With two months of this year’s legislative session behind us, the General Assembly has reached the point where the House and Senate will begin considering the other chamber’s bills.
While the House still has several important ones of its own to pass, we have sent the Senate what I think is a long list that will help Kentucky’s families and move the commonwealth forward.
That includes two of my top priorities this year: raising the state’s minimum wage, which is House Bill 1; and making permanent a pilot program that is helping our region’s college students complete their four-year degree close to home, which is House Bill 2.
There are several other education-related bills to pass the House this session. That includes adding more transparency and oversight of school-district spending; calling on high schools to include basic CPR training and financial literacy in their curriculum; and giving our public universities the authority to pursue construction projects as long as they have the funding.
In criminal-justice matters, one of the House’s top priorities is giving voters a chance in November to approve a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights for most felons after they have completed their sentence. This would align Kentucky with nearly every other state if it passes.
A related bill would give those convicted of most Class D felonies – the lowest of the four felony charges – a chance to have their record expunged five years after completing their sentence.
The goal is to provide these Kentuckians a second chance when it comes to such things as employment, but it is important to note that this would still require court approval and would not apply if a person has other unrelated felonies or if state or federal law otherwise requires full disclosure of a criminal record.
Economically, some of the bills sent to the Senate would do such things as track the cost and status of the state’s tax-incentive programs; and give businesses the chance to become public benefit corporations, a worldwide initiative that uses private enterprise to improve the public good.
In health-related legislation, the House voted early last week to have the Cabinet for Health and Family Services take their criminal background checks nationwide for prospective employees and volunteers who either work for or inspect long-term care providers. This would greatly expand the current background check that is only statewide and does not include fingerprinting.
Two other bills tied to healthcare are among the first to pass both the House and Senate. Senate Bill 7, which is now law, gives Advanced Practice Registered Nurses more prescribing authority. This legislation codifies a joint agreement between physicians and these nurses and should increase access to care for many Kentuckians.
House Bill 98 is just a step behind while it waits to be signed by Governor Beshear. This will help students who have diabetes by making it possible for trained and authorized school personnel – or the students themselves – to administer medicine; a similar provision is included to let these employees help students with seizures as well. Prior to this bill, these actions were limited to licensed healthcare providers and family members.
Other legislation making it through the House would:
· Require state and local governments to make people aware if personal information held by an agency has been breached, something already required in most other states;
· Call on the governor to try to achieve gender equity when making appointments to the state’s various boards and commissions; and
· Increase fines for vehicles parking on state-maintained highway ramps, in an effort to better deter this activity. The legislation was filed in response to a fatal accident last year in which a vehicle ran into the back of a truck parked on a highway ramp.
Another transportation-related bill cleared the House on Friday. This would double the fine for texting while driving plus prohibit drivers from entering by hand a telephone number or name into their phone while driving through active zones marked for schools or highway work. There would be exceptions for hands-free devices.
These bills, and many others, have already generated thousands of calls, emails, and visits, but it is not too late if you would like to let me know where you stand on the issues facing the General Assembly.
You can always email me at Greg.Stumbo@lrc.ky.gov or leave a message for me or for any legislator by calling 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.