ‘unaccompanied youth’ with the help of their local school district—get the care they need.

“If someone is presented in the school system as being ‘unaccompanied,’ the school district does everything they can do to locate parents and guardians for those children,” said Jenkins. “So these are children that have been scrutinized by the school districts in which they reside.”

Similar legislation was considered by the 2019 General Assembly as part of a larger bill which Jenkins and Meade sponsored last year, she said. Meade spoke in favor of HB 213 on the floor today.

This bill “is looking at a group of children who have been locked out of getting that mental health (care) that they need,” said Meade. “They don’t have that adult accompaniment in their life, so they cannot get that permission to go and get this care. So what we’re doing is trying to help that group of children.”

HB 213 passed the House by a vote of 95-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

END

 


 

 

 

Jan. 28, 2020

 

School bus safety bill rolls on to full House

Rep. Robert Goforth, R-East Bernstadt, testifies on his school bus safety proposal found in HB 34.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT—A bill that proposes using school bus cameras to improve bus safety while potentially generating needed revenue for local school districts and the state is on its way to the Kentucky House.

House Bill 34 sponsor Rep. Robert Goforth, R-East Bernstadt, told the House Transportation Committee that his proposal—which would be optional for school districts—would generate funds through fines levied against drivers recorded illegally passing stopped buses by cameras affixed to school bus stop arms. Offenders would face civil fines of $300 for a first offense and $500 for a second offense, with criminal penalties also possible.

A 2018 pupil transportation survey indicated that citations could be levied against over 2660 drivers each day of the school instructional year depending on how many school districts use the cameras, said Goforth.

“That’s 484,000 times a child’s life is put in danger. So we have a serious problem, and we need to start catching these offenders,” he told the committee.

School districts could work with a third-party vendor for installation and maintenance of the cameras at no cost to the districts, he said. The vendor would also be responsible for collection of fines, with the vendor’s compensation based on citations issued.

School districts would receive 80 percent of generated revenue, or as much as $116 million under the proposal, said Goforth. Remaining funds—as much as $29 million—would be split between the state Transportation Cabinet and the Kentucky Department of Education, he said.

Rep. Terri Branham Clark, D-Catlettsburg, asked if law enforcement would have a hand in reviewing violations before fines are issued. In the case of civil penalties, Goforth said the vendor would work independently.

“We’re making a civil option so a third-party vendor can issue those citations,” he said.

Some Kentucky school districts are using stop-arm cameras on their buses to record illegal passers now, he said, although they don’t have the option of using a third-party vendor or having the cameras installed and maintained, all at zero cost, said Goforth.

“So it’s a very important bill,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

HB 34 now goes to the full House for its consideration.

END

 


 

 

Jan. 28, 2020

 

KY House passes bill to hurry construction of vets’ nursing home

House Bill 24 sponsor Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, speaks on how the measure would help expedite construction of the planned Bowling Green Veterans Center. A hi-res photo can be found here.

FRANKFORT—A bill that would speed up plans to bring a fifth veterans’ nursing facility to Kentucky moved closer to becoming law after its passage in the state House on Monday.

House Bill 24 sponsor Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, said his bill would appropriate $2.5 million in state moneys needed to complete design and preconstruction work that will expedite construction of the 90-bed facility by as much as six years. The facility will be located in Bowling Green on several acres of donated land.

One hundred percent of the design and preconstruction work must be completed before federal funding will be allocated for the $30 million facility, said Meredith, adding that the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs currently lacks funding needed for the groundwork.

“KDVA did not have enough dollars in their budget to be able to cover the preconstruction costs and design work due to the fact that there is a lot of maintenance on the older facilities that just must be done right now,” he said. HB 24 includes an emergency clause that, should the bill become law, will free up the $2.5 million immediately and make the state “eligible for our federal funds whenever we receive (a federal funding) letter.”

Federal funding is expected to cover $19.5 million of construction of the nursing facility, with the remainder funded with $10.5 million in state bond funds approved in 2017.

Speaking in support of the bill was Rep. Wilson Stone, D-Scottsville, who said the facility is needed due to a sizeable number of veterans in the Bowling Green area.

“When you look at the veteran population in our part of Kentucky … when you look at those veterans and the fact that they are aging just as we are, one day at a time, we really need this nursing home facility in Bowling Green right now,” said Stone.

HB 24 passed the state House 90-0. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 

END

 


 

Jan. 27, 2020

Senate passes new school safety bill

 

Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, stands to explain Senate Bill 8, a measure dubbed the “School Safety and Resiliency Act II,” during today's proceedings from the Senate floor. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – A measure that would add to major school safety legislation that passed into law last year advanced to the state House of Representatives today.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 8, would require school resource officers (SROs) to be armed with a gun.

“If we are protected by those who are sworn law enforcement officers with a firearm, would we not want the same for our children in Kentucky public schools?” sponsor Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, said in reference to the state police who provide security for the General Assembly. “It is easy for us here to get caught up in discussions that center around guns ... but to not allow a sworn law enforcement officer the ability to carry a gun is limiting. They need to be equipped to be able to do their job.” 

The bill adds to the 2019 School Safety and Resiliency Act, catalyzed by the Marshall County High School shooting. Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, who district includes the high school, stood to express his appreciation for SB 8.

“We owe it to our children to give our SROs every tool they need to do their job,” said Carroll, a retired police officer.

Additional safety measures would clarify the definition of a SRO to allow a school superintendent to specify any individual to serve as a district’s school safety coordinator, which school facilities are required to have SROs, who produces an active shooter training video and when classroom doors can be left unlocked. 

Wise said SB 8 balances provisions that would harden schools – a reference to investments in physical safety measures such as reinforced doors and the armed SROs – with provisions that address the mental health of students. The mental health provisions of the bill specify that the goal is to have at least one school counselor per public school and to have at least one school counselor, or school-based mental health services provider, for every 250 students.

