Early this week, lawmakers in Frankfort wrapped up the 2014 General Assembly, accomplishing some long-debated legislative matters and finalizing Kentucky’s priorities over the next two years.
While it is too soon as of this writing to say what new legislation passed, the biggest task we had was finalizing the state’s highway plan, both the two years that will be funded and what we call the four “out” years that establish our long-term priorities.
We’re also anticipating passing some new legislation aimed at tackling the state’s growing heroin epidemic and improving our juvenile justice system. As for our area, I’ll be doing all I can to pass my legislation to help more coal-county college students obtain their four-year degree close to home.
I will report more on our work next week, but I am proud of the good work your General Assembly has done so far in passing legislation that will benefit Kentucky’s families and help get folks back to work.
Several of those, for example, will strengthen Kentucky’s workforce. One will lower the threshold economically distressed counties face to qualify for a tax-incentive program used to boost tourism development. Another will allow veterans to include their heating-and-air training in the military when applying for a similar job in the private sector. Since HVAC technicians are some of the fastest growing jobs in the country, I hope this will help put some of these fine men and women in a position to land a good-paying job. Last but not least, we passed legislation to help GE as it invests several hundred million dollars in its Louisville operations.
In education, we cleared a path for school districts to overcome a significant number of snow days, and the legislature also made it possible for trained and authorized school staff to administer medicine to students who have diabetes or suffer from seizures. Previously, this had been limited to family and licensed healthcare professionals.
When it comes to higher education in Kentucky, officials will compile employment rates and earnings of each public school’s degree programs, so students will have a clearer idea of what to expect in their chosen profession.
Under criminal justice, the General Assembly updated several areas of the state’s concealed-carry laws. The new changes range from allowing licensed retired police officers to carry a concealed weapon anywhere but a secure detention facility to making it possible for victims who have a domestic violence order or emergency protective order to qualify quickly for a temporary concealed-carry permit. Those honorably discharged from the military will be able to by-pass training requirements when applying for a concealed-carry permit; and many moving to Kentucky will have more time to switch over their out-of-state concealed-carry license.
Other laws affecting the legal system will call on parents or guardians to attend court with young drivers in their care if they get ticketed for a traffic violation; and victims of human trafficking will be able to have any non-violent offenses tied to their captivity expunged from their criminal record.
In healthcare, the General Assembly put its support behind legislation to make it possible for qualified families to access medicine derived from hemp-like plants. CBD oil, as it is commonly called, has no intoxicating effects, but it has been shown to help control seizures.
Other new medically related laws will broaden the prescribing authority for advanced practice registered nurses; bar minors from buying electronic cigarettes; and create an adult-abuse registry to better ensure those who have abused some of our most vulnerable citizens do not have the opportunity to do so again.
Two other prominent new laws will toughen Kentucky’s consumer-protection laws when it comes to identity theft. One establishes protocol for what a state or local government agency must do when there is security breach involving personal data, and the other does something similar when it involves a private business, as we have seen in such cases as Target.
Although the General Assembly’s time passing laws is over, it won’t be long before the legislative committees begin meeting again to gauge the success of our work this session and to see what future changes may need to be made.
No matter what time of year, I encourage you to let me know your thoughts or concerns if it involves any aspect of state government. You can email me at Greg.Stumbo@lrc.ky.gov, or you can leave a message for any legislator or me at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.