The days are winding down in this year’s session and with only eight days left there is no slowing down in Frankfort. This past week, the General Assembly met in the Historic Old State Capitol. It was a historic moment that day, not only did we pass the first bill in the Old Capitol since 1908, and pass two resolutions highlighting the importance of Kentucky’s history, but for the first time in Kentucky’s history a woman resided over the legislature.We received a budget proposal from the Senate and are now headed to a budget conference committee to work on the differences between the House and the Senate version. I am hopeful that by the end of session, we will have passed a budget that will benefit every person across the state. The conference committee membership includes House and Senate leadership and chairs and vice chairs of both appropriations and revenue committees.
In addition to making history and working on the budget, we passed multiple pieces of legislation last week and here are just a few examples:
• Protecting Citizens from the Rise of Fentanyl: Dalton’s Law, HB 215, was passed this week and it address the rising amounts of Fentanyl coming into the Commonwealth. Rates of overdose deaths caused by fentanyl have dramatically increased in the last couple of years. This measure will enhance the penalty for importing or trafficking carfentanil, fentanyl, or fentanyl derivatives they will be charged with a Class C felony. The defendant will not be eligible for pretrial diversion and they must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Also, in the bill if a person is found with more than 10 grams of fentanyl they must also serve 85 percent of their sentence.
• Kentucky Campus Due Process Protection Act: HB 290 is a comprehensive protection of student rights at universities. The bill provides the right for the student to be present during the disciplinary hearing, which currently is not required by universities. HB 290 creates rights to timely notice, to cross-examine through counsel, and the ability to appeal. For the first time in state law, the measure will establish rights for victims who experience sexual violence at public Kentucky college campuses. It would also require the university to maintain a file with investigation documents that have been submitted by both parties and make that file available to all parties involved.
• Helping Kids Get Their Driver’s License: Currently, 16 and 17 year olds cannot get their driver’s license or photo ID without parental consent. HB 197 addresses this issue and it would allow a 16 or 17 year old homeless minor to receive a Kentucky driver’s license or photo ID without parental consent.
• Addressing the Rising Rates of Violent Juvenile Offenders: HB 318 would require juveniles charged with a serious felony to be held in custody up to 48 hours before their hearing. It also addresses parental cooperation when it comes to diversion programs. Many times parents do not take their children to a court-ordered diversion program and the juvenile is held at fault, with the measure judges will see that the juvenile is not at fault but rather the parents.
• Strengthening Casey’s Law: Since it was enacted in 2005, Casey’s Law has helped more than 6,000 people with substance abuse disorders across the Commonwealth. HB 362 simply strengthens the law by adding in two provisions. It establishes that health care professionals performing examinations may be subject to subpoena for purposes of cross examination during a hearing concerning the court-ordered treatment. It also establishes that an order of treatment shall be issued upon finding a proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
• Prohibiting the Sale of Fake Airbags: The House passed HB 490 which would create penalties for those who knowingly import, manufacture, sell, offers for sale, installs or reinstalls a counterfeit or nonfunctional airbag or other component.
• Genetic Information Privacy Act: There are many private companies that offer genetic testing, all consumers have to do is send in a sample of their DNA and they will get it tested. In order to protect consumers from their genetic information being leaked or stolen HB 502 helps to regulate these companies. It does two separate things: It regulates the collection, use, and disclosure of genetic data, and it creates a civil cause of action for violations of the prohibitions to be brought by the Attorney General.
• More Access to Mental Health Care: HB 645 would establish a mobile crisis services fund through the Department for Health and Family Services to bring mobile mental health care units to underserved communities. CMHCs can apply for loans to create and operate mobile health care units that provide care for those who lack transportation, live in rural areas, reside in homeless shelters, or are otherwise mentally, physically, or economically disadvantaged.
• Greater Oversight of the Executive Branch: The House passed HB 594 also known as The Kentucky Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. This measure provides for greater oversight into the use of the regulatory process by the executive branch. It also ensures the regulatory process is not used to make laws without the legislature.
• Creating a Virtual Computer Science Career Academy: HB 680 would establish a virtual computer science career academy to be implemented by WeLeadCS. Students would be able to earn college credits towards a computer science degree before even graduating from high school. It provides resources and computer science fundamentals which are not always available in communities.
• Expedited Teaching Certification: This measure, HB 277, Expedites certification for teaching any grade level in an eligible district. Teachers would work through a cooperative program approved by the Education Professional Standards Board. One requirement of the program is a person must be in partnership with a college or university that results in a bachelor’s degree or certification within three years.
• Public Assistance Reform: HB 7 also known as From Welfare to Work is the first step towards retooling Kentucky’s public assistance programs into true safety nets to help Kentuckians find a path to consistent employment. It is meant to emphasize and value the importance of work. The measure will ensure the eligibility of those who qualify for programs like SNAP and targets anyone who misuses these assistance programs. It also explores Options to Expand Access to Quality Child Care & Health Care
• Rural Broadband Access: HB 315 will address the many issues people are facing when getting access to reliable and affordable broadband. The measure would do four things to improve the access to internet. It would improve the function and operation of the Broadband Deployment fund, allocate $300 million to the fund for grants to incentive broadband in our underserved communities and establish an Office of Broadband which would help allocated the funds from the Federal Infrastructure Act. It also will relieve statutory restrictions from the Public Service Commission and it will incorporate provisions from HB 492 to establish a utility pole replacement fund.
• Kami’s Law Heads to the Governor’s Desk: Legislation to increase the penalties of those convicted of child abuse passed the Senate last week and is now waiting for action by Governor Beshear. HB 263 would increase the penalties of the crime, if the child is under 12 years old to a Class B Felony, which would mean they would be subject to registration in the Kentucky Caregiver Misconduct and Kentucky Child Abuse registries. It would also require for the abuser to serve out 85 percent of their time. The bill is named after Kami who was a victim of child abuse and her life has been forever changed because of it, her attack left her with permanent physical and cognitive disabilities. The legislation comes from Kiera Dunk, a 12 year old from Oldham County, who is friends with Kami. She saw the need to change Kentucky’s current laws, to hopefully prevent something never like what happened to Kami to occur again.
Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s update. I appreciate that our local media is willing to run these columns and, of course, hope you’ll let me know if you have any comments or questions. I can be reached during the week from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. (EST) through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at email@example.com. You can also find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bakerkystaterep.