Wise added that SB 8 doesn’t address funding.

“We are still going to have to address that this session,” he said. “There are a lot of goals here. I call upon this body and the body down the hall that we will continue to make this a priority as we go forward this legislative session.”

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, who also sponsored the bill, stood to explain why he supported the firearm provision of the bill.

“I think knowledge and wisdom tell me don’t take a knife to a gunfight,” he said.

SB 8 passed the Senate by a 34-1 vote.

END


 

Jan. 24, 2020

 

 

 

This Week at the State Capitol

FRANKFORT -- As sure as gavel strikes mark the start of a Kentucky General Assembly session, packed hallways in the Capitol Annex are a sign that a session has gone into high gear as people from across Kentucky converge to make their voices heard.

That was clearly the case this past week as thousands of Kentuckians came to the Capitol Campus to weigh in on issues ranging from voter identification to school safety. With a total of 60 working days in this year’s session, a lot of activity is being packed into a short amount of time as lawmakers study and cast votes on hundreds of issues. Things will get even busier next week when Gov. Andy Beshear presents his state budget proposal and lawmakers begin the work of crafting the spending plan into one they think best serves the state.

Measures that took steps forward in the legislative process this past week include the following:

“Born alive” act. Senate Bill 9 would require that no infant born alive – including one that survives a failed abortion attempt – be denied appropriate medical care. Violation of the proposed law could result in the revocation of a medical provider’s license and felony charges. The bill was approved by the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee on Thursday and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Mental health. House Bill 153 would allow the state to establish a mental health first aid training program. The program 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 certified trainers certified in mental health first aid training. The measure passed the House 93-o on Thursday and has been sent to the Senate.

Pets. House Bill 27 would designate cats and dogs from Kentucky’s animal shelters or rescue organizations as the official pets of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The measure was approved by the House on a 90-2 vote on Wednesday and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

School safety. Senate Bill 8 would add to a major school safety measure passed into law last year. This year’s bill would clarify the definition of a school resource officer to allow a school superintendent to specify any individual to serve as a district’s school safety coordinator, clarify which school facilities are required to have school resource officers and to require that the officers be armed. The legislation also specifies a goal of having at least one school counselor per public school and at least one school counselor, or school-based mental health services provider, for every 250 students. The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday and has been sent to the full Senate for consideration.

Sex offenders. House Bill 204 would prohibit sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet from a publicly leased playground. They also wouldn’t be allowed to enter the playgrounds without written permission from the person or body responsible for the playgrounds. Sex offenders must already follow these standards for publicly owned playgrounds. The legislation passed the House Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee on Wednesday and now awaits action from the full House.

Voter identification. Senate Bill 2 would impose stricter voter identification requirements by calling on Kentuckians to show photo identification before casting votes. Voters without a photo ID could still cast a ballot after showing a non-photo ID card, such as a social security card or a credit card, and affirming, under penalty of perjury, that they are eligible to vote. A voter with no ID whatsoever would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot that would be counted after the voter goes to the county clerk’s office soon after the election and shows an appropriate ID or fills out an affidavit explaining the reason for not having an ID. Senate Bill 2 would also make photo ID cards available to people without driver’s licenses free of charge. The bill passed the Senate 29-9 on Thursday and has been sent to the House for consideration.

Youth smoking and vaping. Senate Bill 56 would specify in state law that anyone under 21 years old is not allowed to possess tobacco products and vaping products. This would place state law in line with recently approved federal law regarding youth smoking and vaping. Under Senate Bill 56, officers could confiscate such products from people not old enough to use them and retailers could be fined for selling the products to youth. The legislation passed the Senate on Thursday on a 28-10 vote and has been delivered to the House.

People are encouraged to share their thoughts with lawmakers on the issues under consideration by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

 

--END--

 


 

 

 Jan. 23, 2020

Bill raising age to buy tobacco passes Senate

 

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, explains Senate Bill 56, a measure to raise the tobacco age, during today's proceedings from the Senate floor. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – The state Senate voted 28-10 today to raise the age to purchase tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, to 21 from 18. 

The amended measure, known as Senate Bill 56, would bring Kentucky’s statute in line with new federal law raising the age to 21.

“The bottom line is this bill will reduce youth access to tobacco products, slash the number of kids who start using tobacco before age 18, decrease youth tobacco addiction and lead to lower tobacco use rates overall as these teens grow and mature into adulthood,” said Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, a medical doctor and sponsor of the bill. “It is common-sense law that is relatively easy to implement.”

The bill would remove status offenses for youth who purchase, use or possess tobacco products, often called PUP laws. SB 56 would still allow tobacco products to be confiscated but shift penalties to retailers who fail to follow the increased age restriction.

Alvarado added that putting children into the juvenile justice system could be counter-productive to their physical and mental health. 

Senate Republican Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams of Louisville spoke in favor of SB 56

“This has really been a bipartisan, broad-based effort to protect our kids,” she said. “We were so close to having nicotine be eliminated from one of the problems we had to add for our youth across the state. Unfortunately, with the introduction of vaping ... we now have an entire population that is addicted to nicotine once again.”

SB 56 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

END


 

Jan. 23, 2020

A voter photo ID bill heads to House

 

 

Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, explains Senate Bill 2, a photo voter ID measure, during today's proceedings from the Senate floor. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – A bill that would impose stricter voter identification requirements in Kentucky passed the state Senate today by a 29-9 vote.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 2, would require a voter to present photographic identification at the poll. Kentucky already has a law that requires identification to vote, but it does not require photo IDs.

“When the law requires a photo ID be shown ... confidence is raised in the election process,” said Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, who sponsored the bill along with Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown. “This is very important these days when doubt is easily raised, when social media spreads rumors. Anything this body can do to increase the public’s confidence in the election process is well worth the time and money invested.”

Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, spoke in opposition of SB 2. 

“It would seem to me that we would want to create a system that expands the voting process and doesn’t become more cumbersome,” he said. “We already know there are a significant number of people who don’t vote now. We want to encourage people to vote, not to discourage them to vote.”

Thayer spoke in favor of the bill.

“I want to debunk this red herring that a voter ID is going to suppress the vote,” he said. “There was a study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research that between 2008 and 2016 voter ID laws ‘had no negative effect on registration or turnout overall or for any specific group defined by race, gender, age or party affiliation.’”

If a voter does not have a photo ID, Thayer said the voter would be able to show another form of ID and affirm, under the penalty of perjury, that they are qualified to vote. Other acceptable IDs would include Social Security cards and credit cards.

A voter who comes to the polls with no ID would be able to cast a provisional ballot, a process involving filling out a separate envelope before casting a separate ballot. The ballot would not count unless the voter visited the county clerk’s office by the Friday after Election Day. That’s when the voter would have to fill out a separate affidavit explaining the reason for not having an ID.

Another provision of SB 2 would 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.

SB 2 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration. If the bill would become law, photo IDs would not be required for the May primary election but would be required for the November general election.

END


Jan. 23, 2020

 

Mental health first-aid training bill advances to Senate

 

House Health and Family Services Committee Chair Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, presents House Bill 153  for a vote in the chamber.  A hi-res photo can be found here .

 


FRANKFORT—Kentucky would develop a statewide Mental Health First Aid Training Program or similar program under legislation that advanced to the Senate today after passing the House 93-0.

House Bill 153 sponsor and House Health and Family Services Committee Chair Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, said the bill would allow Kentuckians to “diffuse a crisis early” by offering them evidence-based mental health training to use when they encounter someone in crisis.

“The Mental Health First Aid Act will put this evidence-based training program in the hands of educators, law enforcement, first responders, military personnel, our faith leaders—really anyone who interacts with the general public and anyone at risk,” said Moser.

Mental health first aid training programs are already in pockets of the state, she said. HB 153 would take the training statewide as Kentucky battles what Moser called “significant mental health issues” including substance use disorder and suicide.

Speaking in support of HB 153 was bill cosponsor Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville. The Jefferson County educator said her experience with a similar program through Jefferson County Public Schools made a lasting impression on her.

“It was a very powerful thing for me to do,” she told her colleagues in the House. “It gave me a lot of thoughts to bring back into the classroom because I know there are so many children with mental health issues we deal with.”

Training costs associated with the statewide program would be covered by grants paid for with public and private appropriations drawn from a training fund administered by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.  Moser said all moneys in the fund would be reserved for the program.

 “Any money in this trust fund would be used specifically for this training program or suicide prevention programs,” she told the House.

END

 


 

Jan. 23, 2020

School safety bill passes out of Senate panel

 

 

Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, introduces Senate Bill 8, a school safety bill, during today's meeting of the Senate Education Committee. A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT – On the second anniversary of the Marshall County High School shooting that catalyzed the 2019 School Safety and Resiliency Act, a Senate committee heard legislation to add to the measure.

“It’s my pleasure to introduce Senate Bill 8 which many people are calling the School Safety and Resiliency Act II,” Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, said while testifying before today’s meeting of the Senate Education Committee. “I also want to thank all of those right now that are working across this commonwealth to help ensure safety within our public school walls.”

He said SB 8 addresses changes sought by educators, safety officers and mental health experts. A discussion of those changes dominated the committee’s meeting last week.

Wise, who sponsored SB 8 along with Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, said the bill would clarify the definition of a school resource officer (SRO) to allow a school superintendent to specify any individual to serve as a district’s school safety coordinator, clarify which school facilities are required to have SROs and to require that SROs be armed with a gun.

Additional safety provisions of SB 8 address who produces an active shooter training video, when classroom doors can be left unlocked and what constitutes terroristic threatening.

Mental health provisions of SB 8 specify that the goal is to have at least one school counselor per public school and to have at least one school counselor, or school-based mental health services provider, for every 250 students.

Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, asked if Kentucky has the employee base to fill all of the mental health and safety positions needed to comply with the 2019 act and this year’s follow-up legislation.

Linda Tyree, past president of the Kentucky School Counselor Association, testified Kentucky could meet the demand for counselors. She added there were seven colleges across the state that prepare school counselors.

Lori Vogel of the Kentucky Association for School Social Work, who also testified, said there are enough social workers in Kentucky, but they would have to get a special certification to be in schools.

Wise added that it would require a long-term commitment by the General Assembly to provide funding for the additional mental health personnel in addition to security officers.

“This is going to have to be something we prioritized in future budgets too,” he said.

SB 8 passed out of the committee and now goes to the full Senate for consideration. 

END

 

Jan. 23, 2020

Pension spiking, other issues tackled by retirement clean-up bill

FRANKFORT—A bill that would change an anti-pension spiking provision that has impacted mostly classified school employees in Kentucky has passed House committee.

House Bill 207, sponsored by House State Government Committee Chair Rep. Jerry T. Miller, R-Louisville, would prevent a reduction in an employee’ retirement allowance through the Kentucky Retirement Systems unless the employee’s compensation credited to KRS over the previous year has increased by a minimum of 10 percent plus $1000. Current law sets the threshold at 10 percent, which has allowed any additional pay over that percentage – as little as $1, in cases—to trigger anti-pension spiking law.

KRS Executive Director of Benefits Erin Surratt said around 250 KRS members, mostly classified school district employees, were affected by the provision last year.

“Picking up a field trip or two during the year might lead to a spike,” she told the committee.

“What we have found is between $1 and $1,000,” can trigger the provision, KRS Executive Director David Eager added.

