FRANKFORT —With the final weeks of the session looming, we are all too aware of the short timeline and the many important pieces of legislation, including the state’s budget, that we still need to move through the process before session ends.
This week marked the 10th week in an already historic session in terms of the number of bills before the General Assembly. During this 60-day session, there were 937 bills filed with 309 originating in the Senate. This total is the most since the 1,030 filed in the 2008 session.
However, the number of bills introduced is not the important issue, but rather the number passed. Several of the issues taken up in the Senate chamber this week include:
– Workforce development. Senate Concurrent Resolution 75 would establish a legislative task force to study workforce development issues in Kentucky. The Kentucky Workforce Oversight Task Force, which would consist of legislators, would study and develop recommendations concerning the benefits, investments and funding of workforce education that is estimated at $900 million a year. Legislators making up the task force would come from the education, appropriations and revenue, and economic development committees of both chambers. Both the majority and minority caucuses would also be represented.
– Books for Brains. Senate Bill 196 would establish the Books for Brains Program to promote the development of a comprehensive statewide program for encouraging preschool children to develop an appreciation of books.
– Civic Education. Senate Bill 192 would require all public high school students to pass a civics test in order to receive a regular diploma. It directs the Department of Education to prepare or approve the test with 100 questions drawn from the test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to persons seeking to become naturalized citizens. Students could retake the test as often as needed in order to pass.
– Kentucky Educational Television (KET). Senate Concurrent Resolution 135 recognizes KET and encourages all cable and satellite providers to offer KET programming to their customers. KET has served as an innovative and efficient producer of education resources for the classroom and Kentucky’s highest-quality source for public affairs and cultural programming. It is Kentucky’s largest classroom, serving more than one million people each week via multiple-channel television, online, and mobile media offerings.
– Anti-bullying. Senate Bill 228 would standardize the definition of bullying to provide public schools with more guidance on what bullying is so they can help stop it. It would be worked into schools’ code of conduct and allow schools to accurately report the number of incidents.
– Delayed school year. Senate Bill 50 would allow for a later start to the school year. Under SB 50, schools would have the option to start later, a move that would help tourism, according to the sponsors. Schools that start later would not have to adhere to the current 170-day academic year, instead slightly extending the school day to reach the required 1,062 instructional hours a year.
– Abortion. Abortion clinic operators wanting to open new facilities in Kentucky would have to meet higher operating standards under Senate Bill 212. The measure would require abortion clinics to have full operating suites with oxygen, crash carts and other medical supplies in addition to having a physician on staff with admitting privileges at a hospital within 50 miles of the clinic.
All the bills that passed the Senate this week are now before the state House of Representatives for further consideration.
Along with passing bills on the floor, we have been hearing testimony and passing bills out of committee that are now before the full Senate. Some notable measures moving in committees this week include:
– Rape kit testing. Senate Bill 63 advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It would require the state’s 300-plus police departments and 120 sheriff’s departments to retrieve sexual assault kits from hospitals within five days’ notice from a hospital that the evidence is available. SB 63 would also require law enforcement to submit kit samples to the state crime lab within 30 days, prohibit the destruction of any kits and notify victims of the progress and results of the tests.
– Tanning beds. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee passed a bill that would make tanning salons off limits for youngsters. Senate Bill 108 would prohibit anyone under 18 from using a tanning bed in a commercial location, except for medically necessary treatment. Currently, state law requires teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 to have a signed parental consent form to use commercial tanning beds.
With time growing short in the 2016 Legislative Session, even more bills are likely to take steps closer to becoming law in the days to come. Among the most important is the state’s two-year budget, which we anticipate we will receive from the House next week.
Citizens can look at the bills we are voting on and track legislation by going to the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) website at www.lrc.ky.gov or by calling the LRC toll-free bill status line at 866-840-2835. To comment on a bill, please call the legislative message line at 800-372-7181. You can email me directly at [email protected]