Senate Week in Review

By Johnny Ray Turner

FRANKFORT —The fifth week of the 2016 General Assembly was a time to reflect on the giants that have served before us in the Kentucky Senate while keeping a focus on the task at hand – being fiscal stewards of tax dollars while navigating the state through an ever-changing world.

The contemplation was prompted by the death of former state Sen. Georgia Davis Powers, who laid in state in the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday. What she was able to accomplish in her 92 years of life is a reminder that no matter how slow and deliberate the legislative process can seem, great ideas can – and will – triumph.

As we honored a great Kentuckian, we were also busy this week debating bills in committee and on the floor. Some of the bills advancing to the House of Representatives include:

– Pension reorganization legislation, given the designation of Senate Bill 2, was the result of the two years’ worth of work by the Public Pension Oversight Board. SB 2 would make state retirement systems’ transactions more transparent, hold the systems accountable when contracting out services and require that pension trustees have actual investment experience. SB 2 is another attempt to provide legislators insight into the systems so they can provide appropriate oversight.

– Senate Bill 107 would expand the focus of teacher academies beyond core content to include the “developing disciplines” of English, science, math, computer science and world languages and include computer science as a content area eligible for the Teachers Professional Growth Fund. It would require the Council on Education Technology to address network capacity, technology laboratories, and computer science education readiness in its Five-Year Master Plan and authorize grants from the Science and Mathematics Advancement Fund to school districts to develop and implement computer language and applications programs. It also amends state law relating to alternative certification of teachers, to include computer science expertise in the subject areas that qualify for certification of an adjunct instructor.

– Dubbed the “Jailers with No Jails Act,” Senate Bill 96 would require fiscal courts in counties with no jails to annually pass ordnances which outline the responsibility of their county jailer. The bill would also require jailers to submit to the same fiscal courts a summary of all official duties performed, including information related to inmate transport.

– In response to the prohibition of scripture readings in a public school’s stage adaptation of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Senate Bill 15 would strengthen the expression of religious or political viewpoints in public schools and public postsecondary institutions.

– Senate Bill 103 would require someone’s prepaid and preplanned funeral arrangements to be followed after their death. Under current law, there is nothing to prevent the next of kin to change those arrangements.

– Senate Bill 7 would curb the flow of non-Medicaid, state-administered tax dollars to Planned Parenthood clinics in Kentucky. SB 7 would establish a three-tiered system for the state to fund family planning services. The first funding priority would be public health departments. The second funding priority would be nonpublic clinics that provide comprehensive primary and preventive health services. The third funding priority – if any money remains – would be to Planned Parenthood.

The halls of the Capitol were packed this week with citizens from across the commonwealth advocating for legislation. I was pleased to meet with some of those groups and constituents from my district. Some of the activities that attracted people to Frankfort were the 874K Rally for Kentuckians who suffer from disabilities, Masons for the All Masons’ Day at the Capitol and students being recognized or assisting legislators. Many Kentuckians were also at the state Capitol to pay tribute to Senator Powers.

This is just a quick snapshot of the work this week. There are many other issues being discussed in Frankfort and I encourage you to join in those discussions. Our representative form of government was designed to give the people of Kentucky a voice. You have a big say in the laws affecting you.

A taped message containing information on legislative committee meetings is updated daily at 800-633-9650. To check the status of a bill, you may call the toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835. To leave a message for me, or any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 800-372-7181. You can e-mail me directly at [email protected]

By Johnny Ray Turner

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