Other so-called “housekeeping” changes proposed in HB 207 as approved by the committee would change requirements regarding KRS board election ballots and change how increases in County Employees Retirement System’ pension and health insurance contribution rates are calculated, among other provisions.

HB 207 has no actuarial impact on the state, according to a letter from KRS cited by Miller. “There might be some savings on the administrative side, but, by and large, no actuarial impact,” he said.

HB 207 now goes to the full House for consideration.


END


 

 

 

 

Jan. 23, 2020

Senate panel hears ‘born-alive’ legislation

FRANKFORT – Legislation titled the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act passed a Senate committee today. 

The measure, known as Senate Bill 9, would require that a child born alive – under any circumstance – be given the appropriate medical care to preserve the infant’s life, said Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, who sponsored the bill along with Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown. Any violation of the proposed law could result in the medical provider’s license being revoked and felony charges. 

“I believe Kentucky ought to have a law that protects children born alive,” Westerfield said while testifying before the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs & Public Protection Committee. “Like many of you all, I was called here to serve in the Senate because I wanted to stand for the unborn.”

SB 9 would also formalize that any born-alive infant shall be treated as a legal person in state statutes. Another provision would ban scientific research on born-alive infants.

“A baby’s heart can be seen as soon as 22 days after conception,” Westerfield said. “Each life is human DNA that has never before existed and will never exist again.” He added that an abortion happens in the United States about once every 30 seconds, and roughly one out of four women have had an abortion.

SB 9 contains an emergency clause, meaning it would become effective immediately upon successfully making it through the legislative process rather than 90 days after adjournment. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

END


 

Jan. 22, 2020

 KY takes step to ban female genital mutilation

Frankfort – The state Senate unanimously approved legislation today that would ban female genital mutilation. 

“This is a very difficult subject to discuss,” said Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, who sponsored the measure, known as Senate Bill 72, along with Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton. “Female genital mutilation is one of the most egregious forms of child abuse. It is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women."

The World Health Organization states that female genital mutilation, often referred to as FGM, includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is mostly carried out on young girls. 

Adams said Kentucky is among 15 states where it is still legal. A federal ban that had been in place for more than two decades was found unconstitutional in 2018.

SB 72 would make performing FGMs on minors a felony, ban trafficking girls across state lines for FGMs and strip the licenses from medical providers convicted of the practice.

Another provision would classify FGM in state statutes as a form of child abuse and require mandatory reporting of it. The proposed changes in the law would also allow survivors of FGM to file civil lawsuits against their perpetrators up to 10 years after turning 18.

An educational component of SB 72 would provide outreach to communities and professionals likely to encounter FGM cases and mandate training for law enforcement. While presenting the bill, Adams cited a study that found 1,845 girls or women are at risk or have undergone FGM – just in Kentucky.

SB 72 now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

END

 

 

Jan. 22, 2020

 

Foster care system tweaks pass Kentucky House

 

 

House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade, R-Stanford, speaks on his foster care legislation found in HB 167.  A hi-res photo can be found here .

FRANKFORT—A bill that would provide more confidentiality to foster parents involved in specific parental rights’ cases has passed the Kentucky House.

House Bill 167, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade, R-Stanford, would allow foster parents to use initials, instead of their names, when participating in involuntary termination of parental rights’ cases, while also allowing—instead of requiring—the foster parent to be a party to such cases. Foster parents are currently required to participate in such actions under 2019 HB 446, which became law last year.

Meade said the need for improved confidentiality of foster parents’ identifying information in such actions became evident last year after some concerns were raised about how that information is handled.

“You can imagine that created some angst for foster parents and, in very rare situations, could potentially put them in a dangerous situation,” said Meade. “So…we decided that we’re going to make it very clear what our intent was last year.”

An amendment to the bill filed by Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and adopted by the House would give some leeway to how foster parents may be served legal notice in such actions. Meade thanked Hoover for his work on HB 167, and for his support for improving Kentucky’s foster care system dating back to then-Speaker Hoover’s creation of a House Adoption Work Group in 2017.

The work of that group led to the passage of major changes in the state’s adoption and foster care system with the passage 2018 HB 1, followed by passage of HB 446 and other measures in 2019.

“The only way we were able to start down this path was because (Hoover) issued that order to start the work group on adoption and foster care,” said Meade.

HB 167 passed the House by a vote of 92-0. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

 

END

 


 

Jan. 22, 2020

 

Secretary of State Michael Adams (left) and Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, answer questions concerning Senate Bill 2, known as the “voter ID law" during today's meeting of the Senate State & Local Government Committee. A hi-res photo can be found here.

Voter ID bill receives favorable hearing

FRANKFORT – Legislation that would impose stricter voter identification requirements advanced in the Kentucky General Assembly today after the Senate State & Local Government Committee passed an amended version of the measure.

Known as Senate Bill 2, the legislation would require a voter to present photographic identification at the poll. Under the amended bill, an expired photo ID would be accepted.

Kentucky already has a law that requires identification to vote, but it does not require photo IDs. Also, a voter currently does not have to show any ID if the poll worker already knows them and can attest to the person’s identity. 

“With thousands of voters on the roll who are deceased or have moved to other locations, (SB 2) simply highlights the importance of making sure voters truly are who they say they are,” said Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, who sponsored the bill along with Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown. “There needs to be reasonable requirements that they properly identify themselves at the polls. That is what (SB 2) is designed to do.” 

If a voter does not have a photo ID, they would be able to show another form of ID and affirm, under the penalty of perjury, that they are qualified to vote, Mills said. Other acceptable IDs would include Social Security cards and credit cards. 

A voter without a photo ID would also be required to sign a statement identifying a “reasonable impediment” to getting a photo ID. Those impediments would include not being able to afford the documents necessary to obtain an ID.

