The 2023 Legislative Session is in the home stretch, with the past week having the General Assembly in session Monday through Thursday, with two days built in for the House and Senate chambers to find agreement on any qualifying legislation. Today, March 17, begins the 10-day veto period until Tuesday, March 29, for the governor to consider all legislation lawmakers have sent to his desk.
Last week, which was week six, each chamber considered the other’s bills through legislative committees, giving several final passages and sending them to the Governor’s desk.
Bills sent to the governor for consideration in week six included measures addressing:
• Teacher workforce shortages (Senate Bill 49) and providing professional development opportunities to educators (Senate Bill 70).
• Unemployment insurance (House Bill 146).
• Educational opportunities and workforce challenges (Senate Bill 54).
• Strengthening Kentucky’s rich spirits industry and helping small farm wineries (Senate Bill 28).
Bills and resolutions approved by the Senate in week six that went to the state House of Representatives for consideration include:
• Senate Bill 7 would ensure political action committees cannot take deductions directly from public employees’ paychecks. The bill would prohibit taxpayer-funded and public-sector entities from facilitating employee contributions to political action committees without an employee’s written consent. Public employers would be prohibited from assisting a labor organization or other entity in collecting funds or financial information if the funds are used for political purposes. Senate Bill 7 carries an emergency designation, which means it would go into effect immediately upon filing with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office.
• Senate Bill 115 will protect children from exposure to sexually explicit performances in a public place. It defines “adult performance” as a sexually explicit performance. This would include a live performance or a performance involving male or female impersonators who provide entertainment to sexually arouse or appeal to sexual desires, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration, which taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. A person would be guilty of engaging in an adult performance when it’s held on publicly-owned property or where the person knows — or should know — the performance could be viewed by a child under 18. The bill outlines penalties for participants and business owners knowingly exposing minors to sexually explicit performances.
• Senate Bill 138 establishes guidelines helping the Education and Professional Standards Board improve the certification of substitute teachers which addressed workforce challenges within school systems.
• Senate Bill 145 removes the athletic eligibility language preventing non-resident students, such as home school students, from participating in interscholastic athletics for one calendar year from the transfer date. It returns the governance of all non-resident student participation in interscholastic athletics to the Kentucky High School Athletics Association.
•Senate Bill 148 would establish the Government Teleworking Task Force. We have an incredible increase in state employees working from home post- COVID-19 pandemic; some still have not returned to an office setting. The task force would investigate and make recommendations regarding:
– How the on-site presence of state employees can be reduced and cost savings realized now that many workers have transitioned to different teleworking models;
– How much in-person work hours have decreased since the pandemic and whether and to what extent has public service suffered because of the decrease; and
– What in-person staffing levels are necessary for the state government to maintain a high level of in-person customer service for residents?
• Senate Bill 156 is follow-up legislation to the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2022 Read to Succeed Act. It establishes a statewide reading research center as a clearinghouse of research and evidence-based, high-yield instructional practices and coaching strategies. The bill requires the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to issue a Request for Proposal for a reading research center administrator, and reissue it every five years. KDE must make data-driven program and funding recommendations to the legislature, governor and Interim Joint Committee on Education by October 1 each year. Kentucky school districts would be required to adopt an evidence- and research-based reading program but it would not have to be any particular one.
• Senate Bill 158 would officially direct the Kentucky auditor of public accounts to enter into a contract with a third party and conduct a thorough performance review of Kentucky’s Department of Juvenile Justice facilities. The measure defines the authority of the third-party entity and the scope of the review and would provide the necessary funding, $500,000, in the current fiscal year, for the audit.
• Senate Bill 162 is the start of a long-term reformation of the Department of Juvenile Justice and a commitment to finally address the needs of juveniles with serious mental illness. The bill carries an emergency designation meaning it would take effect immediately upon filing with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office.
