We are almost halfway through the 2021 Legislative Session and though considered a short session, there is no shortage of legislative work left to accomplish. With the threat of an ice storm and more winter weather on the way, legislators spent the majority of this week filing legislation and meeting with committees to consider bills and resolutions. Thursday, Feb. 18, is the last day to file bills for House members and as I write this, over 500 bills have already been filed this year. There will be more by the time Tuesday arrives.

Our committee process is important to the work we do in Frankfort. I do not talk enough about how crucial committee meetings are. They are a chance to hear from real people and how proposed legislation might affect them. They let us discuss bills and iron out any details necessary before sending it to the House floor for its final passage. This week was no different. House committees that met this week were: Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations. Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection. State Government. Local Government. Education. Small Business and Information Technology. Economic Development and Workforce Investment. Health and Family Services. Judiciary. Natural Resources and Energy. Election, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs. Appropriations and Revenue. Transportation. Banking and Insurance.

We passed several pieces of legislation this week as well and I want to highlight a few of those new bills. HB 7 creates an advisory council which will create a Recovery Ready Certification for Kentucky communities.  The council will be tasked with coming up with standards for communities looking to help those recovering from substance abuse, as well as providing guidance to communities in developing a recovery ready ecosystem. By putting this council in place, state and local governments can work together to get the most out of every resource invested into recovery.

One bill that I am particularly proud of is HB 89. Also known as “The Good Sport Bill,” HB 89 creates a new criminal offense of intimidation for direct or indirect threats to sports officials if the threat communicates present or future physical injury to any person, causes damage to property, subjects any person to physical confinement or restraint, and intends to harm health, safety, business, financial condition, or personal relationships. This legislation brings the change and consequences needed to the polarized world we live in. The bill takes the necessary steps to ensure this aggressive behavior and elevated violence is addressed so sports officials can feel safe while officiating a sporting event.

We passed a bill that would allow local law enforcement to communicate with the Department of Transportation to place missing persons information on highway information signs. Under current law, highway message boards are being used only in the case of an Amber Alert. HB 105 would allow local law enforcement to use any additional resources, including the Amber Alert system, law enforcement communication system, Integrated Public Alert, and Warning System in their search of a missing person. The measure would also require the agency searching for a missing person to contact appropriate agencies within four hours of receiving the report.

Legislation was passed this week that helps to ensure that Medicaid recipients have continued access to preventative cancer screenings. HB 108 codifies current Medicaid coverage to include preventive screenings, examinations and genetic testing for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is a disease that often goes undetected because it has no symptoms, making it imperative for people to get tested regularly. It is important to keep coverage of approved screening tests so that people can proactively monitor their health.

I continue to be proud of the legislation we pass to make Kentucky one of the most veteran friendly states in the country. HB 109, known as the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act would allow custodial responsibility to be granted to the non-custodial parent during the deployment period. This bill ensures that deployed service members who have custody of children do not lose custody due to their deployment.

We passed a measure that would make a big difference for our hospitals, especially those struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite federal assistance, Kentucky hospitals are facing $2.6 billion in losses through the end of 2020 due to COVID-19. HB 183 will enable hospitals to help themselves at no cost to the state treasury by amending legislation unanimously passes in 2019 to increase the amount of Medicaid supplemental payments paid to hospitals if a higher payment methodology is approved by the federal government.

House Bill 273, otherwise known as the Bailey Holt-Preston Cope Privacy Act, would protect photographs and videos of a person’s death, killing, rape, or assault used in court proceedings from being available to the public after their use in court. Named in honor of two 15-year-old victims of the tragic shooting at Marshall County High School in 2018, HB 273 would protect the privacy of the family members and victims of both the Marshall County tragedy and other traumatic events. This bill is critical to protecting the innocent victims of crimes from being victimized further. It is disheartening that we need legislation like this, but clearly we do and I was proud to vote for this measure.

We have 16 legislative days left in this year’s session. And we are going to make each and every one of them count so that your voice is heard. Over the next few weeks I will continue to update you on our progress. In the meantime, I can be reached here at home anytime, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. If you would like more information, please visit the legislature's website at legislature.ky.gov or you can email me at MaryBeth.Imes@lrc.ky.gov.

Mary Beth Imes (R-Murray) represents Kentucky’s 5th House District.

Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of the Murray Ledger & Times.

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