A voter who comes to the polls with no ID would be able to cast a provisional ballot, a process involving filling out a separate envelope before casting a separate ballot. The ballot would not count unless the voter visited the county clerk’s office by the Friday after Election Day. That’s when the voter would have to fill out a separate affidavit explaining the reason for not having an ID.

Another provision of SB 2 would 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

“Providing a free photo ID to indigents will benefit them far beyond just facilitating their right to vote,” Mills said. “Possessing a photo ID is an indispensable part of functioning in modern society.”

SB 2 would also change the deadline the Secretary of State shall certify the total number of votes in a given election from noon on Friday following an election to noon on Monday following the election.

Corey Shapiro of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky testified before the committee in opposition to SB 2

“There is no evidence at all that in-person voting fraud is a problem in Kentucky,” he said, “as demonstrated by not a single credible instance of voter fraud in the close election last fall – or in any election in Kentucky this century. In-person voter fraud is simply incredibly rare.”

Secretary of State Michael Adams, who testified in support of SB 2, said the photo ID idea goes back to a 2004 commission on federal election reform co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter.

“There is no evidence of extensive fraud in U.S. elections or of multiple voting, but both occur, and it could affect the outcome of a close election,” Adams said while quoting the commission report. “Photo identification cards currently are needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings and cash a check. Voting is equally important.” 

SB 2 now goes to the full Senate for consideration in the coming days. If the bill would become law, photo IDs would not be required for the May primary election but would be required for the November general election.

END


 

Jan. 22, 2020

 

Bill to tighten sex offender limits clears House panel

House Bill 204 sponsor Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, presents the bill to the committee for a vote..  A hi-res photo can be found here.

 

FRANKFORT—A bill that would add publicly-leased playgrounds to the list of locations off limits to registered sex offenders has passed a House committee.

 

House Bill 204 sponsor Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, said the legislation is specifically written to ban future registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of such playgrounds and from entering those playgrounds without advance written permission.

 

The prohibitions would not apply retroactively, but would instead apply only to sex offender registrants added to the state’s sex offender registry after HB 204 takes effect, should it become law.

 

“So we’re not going to be in a scenario here where we’re forcing folks to leave, or to move, or anything of that nature. We just want to make sure that we provide these protections moving forward,” Maddox told the House Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee before it voted today to approve the bill. “It’s basically just ‘or leased’ is the only change to this statute.”

 

Current Kentucky law prohibits registered sex offenders from entering the grounds or living within 1,000 feet of schools, licensed day care facilities, or publicly-owned playgrounds.

 

Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, voted against the bill in committee. Willner, who is a clinical psychologist, said sex offender residential restriction policies have not been shown to be effective.

 

“I think that this addition actually moves us in the wrong direction for spreading accurate information about sexual abuse,” said Willner.

 

In her explanation of the bill before the committee, Maddox said she hopes that HB 204 “will be among one of the more straightforward bills that you will scrutinize this session.”

 

HB 204 now goes to the full House for its consideration.

 

END

 

 

Jan. 22, 2020

 

              Kentucky hemp bill passes House, 70-17

 

Rep. Matthew Koch, R-Paris, presents HB 236 regarding hemp for a vote in the House chamber.  A hi-res photo can be found  here.


FRANKFORT—The Kentucky House voted 70-17 yesterday to expand options for hemp testing while continuing to meet federal requirements for the state’s hemp program.

House Bill 236 sponsor Rep. Matthew Koch, R-Paris, said the bill would allow the state to expand the number of qualified laboratories authorized to test the state’s hemp crop for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a psychoactive component found in hemp and other types of cannabis. THC testing of the state’s hemp crop is now handled by the University of Kentucky, which Koch said experienced a testing backlog over the past year.

“We’re trying to speed up that process. We’re trying to allow options,” he told the House.

Kentucky law limits the THC content of its hemp crop to 0.3 percent—the same limit imposed by the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill which also removed hemp from the list of federally controlled substances.

“As far as moving that (percentage), there’s going to have to be a lot of federal regulation by the USDA…before we are actually able to do that in Kentucky,” Koch said about the state’s THC limit. He was responding to concerns with the limit voiced by Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington.

There is some discussion at the federal level about raising the legal THC limit of hemp from 0.3 percent to 1 percent, according to Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield, who chairs the House Agriculture Committee. “However,” he said, “that is a federal issue.”

“I would support our federal delegation if they decide to go down that road, and I would encourage my colleagues to reach out to their congressmen and their U.S. senators to encourage them to change the definition of hemp from 0.3 to 1.0 (percent),” Heath told the House.

HB 236 would also clarify that the 0.3 percent limit on THC content applies to all hemp transported into or out of Kentucky. Licensed hemp processors could, however, legally transport “material” with a higher THC content within the state under the bill, as long as that material is taken directly from one licensed processing location to another.

HB 236 now goes to the Senate.

END

 

 

Jan. 17, 2020

 

This Week at the State Capitol

FRANKFORT -- There’s always a guessing game among Capitol observers in the early days of a General Assembly session over which issues will be designated as Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1 – honorifics reserved for matters considered to be among top priorities by legislative leaders.

Part of that answer was unveiled last week when legislation on immigration was filed in the Senate as Senate Bill 1. The rest of the answer revealed itself this week as House leaders announced that public assistance reform will be the focus of House Bill 1.

Senate Bill 1, which is currently awaiting consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would call upon law enforcement officials and public agencies to use their best efforts, considering available resources, to support the enforcement of federal immigration law.

Senate Bill 1 would also prohibit sanctuary policies in Kentucky, such as a measure to block officials from cooperating with federal efforts to enforce immigration laws.