• Senate Bill 190 establishes parameters regarding city government’s reforming elections and better ensures a fair election process by those seeking city council. It requires any ordinance eliminating a nonpartisan primary or repealing an ordinance eliminating a nonpartisan primary be filed with the county clerk in the year before a city election is held. Redistricting will have to be completed by November in the year before an election. Senate Bill 190 will allow resignations to be delivered by email and provides an effective resignation date if the resignation email or letter does not identify one.
• Senate Bill 192 provides limited authority to the Public Services Commission (PSC) to authorize utilities in certain circumstances to use a financial mechanism known as “securitization” to recover costs associated with the retirement of power plants and other significant assets and costs incurred in severe weather events.
• Senate Bill 202 is a measure to address the increasing challenges related to student behavior our teachers and school administrators deal with regularly. The bill provides local school boards more flexibility to place students into alternative learning programs if the student is considered a safety threat or is likely to cause a substantial disruption by allowing an expulsion to expand beyond one year. Students are to be placed—with review by the superintendent and due process for the parent—in an alternative education setting that may include, but is not limited to, a virtual program or academy and may include a performance-based program.
• Senate Bill 203 places safeguards on medical records, including mental health records, when released in a divorce or custody proceeding, and strengthens patient-doctor relationships.
• Senate Bill 226 streamlines the environmental permitting process for coal mining and other industrial operations to create jobs and bolster Kentucky’s economy. It sets specific deadlines for the Energy and Environment Cabinet to process applications for water quality certifications and water discharge permits.
• Senate Bill 241 provides the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources with autonomy in specific land procurement areas. There are approximately 54,000 acres of land in Knox, Bell, and Leslie counties aiming to become part of a three-state elk habitat. This bill enables an initiative between Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, to move forward and would allow for hunting and other recreational activities.
• Senate Bill 277 enhances dam safety by requiring emergency action plans for certain at-risk dams in the commonwealth. It aligns state laws with federal regulations about flood plain management, updates statutory language to reflect current federal and state program practices, and repeals outdated statutory language.
• Senate Bill 282 adds hit-and-run accidents to the definition of criminally injurious conduct. It increases the award caps to crime victims from the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, which has not been increased since the 1970s and 1980s. The bill would increase the lost wages for financial support caps from $150 a week to $300 a week so victims of crime will receive the financial support needed to recover from their injuries and losses. It would increase the funeral and burial expense cap from $5,000 to $7,500, providing more significant financial support to families who have lost a loved one to a crime.
• Senate Joint Resolution 58 establishes the Brigadier General Charles Young Memorial Historic corridor from Camp Nelson through Mason County and to the National Buffalo Soldiers Memorial in Ohio and allows the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet KYTC. Young was born in Mays Lick, Kentucky, on March 12, 1864 and was the third Black cadet to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1889. Young’s military career spanned 33 years until his death on January 8, 1922. Young was the highest-ranking Black member of the US Armed Forces at the time of his death.
• Senate Joint Resolution 98 looks to ensure our postsecondary education institutions are keeping up with the needs of students. It would require the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) to study public universities and community and technical colleges and require the CPE president to report findings to the Legislative Research Commission by Dec. 1, 2023.
• Senate Joint Resolution 101 seeks solutions to make it easier for residents in rural counties to get their instructional permits in light of the state’s transition to regional driver licensing services. The resolution would direct the Kentucky State Police to establish a pilot program of remote testing for instruction permits in counties that do not have a regional driver licensing office. Minimum requirements include regular testing intervals, coordination with local libraries and high schools to have a host location for testing, exploration of technological innovations that could allow someone to oversee remote testing and verify exam results, and coordinating testing schedules with pop-up remote drivers licensing services. KSP would be directed to collect data and pilot program results and report to the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation no later than November 30, 2023.
Additional Senate Bills passed included: 101, 199, 252, 263, and 281
House Bills given final passage included: 13, 130, and 188.
You may find these and all bills at https://legislature.ky.gov.
Sen. Jason Howell (R- Murray) represents the 1st District, which includes Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Lyon, and Trigg Counties. He may be reached at Jason.Howell@lrc.ky.gov.
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of the Murray Ledger & Times.
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