Senate Week In Review

By Johnny Ray Turner

FRANKFORT — A celebrity sighting in the state Capitol as an award-winning Hollywood actress shared her passion for early childhood education was a highlight of the sixth week of the 2016 General Assembly.

Actress Jennifer Garner paraded the Capitol campus – not for a movie shoot – but to advocate for childhood literacy programs by Save the Children. She was accompanied by a high-profile former Maryland legislator and member of the Kennedy family dynasty – Mark K. Shriver. He said Save the Children first began working with the state’s youth during the Great Depression in Harlan County and currently helps thousands of children a year in income-distressed areas of Appalachia.

Garner’s appearance was attention-getting for sure but didn’t stop the Senate from passing out bills that now await action in the state House of Representatives. Some of those bill include:

– Protection of children’s identity was embodied in Senate Bill 23. Identity theft isn’t just a problem for adults; children are victims too. In fact, one in 40 households with children under 18 had at least one child’s information compromised by identity thieves. SB 23 would give parents the right to place a “security freeze” on their child’s credit report if they felt the need. SB 23 also allows guardians of vulnerable citizens to place freezes on those citizens’ credit reports.

– Senate Bill 53 would provide civil immunity for damaging a vehicle to a person who enters the vehicle with the reasonable, good-faith belief that a dog or cat is in immediate danger of death if not removed from the vehicle.

– The legislators’ retirement plan was the subject of Senate Bill 73. It allows a onetime irrevocable opt-out for legislators from the prevision known as reciprocity inside the legislators’ retirement plan. SB 73 is aimed at giving legislators a one-time opt-out to make their pension based solely on their legislative salary and not receive a massive bump if they take a higher paying job elsewhere in state government. It would save the state more than $6 million over 20 years.

– Colon cancer prevention was tackled in Senate Bill 78. The bill would broaden the charter of the Kentucky Cancer Foundation and the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Fund. The fund was established in 2010 to help provide colon cancer screenings for uninsured people. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the number of people uninsured has fallen but there are more “underinsured.” SB 78 would make the underinsured eligible for the free screenings. There would be no additional costs to taxpayers.

– Share the road is more than a slogan. It is now a proposed legislative remedy to help protect bicyclists traveling highways with motorists. Senate Bill 80 calls for drivers to respect a three-foot passing distance when encountering a bicycle on the road. It would also allow motorists to cross the double yellow line to honor the three-foot rule. SB 80 is similar to laws already on the books in 23 other states and would promote “bicycle tourism” around Kentucky Trail Towns.

– Did you know it was illegal for garbage trucks to stop on the roadway to empty your trash? Senate Bill 84 would take care of that oversight. The current law doesn’t recognize the necessity for solid waste collection vehicles to stop in order to do their business.

In an attempt to ease the burden on managed care providers, Senate Bill 20 would create an independent review process for health care providers to appeal claims that have been denied by managed-care organizations (MCOs) contracted by Kentucky to administer Medicaid. Under the current structure, appeals have to be made directly to the MCOs. The legislation is modeled after existing laws in Virginia and Georgia.

With nearly half the session under our belt, some noteworthy dates are approaching. The last day for legislators to request a bill is Feb. 19. The last day for new Senate bills to be introduced is March. 3. Leaders from the State House of Representatives – where spending bills must originate – have said they hope to get their budget bills to the Senate by the end of the second week of March. The Senate will then get a chance to amend those budget bills.

That doesn’t mean the Senate isn’t studying the governor’s proposed budget. The Senate Standing Committee on Appropriations and Revenue recently held its first meeting on the governor’s recommended plan. The challenge in crafting a new 24-month budget is the billions of unfunded pension liabilities and the costs of expanded Medicaid.

You can stay up-to-date on the budget negotiations, and other legislative actions, throughout the session by logging onto the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) website at or by calling the LRC toll-free bill status line at 866-840-2835. For committee meeting schedules, please call the meeting information line at 800-633-9650. To comment on a bill, please call the legislative message line at 800-372-7181.

You can e-mail me directly at [email protected]

By Johnny Ray Turner


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