Some fine-tuning on the measure is still occurring to make sure the intent of the bill is clear, one of its sponsors said this week. The bill already states that school districts would be exempt from provisions in the legislation. Others who would also be exempt under changes that will be proposed to the legislation include domestic violence centers, child advocacy centers, rape crisis centers, public defenders, and health departments.

While House Bill 1 has not yet officially been filed for consideration in the House, legislative leaders say the bill is coming soon and will be aimed at helping people moving from public assistance into the workforce.

During a Jan. 13 appearance on Kentucky Educational Television, House Speaker David Osborne said House Bill 1 is “pro-worker” legislation.  The measure’s supporters say it would help move people into the workforce by making sure those transitioning off of public assistance don’t face “benefit cliffs,” situations in which a small increase in earned income could trigger a significant drop in child care assistance or some other form of assistance that sets back a struggling family’s attempt to achieve financial stability.

In another highlight of last week’s legislative action, the Senate and House met in a joint session on Jan. 14 to listen to Gov. Andy Beshear’s first State of the Commonwealth Address. The governor urged policymakers to look beyond partisanship and national divisions to focus on matters that most directly affect Kentuckians.

After the speech, legislative leaders praised the cooperative tone. They also noted that some of the most difficult work of governing lies ahead. The governor will offer his budget proposal in a couple weeks at a time when revenue increases are outpaced by cost increases in areas like education, criminal justice, public pensions, and Medicaid. Once the governor delivers his two-year spending proposal, it will be up to lawmakers to craft a budget that they feel best suits the needs of the state.

Already, more than 350 bills have been filed in the House and Senate on issues including human trafficking, hemp, gun rights, vaping, voting rights and sports betting. Citizens can share their input with lawmakers on the issues under consideration by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

 

END

 

 Jan. 16, 2020

 

Public health ‘transformation’ bill clears committee

Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, testifies before the House Health and Family Services Committee with public health officials and House Health and Family Services Chair Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, center, on Moser’s “public health transformation” proposal found in House Bill 129.   A hi-res photo can be found here .

FRANKFORT— A bill aimed at improving Kentucky’s public health system by putting it through a legislative “transformation” was approved today by the House Health and Family Services Committee.

Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, chair of the committee and sponsor of House Bill 129, said the so-called “public health transformation” bill’s proposed funding model and operational changes are needed to ensure that mandated and other core public health services are delivered in the face of a nearly $39 million deficit facing public health in Kentucky. Moser said the deficit is largely due to mounting public health pension obligations and health care changes.

“The health care system has undergone changes over the years that have impacted (public health)” without giving health departments the ability to accommodate those changes, said Moser.  “Legislative changes are needed to align the statutes with the public health transformation, and allow for system changes,” she said.

The bill proposes funding criteria for state-mandated services, such as injury and disease prevention, with continued support for other core services including the state’s HANDS home-visiting program for new parents, WIC supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children, and certain substance abuse treatment needs. Other needs would be determined locally by the departments.

Around 18 local health departments in 41 counties face financial insolvency within the year without “significant fiscal and operational changes” to the public health system proposed in HB 129, Moser told the committee. The Kentucky Health Department Association has said that, while some county health departments could receive less funding under the bill, most departments would receive more funding.

Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, worked on the bill with Moser and many other state and local officials over the past year. He praised the process used to gain input for the legislation, and asked the committee to support the bill.

“It really was a model for stakeholder involvement and bipartisan support, and I’m very grateful for being able to be involved, and would urge the committee to please unanimously approve this bill,” said Graviss. 

HB 129 now goes back to the House for its consideration.

END

 


 

 

Jan. 16, 2020

 

Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, speaks on Senate Bill 3, a proposed constitutional amendment relating to the election of state officers, during today's proceedings from the Senate floor. A hi-res photo can be found here.

State Senate passes first bills of Regular Session

FRANKFORT – Legislation to move the governor’s race to presidential election years passed out of the state Senate today, making it the first measure to clear the chamber this session.

Known as Senate Bill 3, the legislation is a proposed amendment to the Kentucky Constitution. In addition to the governor and the lieutenant governor, who run on the same ticket, the races for state treasurer, auditor, attorney general, secretary of state and agriculture commissioner would move to presidential election years.

“Everything old is new again,” said Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, who sponsored SB 3 along with Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown. “This bill is very much that case.”

McDaniel then explained that he had sponsored similar legislation during the seven prior Regular Sessions of the General Assembly.

“The glory of getting to present it for the eighth year in a row is that I don’t have to write my speech again,” he said, adding that he persists because the measure would save about $15 million in taxpayer money by consolidating the dates elections are held.

As it stands now, Kentucky has three statewide elections each four-year cycle. Two of those elections follow the national cycle of federal races, which happen to fall on even-numbered years. Tucked between those are the races for the statewide constitutional offices.

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, explained her vote against SB 5.

“The issues that affect Kentucky need to take the forefront in any debate ... and not be drowned out by millions of dollars of advertisements from national campaigns,” she said. “I feel like our system now protects Kentucky’s interests in that regard.”

SB 3 passed by a 31-3 vote, surpassing the threshold of 23 votes required for proposed constitutional amendments to clear the Senate. It now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

If SB 3 passes the General Assembly this session, the proposed change to the constitution would appear on the November ballot. And if the voters approved the change, it wouldn’t go into effect until 2028. That way it would not lengthen the term of anyone currently in office, McDaniel said.

In other news, the Senate also passed a measure to discourage tenants from damaging rental properties after they are evicted.

The legislation, 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. Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, who sponsored SB 11, said it would not increase the penalty but would clarify that intentionally damaging rental properties is a crime in addition to a civil matter.

SB 11 passed by a 29-5 vote. It now too goes to the House for its consideration.

END

 

 

Jan. 15, 2020

 

Sports wagering bill clears House committee

House Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Chair Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, presents House Bill 137 regarding sports wagering. The measure is sponsored by Koenig and Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville.  A hi-res photo can be found here.

FRANKFORT—A bill to legalize sports wagering and regulate online poker and fantasy sports operations in Kentucky is on its way to the House after receiving committee approval today.

House Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Chair and House Bill 137 sponsor Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, said the legislation—approved by Koenig’s committee this morning—is expected to help Kentucky recoup tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue it loses annually to legalized sports betting in surrounding states like Indiana, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

“I talked to an Ohio state senator over the weekend, and he believes they will be moving forward with passing (sports betting) probably this year,” said Koenig. “Obviously a lot of folks who see the revenue potential see the opportunity to allow folks to do something legally that they are currently doing illegally.”

Kentucky is expected to draw at least $22.5 million in new tax revenue annually under HB 137 should it become law, according to economist John Farris with Commonwealth Economics who testified alongside Koenig and fellow HB 137 sponsor Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville. Farris said an estimated $1.6 to $2 billion is illegally wagered on sports in Kentucky each year, equating to $140 million in illegal profit that is not currently taxed.

“Without sports wagering legislation, Kentucky will continue to lose this potential tax revenue generation to illegal operators,” Farris said.

Gentry called HB 137 “commonsense legislation,” adding that the bill “is not going to solve our challenges, we know that, but it is a good first step. It’s a first step to retain revenue.”

Koenig said the bill does include some changes from 2019 HB 175, similar legislation sponsored and successfully passed out of House committee by Koenig and Gentry last year. Unlike the 2019 proposal, HB 137 would allow wagering on in-state sports teams, among other changes.

Legislation similar to HB 137 has also been filed in the Senate. That bill, Senate Bill 24 filed by Sen. Julian M. Carroll, D-Frankfort, is now awaiting action in the Senate Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee.

 

END

 


 

 

Jan. 15, 2020

 

 

Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, explaining Senate Bill 72, legislation she introduced to ban female genital mutilation during today’s meeting of the Senate Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee. A hi-res photo can be found here.

Bill banning female genital mutilation advances

FRANKFORT – Jennifer was just 5 when her parents told her she was taking an airplane for a “special trip." It turned out it was to a group of strangers who restrained, gagged and cut her – without the use of anesthesia.

Now an adult, Jennifer used only her first name while testifying about surviving female genital mutilation, often referred to as FGM. She appeared before the Senate Health & Welfare Committee in support of Senate Bill 72, a measure that would ban the practice in Kentucky.

“I’m here today, not just to tell my story, but for the many others who have not found their voices,” Jennifer said. “We need to send a strong message that we do not support this practice.”

Kentucky is among 15 states where it is still legal, according to information provided to the committee. A federal ban that had been in place for more than two decades was found unconstitutional in 2018.

FGM is any procedure involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or another injury to the female organs for nonmedical purposes, said Amanda Parker of the AHA Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to the elimination of the procedure. She said it is typically performed on girls between the ages of 4 and 14 – often with a razor blade or pair of scissors.

“This is a form of child abuse that is used to control the sexuality of women and girls,” said Parker, who also testified in support of SB 72. “It predates all major religions and is not mandated by any major religion. It is something that has been co-opted by patriarchal societies and religious sects.”

Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, said 1,845 girls or women are at risk or have undergone FGM – just in Kentucky, according to the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes evidence-based health and welfare policies.

“As you know, I’m very passionate about child abuse, and this is probably the most egregious form of child abuse against ... young girls that I have recognized,” said Adams, who sponsored the legislation along with Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, and Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, who also chaired today’s committee meeting.

SB 72 would make performing FGMs on minors a felony, ban trafficking girls across state lines for FGMs and strip the licenses from medical providers convicted of the practice. Another provision would classify FGM in state statutes as a form of child abuse and require mandatory reporting of it. An educational component of SB 7 would provide outreach to communities and professionals likely to encounter FGM cases and mandate training for law enforcement.

The proposed changes in the law would also allow survivors of FGM to file civil lawsuits against their perpetrators up to 10 years after turning 18.

Jennifer said she went public as a survivor, in part, to help prevent the act from happening to other girls. This was her third time testifying before a legislative committee in recent months.

“When you consider this bill, I urge you to think about any other little girl in your life you love and care about,” she said. “If someone were to come into her life that believed in this practice and wanted to cut her, would you be able to stand by and not do everything in your power to stop it?”

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said he wished more people dared to speak out when they encounter societal wrongs.

“I want to commend you for your testimony,” he said in voting for the measure. “I’m not sure any of us appreciate the courage it takes to get up before a committee like this and talk about something so personal.”

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, also voted for SB 72.

“The time has come for Kentucky to stand up ... and say no to this,” he said.

SB 72 received committee approval and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

END

 

 

Jan. 14, 2020

 

Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, asking a question about Senate Bill 11, a measure relating to criminal damage to rental property during today’s meeting of the Senate Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee. A hi-res photo can be found here.

Bill to curb damaging rental properties heard

FRANKFORT – A measure to discourage tenants from damaging rental properties after they are evicted advanced out of a Senate committee today – the first bill to do so in the Senate this session.

The legislation, 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.

After Meg Savage of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence spoke out against SB 11, the measure was amended by the Senate Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee to give prosecutors greater discretion when deciding what criminal charge to bring against people caught damaging rental units. Savage said she was concerned abusive partners may blame their victims for damaged apartments – even with the amendment.

Jesse Brewer, a property manager from Northern Kentucky who testified in support of SB 11, said the bill would help property managers more easily identify people with a history of trashing rental units when vetting prospective tenants through criminal background checks.

“I have dealt with the issue of damaged properties numerous times,” said Brewer, who is also a Boone County commissioner. “Additionally, I have worked with multiple clients who have endured a wide variety of intentional damage to their property – things such as tearing all the cabinets off the walls, plugging the drains, leaving the water running, smearing human feces on ceilings, concrete in the drains and so on.”

Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, asked Brewer whether SB 11 would prompt more prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against people who damage rental properties.

“I’m hoping this will be another tool in the prosecutor’s tool belt,” said Brewer, adding the proposed change hopefully clarifies that intentionally damaging a rental unit is a criminal act and not just a civil matter. “It gives prosecutors something in the statute concerning rental properties they can sink their teeth into.”

END

 

 

Jan. 14, 2020

 

 Rep. Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, asks questions about the rollout of Kentucky’s Real ID offices during today's House Transportation Committee meeting. A hi-res photo can be found here.

House Transportation hears of Real ID rollout

FRANKFORT – The rollout of Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards resumes this week with regional offices opening in Bowling Green, Paducah and Somerset, state officials told the House Transportation Committee today.

Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray, who is a former two-term mayor of Lexington, told the committee that the Bowling Green office officially opened yesterday. The other two offices are scheduled to officially open at the end of the week, he said.

The offices are among 12 initial regional offices planned statewide, with a central office opened in Frankfort last fall. More offices – as many as 30, said Gray—may be added in time, although the deadline for compliance with the federal Real ID requirement no later than October 2020 makes immediate action necessary, Gray said.

The locations of the initial 12 offices announced by the Cabinet last fall include Bowling Green, Paducah and Somerset as well as Manchester, Jackson, Prestonsburg, Morehead, Florence, Elizabethtown, Madisonville, Louisville, and Lexington.

“We need to move very swiftly in implementation in the short run to get us up by the deadline,” said Gray.

The federal 2005 Real ID Act requires states to issue more secure driver’s license and ID cards to individuals who want to board commercial aircraft and enter certain federal facilities after October 2020. The regional offices will issue “voluntary travel IDs” to qualified individuals who wish to fly domestically without a passport or other accepted ID after the October deadline.

Kentuckians can continue to use their valid current driver’s license and ID cards to board domestic flights through October.

Rep. Kathy Hinkle, D-Louisa, asked Gray if there is a date set for the rollout of regional offices in Eastern Kentucky.  Gray replied the Cabinet is “not quite there yet” but will update Hinkle as more dates become available.

Rep. Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, whose district includes Fort Campbell, said the nearest regional office to his district will be in Madisonville—about an hour or so from the Army base. Thomas asked if there is a possibility that a Real ID office could be located closer to Christian County. Gray said future offices will depend on some “monitoring” this year.

“The plan is ultimately to go up to 28 or 30. There’s a lot of change going on here with technology,” though, said Gray. Changes at the federal level could allow the state to introduce new apps or other technology to streamline implementation, Gray said, but he doesn’t want the state to act “prematurely.”

“We need to be thoughtful and careful about how much investment we make, for example, in bricks and mortar, so we don’t overinvest prematurely,” Gray said. “There are a lot of moving parts but we’re getting our arms around it.”

The committee also voted today to approve House Resolution 11, sponsored by Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown. Now on its way to the House chamber for approval, the resolution would urge Congress to require auto manufacturers to install child safety features that sound an alert if a child is left in the back seat of a vehicle.

Over the past 30 years, DuPlessis said, more than 900 children in the U.S. have died after being left in hot cars, largely by accident.

“Why not have the pennies it costs to have a seat sensor in the back seat to let the driver know … there’s still someone in the back seat of the car,” he added.

 

END

 

Jan. 10, 2020

 

This Week at the State Capitol

 

FRANKFORT — With gavel strikes at opposite ends of the State Capitol, members of the Senate and House officially started the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2020 session on Jan. 7.

Though there are new issues and challenges at the start of each legislative session, familiar procedures are often the focus in the earliest days. New members are welcomed, the membership of each chamber is affirmed and rules are adopted that will govern activity in the Senate and House for the rest of the session.

Through it all, there’s typically a good deal of optimism and hope at the start of the session. At the same time, big questions hang in the air. Lawmakers face the enormous task of crafting the state’s next two-year budget at a time when expenses are growing faster than revenue. Tough choices are ahead as they decide which matters should be given priority.

The state’s new governor is also sure to advocate for the issues he wants lawmakers to prioritize. With Gov. Andy Beshear saying he wants $2,000 pay raises for Kentucky’s public school teachers, Capitol observers are eager to see how a budget proposal that he will submit this month will handle teacher pay and other issues. Once lawmakers receive the governor’s spending plan, it will be up to them to make whatever changes they determine are necessary to produce a budget that best serves the state.

Though the budget will be a big issue this year, many other matters will also receive attention. By the end of the first week of activity in the Senate and House more than 300 bills had been filed on issues including immigration, gun rights, vaping, gubernatorial pardons, voting rights, and scores of other topics. Legislation introduced this week has been referred to the committees that will study the issues in depth in the days to come to determine which bills should be forwarded for consideration by a chamber’s entire membership.

Next week, the Senate and House will meet in a joint session to listen the governor’s first State of the Commonwealth Address. The speech will be broadcast to a statewide audience on Kentucky Educational Television at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 14. Two weeks later, the governor is scheduled to return for another joint session of the Senate and House to offer his Budget Address.

The 2020 legislative session is scheduled to last 60 working days, with an adjournment date of April 15, the latest possible day lawmakers are allowed to meet in a regular session, according to the state constitution.

Citizens are encouraged to follow the issues lawmakers will consider in the weeks ahead and offer feedback. There are many ways to stay in touch with legislative activity. The Kentucky Legislature Home Page, www.legislature.ky.gov, provides information on each of the Commonwealth’s senators and representatives, including phone numbers, addressees, and committee assignments. The site also provides bill texts, a bill-tracking service, and committee meeting schedules.

To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s Message Line at 800-372-7181.

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

 

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